By JOHN W. GOODWIN JR.
and DANNY RESTIVO
Police said a $36,000 brass statue was stolen from Mahoning Valley Memorial Park before parts of it were scrapped for just $25.50.
The 4-foot brass statue of a soldier recently was stolen from the cemetery, before someone tried to scrap it for cash at the Girard Recycling Center, a police report says.
Youngstown police notified Girard city officers on Wednesday of the stolen statue and the location of the parts at the recycling center. Police said the recycling center produced seven pieces of the statue, including a rifle and a hand. Workers also produced areceipt for the metal. Girard police collected the brass before photographing it and returning it to the park manager.
Caretakers of the memorial park and the families of those laid to rest there want to know who is responsible for stealing the statue and a memorial from the cemetery.
Police said they do have a suspect and Girard police may issue a warrant soon.
Mahoning Valley Memorial Park sits quietly back from the bustling traffic that runs along Youngstown-Hubbard Road. Driving past the small park at high speed might cause one to miss it entirely. It contains the final resting place of those who once defended the country.
Standing guard at the front of the cemetery for at least the last four decades was the bronze statue.
Someone had cut the statue down at the ankles and tried to sell the remaining pieces for scrap. The thief also apparently dug up and removed a bronze memorial marker for a veteran buried there.
The vandalism came to light when the widow of a veteran arrived with hopes of planting Easter flowers on the grave of her husband. Instead, she was taken aback by the missing bronze memorial.
Gary Pollock, one of the overseers of the memorial park, is outraged that someone would be so disrespectful to the veterans buried there and their families.
“This just really ticks me off that someone would come and steal a veteran’s memorial from a veterans cemetery like this,” said Pollock.
Police called Pollock on Thursday to inform him that some of the statue had been recovered, but it had been dismantled and cut into pieces, no longer resembling the bronze figure that stood at the head of the cemetery only days earlier.
“What I got back was a bucket full of tiny pieces,” said Pollock.
Still, Pollock is pleased the scrap dealer contacted police.
“Youngstown police, Girard police and the scrapyard were really on top of this,” he said. “That statue has been there for at least the last 40 years. To replace it will cost thousands of dollars. The cost factor aside, who would be that disrespectful?”
Clarence Huckaba, caretaker of the park, said the cemetery has seen some vandalism and even petty theft of vases and the like over the years, but nothing to this magnitude.
“This is just beyond me,” he said. “This is the first time I have dealt with anything like this.”
Police have not made any arrests in connection with the theft of the bronze items. Huckaba and Pollock are hoping for swift justice.
“I feel the person responsible for this needs to be prosecuted,” said Huckaba. “I don’t want to see a slap on the wrist.”
Pollock said he is not sure what can be done to punish the person and make the cemetery whole.
“They do these things, and there are no consequences. You can’t ask for reimbursement because if you are stealing statues for their scrap value, I don’t see you coming up with $10,000 to $15,000 in cash” to replace one, he said.