Marker Damage at Wyche Cemetery

Gregg Co. Cemeteries of TX

Longview News Journal 

Police: Man stole vets' grave markers


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

LAKEPORT About a dozen veterans' markers are missing from a cemetery in the Greenville community, police say, after a man took a sledgehammer and crowbar to break off the military faceplates that adorned their modest headstones.

For some, all that is left are fresh, rectangular imprints in the red clay. For others, cracked blocks of concrete sit at the head of their now-anonymous graves.

Roy Walker told authorities he saw 37-year-old Harvell Horton Jr. of Longview at the Wyche Cemetery, off FM 2963 near the East Texas Regional Airport, on Nov. 30.

Horton was standing next to a sledgehammer and a defaced headstone, and Walker saw several other damaged markers nearby, according to an arrest warrant.

Walker, a member of the cemetery's board of directors, questioned Horton, then reported him to Sam Boyd, the cemetery's 78-year-old caretaker.

The Gregg County Sheriff's Office arrested Horton on Monday after getting a warrant for him Thursday. He was in jail Tuesday on $10,000 bond, charged with felony criminal mischief.

Gregg County Sheriff's Capt. Ken Hartley said the total damage was about $8,800.

The Department of Veterans Affairs will replace the markers as soon as they are notified, said Lindee Lenox, the acting director for the memorial programs services. She said the bronze markers cost the department about $80 after shipping.

Lenox said she hadn't heard of people stealing the faceplates for their metal.

"Occasionally cars run into one, but actually, maliciously defacing markers, I can't recall a specific incident," she said. "I'm sure it's happened at some time."

The cemetery is more than 100 years old, Boyd said.

Boyd said all but three of the veterans' markers were taken. None of the veterans whose markers were taken were related to Boyd, who has been the cemetery's caretaker since 1987.

"I get a little fee, more or less a donation," he said. "I've got family out there, and I'm just more or less interested in the community."