The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

September 1, 2013

Possible grave robbers flee cemetery scene

— After a cemetery caretaker interrupted a possible grave robbery in progress at Old Bullington Cemetery, authorities are asking anyone with knowledge of those involved to contact the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff’s Lt. Jay Stinnett said Investigator Jeff Kilpatrick responded to a late-morning call on Aug. 13 to Old Bullington Cemetery off Mary Davis Hollow Road in the West Limestone community.

The private cemetery receives regular lawn care from a person who has relatives buried in the rural graveyard, which is not visible from the main road and is shielded by a dirt road, woods and a creek.

The cemetery has had a few burials in the past decade, but most of the graves are much older, and some even date back to the 1860s.

Family members associated with the cemetery — two of whom speculated that the trespassers were possibly scavenging for valuable Civil War mementos — said that when the caretaker arrived to cut the grass that Tuesday morning, it caused multiple would-be robbers to stop digging. The family members said the suspects fled the scene on 4-wheelers, and that they left behind their shovels.

“There were not any gravestones torn up, and they didn’t get to the caskets,” Stinnett said. “But they were up there digging about 2 feet into two of the graves.”

Authorities said possible charges in the case could include criminal mischief, defacing or injuring a grave and desecration of a corpse.

The Alabama Criminal Code states “any person who willfully or maliciously desecrates, injures, defaces, removes or destroys any tomb, monument, structure or container of human remains, and invades or mutilates the human corpse or remains” could be guilty of a Class C felony.

District Attorney Brian Jones said that it is unusual to come across a case with unauthorized grave digging and a possible intent to steal from the human remains.

“I’ve been practicing law 20 years, and I’ve never seen a case like that,” Jones said.

Last November, Hatchett Cemetery in southern Limestone was vandalized in three successive weeks and the accused, Robert Allen Muse, 21, of 1371 Wilhite Road, Falkville, is scheduled to go on trial next month after being arrested in December on a $150,000 cash-only bail, which later was lowered to a $75,000 secure bail.

“From our standpoint, if someone is apprehended for doing that, we’re going after them full-bore. Criminal mischief is not the only charge that could be considered, and we would try to prosecute for everything involved,” Jones said.

He said the severity of the charges that could be filed depend on multiple factors.

“We would look at why they were at the cemetery, whether they were trying to steal something and how far they got into it — it really depends on the circumstances of the case,” Jones said. “In something like that, I would put my mind to being very creative to get someone locked up for the maximum jail time I could.

“When you bury a loved one, you’re burying them to rest in peace. You’re not burying them to have someone dig them up. If an arrest was made, we would do our very best to make an example of them.”

Family members said a nearby cabin and its tractor shed have also been burglarized three times. Stolen items include a boat motor, table saw, generator and refrigerator.

No arrests had been made in the Bullington Cemetery case as of Sept. 1, but the investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information about this case is requested to contact the Sheriff’s Office at 256-232-0111.

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