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Officials: Vandals toppling tombstones in Deering's Appleton Cemetery

Toppled tombstones form a line in Appleton Cemetery in Deering; 25 were overturned and broken by vandals.

Toppled tombstones form a line in Appleton Cemetery in Deering; 25 were overturned and broken by vandals. Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

Tuesday morning’s final maintenance check of a cemetery in Deering, with gravesites dating back 150 years, left the town’s officials and the police in disbelief after 25 headstones were found overturned and broken.

“My reaction is it was very disheartening that someone would do that,” said Capt. Thomas Cavanaugh of the Deering Police Department. “Very disheartening.”

A town worker, employed to remove leaves and spruce up Appleton Cemetery one final time before winter, reported the vandalism to Town Administrator Craig Ohlson, telling him, “You need to come down here,” Ohlson said yesterday. Ohlson then called Cavanaugh, who said he arrived at about 9:30 a.m.

They found rows of headstones, some toppled, others broken. James Pushee, the Deering police chief, said he saw headstones from the 1870s.

The worker hadn’t been to the 3.5-acre cemetery in about a month, and Cavanaugh said he believed the crime took place beyond a few days ago.

“I looked under several stones and you could see the grass was matted under the broken stones and there was yellowing, although it wasn’t completely dead,” Thomas said. “So within the last two to three weeks would be my guess of when this happened.”

None of three town officials interviewed, all of whom have served Deering for about a decade or more, could remember any of the local cemeteries sustaining this kind of vandalism.

“We haven’t gotten damage of this significance,” Ohlson said, “and I’ve been here since 2003.”

The entrance to Appleton Cemetery sits on Route 149, but the crime was committed near the back, hidden from the main road. “The road gets traffic,” Ohlson said, “but where the damage was done, no one would notice.”

Ohlson also said that some of the damaged headstones were huge, far too heavy for one person to have vandalized them in this manner.

“Some of those stones were big enough where they had to work at it to get this done, with a couple of guys to knock them over,” Ohlson said. “Some of them are big pieces of granite that you or I couldn’t do it alone. We’d need a lot of help.

“It’s really appalling behavior,” Ohlson continued. “I just don’t understand it. It’s unbelievable why anyone would do something of this nature.”

The police are seeking the public’s help. Anyone with information is asked to call the Deering police at 464-3127.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304 or rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)

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