Metro

W. Bridgewater cemetery vandalized for 5th time in 4 years

Thirty-three tombstones  were affected, some of them toppled over and several smashed completely.

George Rizer for The Boston Globe

Thirty-three tombstones were affected, some of them toppled over and several smashed completely.

When she picked up her phone on Friday morning, Lauren Delaney thought she must be dreaming. The news was bad — and familiar. Pleasant Hill Cemetery in West Bridgewater, where she was the caretaker, had been vandalized for the second time in two months.

“It’s heartbreaking — like, ‘Oh no, not again,’” said Delaney.

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Thirty-three tombstones were tipped over or destroyed in the overnight desecration. It was the fifth such incident in the past four years, and the most devastating. The perpetrators smashed the cemetery’s oldest gravestone, which dates to 1751; some of the taller monuments, which can weigh up to two tons, were toppled.

“It’s a mess,” she said. “It looks terrible up there. It’s disgusting.”

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Of the eight sections in the graveyard, Delaney said, the vandals hit five. Many of the damaged stones belonged to military veterans, she said.

“As soon as I pulled in and saw the devastation up there, I didn’t know whether to scream or cry,” she said. “It just makes absolutely no sense.”

Delaney said she walked through the cemetery with West Bridgewater police Friday morning.

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Police and the Plymouth County Sheriff’s Department began an investigation Friday, collecting evidence and conducting door-to-door interviews, officials said in a statement. No arrests have been made.

In a statement, police described the vandalism as an “unthinkable act.”

“We are saddened by the destruction and will continue to follow any and all leads in the coming days,” police said.

Officers from both departments have conducted property checks twice every day since the last incident of vandalism. Police say they do not believe the vandalism was committed by a gathering of young people.

“I just don’t understand; it doesn’t make any sense,” said Jane Borus of Raynham, whose grandparents’ stone was knocked over in November. “What’s going through [the vandals’] heads? What kind of morals do they have?”

Borus said her family has 24 plots at the cemetery, but they do not yet know if any stones were damaged in the most recent incident. She learned of the damage while watching the news, she said, and had not yet had a chance to get out and check. She won’t go at night, saying that the cemetery does not feel safe.

“I won’t even go there by myself in the day,” she said. She and her cousin planned to check their plots at first light Saturday, she said.

All day Friday, people arrived to assess the damage of their loved ones’ tombstones and help with the cleanup, Delaney said.

In 2012, the tombs of six veterans were spray-painted, she said. Eighteen stones were spray-painted in August 2013. In July 2015, vandals knocked over the stones of three veterans.

The most recent attack, last November, saw two stones toppled, urns displaced, and flags strewn around.

The vandalism is personal for Delaney, who had many ancestors whose graves were desecrated. Now she has a tough job ahead of her.

“I am tasked with contacting living owners and giving them a nice start to their new year,” she said.

The cemetery may step up security and install security cameras to stop any future intrusions, she said. Officials also have a fund-raising page to accept donations and repair some of the damage.

Anyone with information about the graveyard destruction is urged to contact West Bridgewater police.

J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto.
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