When Saprina Roark went to visit her family’s Princewick, Virginia graveyard shortly after Christmas, her great-great-grandfather, a Confederate Civil War veteran, was missing.
Someone had dug up the veteran’s grave and left only his skull behind in the remote, wooded cemetery – a half mile from the nearest residence. Roark’s kin, former 36th Infantry private Thomas Meadows, resided in one of the oldest graves at the site, which is now the subject of a criminal investigation to track down the grave robbers, the Register-Herald reports.
Roark suspects the culprits were motivated by drug abuse, while the local sheriff believes someone may have been looking for valuable Civil War memorabilia to sell for profit.
“People are so badly on drugs they’re starting to dig people’s graves up,” Roark told the news site. “I think they’re getting desperate; they were breaking into people’s homes and now they’re starting to dig up people’s graves.”
Roark, her husband Patrick, and son Noah found the 95-year-old grave overturned, with the foot stone torn out and the casket missing. The grave was about 5-feet deep, and while it’s clear the thieves broke through the glass casket cover to get at the body, all that was left was the top of Meadows’ skull.
Roark believes the thieves were targeting possible gold fillings, or uniform with gold buttons.
“I think it’s a shame,” Patrick Roark told the news site. “You’ve got to be demented in your mind to do something like this. They ought to be tied up to a tree and given 30 lashes.”
Patrick Roark said he investigated the incident with son Noah, took pictures and collected evidence for the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office, though police have little to go on.
The Register-Herald reports:
According to Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Tom Truman, the penalty for robbing a grave is a determinate sentence of up to five years.
Deputy Sheriff Steven Frey is investigating the case, but has little evidence to go on, since no one can pinpoint a date the grave was disturbed.
Frey said Wednesday that the investigation is ongoing, but he currently has no suspects.
The incident follows several similar stunts in other areas tied to anti-Confederate protests, including the planned removal of Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest from a Memphis cemetery.
Isaac Richmond, with the “Commission on Religion and Racism,” went as far as to bring protesters to the grave to get things started themselves. The group dug a chunk of soil out of the grave for TV cameras ahead of schedule this summer, which Richmond seems to believe will help heal racism in Memphis, The American Mirror reported in July.
“We are going to bring the back hoe, the tractors and the men with the equipment to raise Bedford Forrest from the soil of Memphis,” he declared, shovel in hand, according to CBS 3.
“If he’s gone, some of this racism and race-hate might be gone,” he said. “We got a fresh shovel full, and we hope that everybody else will follow suit and dig him up.”
And earlier this month, vandals spray-painted “KKK” and “White Supremacist” on the headstones of several high-ranking Civil War officials in a Raleigh, North Carolina cemetery.
A total of nine monuments inside a section of Oakwood Cemetery dedicated to Confederate Army soldiers were targeted in the attack, WNCN reports.