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Damage to Idaho Falls cemetery could reach $150,000

Three juvenile girls could be forced to pay thousands in restitution after they admitted to damaging more than 100 grave sites at the Rose Hill Cemetery, Idaho Falls police said Wednesday.

Sgt. Scott Killian said the vandals were identified after a mother recognized her daughter in photos released Tuesday night. Seven pictures were turned over to Idaho Falls police by Local News 8/KIDK Eyewitness News 3 reporter Chris Oswalt after a man walking in the cemetery provided Oswalt with pictures of the girls damaging headstones.

“I am glad it worked and it got them kids caught,” the man, who wished to not be identified, said. “I have trouble believing that three girls did it alone. It was a lot of work for three little girls to do.”

Police say they believe the three girls acted alone.

Damage is estimated to be upwards of $150,000, according to Pam Hunter, owner of Idaho Falls Monument, who is helping the city’s Parks and Cemetery Department assess the damage.

“The older stones, those are nearly irreplaceable,” Hunter said. “A lot of those were hand-carved. They will never be the same. They were just very unique marble.”

Idaho Falls police originally said the vandalism occurred about 3:30 a.m. on Sunday; however, with the photos, police said the crime occurred Sunday afternoon. Cemetery staff reported the damage to police when they arrived for work Monday.

“In the 30 years I’ve worked at the parks department, I’ve never seen worse damage done,” Assistant Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries Ronnie Campbell said.

The Parks and Cemeteries Department and employees with Idaho Falls Monument are working to determine the best way to fix the damaged headstones, but it may not be possible.

“They’re so old that they are crystallized,” Hunter said. “If you put them back up on the bases and try and (fix) them, they are just so old that they have crystallized, they would just crumble.”

Families who have headstones at the cemetery damaged will be notified by the cemetery if their plots were damaged.

Police say because of the cost of the damage, the girls could face felony charges. Their names have not been released.

“I feel bad that they felt like this was a thing that was OK to do,” Hunter said. “I don’t know where their mind was at the time. I hope they have learned from this. I hope they will take the punishment, whatever comes, I hope that they take it and become better people.”

Sgt. Killian thanked KIFI Local News 8 and KIDK 3 Eyewitness News for providing the Idaho Falls Police with the picture of the juveniles.

The cemetery is owned by the City of Idaho Falls and maintained by the Parks and Cemetery Department. Cemetery employees are notifying all families of the damage. To inquire about a grave site that may have been affected, contact Rose Hill Cemetery at 208-612-848

Arrangements are also underway to start a fund to assist in replacing headstones.

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