Reward offered to find cemetery vandal

Published 1:52 pm Saturday, October 19, 2013

SEBRELL—Looking to help right a wrong, members of the Sebrell community are offering $1,500 to find the person or persons who vandalized a local cemetery last month.

The Southampton County Sheriff’s Office got a call late Sept. 29 from Mindy Purvis, after she discovered many grave markers had either been destroyed or tipped over at the Butts Family Cemetery on Old Hickory Road; floral arrangements were scattered in several places.

The Courtland resident was there to visit the grave of her mother; whose marker was undisturbed. Deputy R. Colby came to the scene after she called. He took photographs and might have found some evidence, Purvis said.

Paul Simmons, a member of the Sebrell Civic Club, said he read about the vandalism in The Tidewater News and went to see it for himself.

“The whole thing just doesn’t make sense to be desecrated to that level,” he said.

Another person outraged by the act was Emerson Kitchen, a fellow club member of 35 years.

“I just felt so bad about this whole thing. Everyone I’ve confronted about it has felt the very same way,” he said.

Kitchen added that he didn’t care where it happened, but just the idea that such vandalism took place is devastating.

“We’re helping to do something about this,” he said.

To encourage anyone who might have information that could lead to an arrest and conviction, the residents are offering their reward. This is in addition to the Crime Line money available – up to $1,000 – if the call also helps the investigation.

The Crime Line number is 653-2900.

Kitchen said he and 13 to 14 other people, mostly club members, have put up the money “without any problem.”

Simmons said that $1,500 would go through the club treasury and be ready for payment when the time comes.

He added the club itself will also make a donation later to the descendants for the restoration of the damaged graves.

Purvis said Friday that she’s contacted the director of the Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery in Suffolk about the incident. To replace any veterans’ broken markers, she’s to provide a copy of the police report and other details of the vandalism.

“We’ll probably need to look at a company that would do the other headstones,” she said. Purvis added that while caretaker Helen Joyner is still reportedly disturbed by the incident, “She’s elated that the community is coming together to help with the clean up.

We’re hoping the reward will help.”