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December 18, 2012

Hatchett Cemetery repairs nearing completion

ATHENS — With a suspect in custody and a majority of repairs complete, members of Little Ezekiel Missionary Baptist Church are attempting to find closure after Hatchett Cemetery was vandalized three times in November.

Robert Allen Muse, 21, of Falkville, was arrested in late November and charged with three counts of first-degree criminal mischief. He is currently being held in the Limestone County Jail on a $150,000 cash bail.

He is accused of vandalizing the cemetery on Nov. 8, 15 and 23 in successive weeks. The case is still under investigation by the Limestone County Sheriff’s Office, but no other suspects have been arrested.

Little Ezekiel deacon Thomas Townsend said the vandalism caused approximately $17,000 in total damages, based on a survey by Ardmore Monument Company. The company has donated materials and manpower to help restore the cemetery.

“I don’t think he was the only one involved, and I think other people were involved the first and second time,” said Townsend. “These monuments weigh over several hundred pounds, and they were picked up and moved. It’s pretty evident that not only one person did this, but I feel certain he was the only one the third time.”

Public defender Garry Clem has been appointed as Muse’s attorney, according to court records released Tuesday afternoon. Muse immediately requested an attorney when he was arrested and has not spoken to investigators.

Townsend said it’s unknown what connection Muse might have with the cemetery or Little Ezekiel.

“I believe law enforcement is doing everything they can,” Townsend said. “There has to be some connection, because it was vandalized not once, not twice but three times.”

The Beulah Land cemetery in southern Limestone County has about 200 marked tombstones. The cemetery is maintained by Little Ezekiel, which has nearly 200 members.

A majority of the grave markers were chipped, uprooted, scratched or shattered, and eight of them were damaged so badly they had to be replaced.

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