Tampering with grave nets jail time

Published 7:38 am Saturday, July 4, 2009

COURTLAND—Two men have been sentenced to jail time in connection with the June 2008 desecration of a Confederate grave at the Gillette family cemetery east of Courtland.

Aaron Richard Howard, 21, and Justin Thomas Rainey, 23, appeared before Southampton County Circuit Court Judge Carl E. Eason Jr. on Thursday to be sentenced on the felony charge of attempting to disinter a dead body.

Rainey, Howard and 21-year-old Kyle Burks, who was killed in a car accident in January, were accused of trying to dig up the grave of Maj. Joseph Ezra Gillette.

Gillette served in the 13th Virginia Calvary during the Civil War. He died in 1863 from wounds he received at Brandy Station.

Eason called the act “deplorable” and sentenced Rainey and Howard to four years in prison each, but the judge suspended the majority of that time.

Rainey will serve six months in prison, and Howard will serve 45 days. Both will also be on probation for three years after they are released from prison and are required to complete community service.

Rainey received a longer sentence because the court considered his criminal history and the fact that Howard’s cooperation with authorities helped build the case against the other two defendants.