Vandals destroy dozens of historic headstones in Lawrence County

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LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ind. — Investigators are looking for the vandals who destroyed dozens of historic headstones, many of which belonged to people who had been resting at the cemetery longer than anyone has been alive.

“Somebody had to be looking to cause trouble,” said Stephanie Hudson Etheridge, a relative.

Last week when the caretaker at Ferguson Cemetery showed up to the mow the grounds, he found the mess. Nearly 30 gravestones had been kicked or pushed over.

“You’re just kind of heartbroken that someone would come in and do this. ‘Why?’ is what we keep asking and I don’t know if anyone really knows why,” said Charlie Raines, Ferguson Cemetery caretaker.

The damaged gravestones were all throughout the cemetery. Some may be repairable, other headstones are ruined.

“It was hurtful, it was very hurtful. It was disrespectful,” said Etheridge.

Two of the tombstones that once stood side by side are ancestors of Etheridge’s. Ezekiel and Jane Short were laid to rest by one another in the 1800’s. The two are Etheridge’s fifth generation grandparents.

“Even though I’ve never met them, I love that they had the pioneer spirit to come here from Virginia,” said Etheridge.

For years, Etheridge has studied her family history. She even has pictures of her grandma next to the once standing headstones.

“Trying to keep their memories alive and trying to keep my family history alive,” said Etheridge.

Some of the vandalized headstones were those of soldiers who had served in the Civil and Revolutionary wars.

“150 years after their death they’ve been accosted by someone for whatever reason, I don’t know. It’s upsetting,” said Etheridge.

Detectives don’t know if they’re searching for one vandal or a group.

“I don’t think anyone is going to be turning themselves in for guilt because if they’d done this they don’t know guilt I’m pretty sure,” said Raines.

Investigators tell us they’re following up on a few leads, but they still need more clues. If you know anything that could help with this, call the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department at 812-275-3316.

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