Gravestones toppled, flowerbeds destroyed at New Jersey cemetery

DOVER, New Jersey (WABC) -- Police are looking for the heartless vandal or vandals who toppled gravestones and destroyed parts of a cemetery in New Jersey.

It happened sometime between 6 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday at the 170-year-old Orchard Street Cemetery in Dover.

"I have family (buried) here, number one," Dover Cemetery Association President Keith Titus said. "Number two, this is the oldest cemetery in Dover. This is actually one of the older cemeteries in this area of Morris County."

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The cemetery is a historical gem where Uncle Byram Pruden was laid to rest. He is one of four veterans of the War of 1812 buried there.

Thomas Halsey is one of 53 members of the Grand Army of the Republic, Civil War soldiers who are laid to rest there.

There is a member of the United States Colored Troops, and a 15-year-old drummer boy.

It is sacred ground for hundreds of families, but on Monday, officers were called to the scene just after noon to find at least 12 headstones off their bases, resulting in approximately $6,000 in damage.

"When I turned the corner with my car and saw all these headstones down, I was just shocked," Titus said. "My heard just fell."

Even the cemetery's well curated bed of chrysanthemums was wrecked.

"It's a very sad day for Orchard Street Cemetery," officials said in a Facebook post. "It was shocking, to say the least. We're angry, and we're sad."

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for repairing the damage.

"What kind of people would do such things?!" the post went on to say. "Our cemetery is completely maintained by a volunteer group, who do great things on a shoestring. We're in rough shape, people."

Officials say it's the second act of vandalism at the cemetery in just a few weeks, after a gatehouse was broken into and had a window shattered.

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"We didn't intend to have this added expense to our bills, because we could not possibly afford this," Titus said. "If it was just left to us right now, they would be down."

The Dover Police Department is actively investigating and asking for the public's help.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the Morris County Sheriff's CrimeStoppers tip line at 973-COP-CALL.

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