A trio of young vandals were arrested Thursday after confessing guilt in the destruction and desecration of a nearly 200-year-old cemetery near Metter that includes the burial plots of Confederate veterans, police said.
Dylan Sapp, 17, and two juveniles, ages 16 and 12 , were arrested in connection with an act of vandalism at Lake Church Cemetery in Candler County, Candler County sheriff’s Chief Investigator Melvin Ivey said.
Ivey said information provided by community members allowed him and Special Agent Barry Thompson, of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Statesboro regional office, to identify the suspects.
“Once we got the names, we were able to pull them in for questioning and ended up with confessions,” Ivey said.
The quick arrests — evidence of the crime was discovered early this week — brings some measure of resolution to a community stirred by news that headstones and other items had been destroyed at more than 12 graves throughout the cemetery.
Descendants of the men and women whose resting places had been defaced, some of whom gathered at the cemetery Thursday to view damage, said they could hardly believe what had been done.
“When I saw it, it made me sick,” said James Wallace, whose parents, grandmother and great-grandmother are buried in the Lake Church Cemetery. “I saw a news article and immediately came out here to see if my family had been affected. I could tell from pictures that the affected area was near my family’s plots.
“When I was young, I would get into mischief, but I would never do something like this,” he said. “I knew better than doing something like this. It’s morally wrong.”
Wallace said a flower vase had been shattered and a broken brick was left on top of one plot at the site of his family’s graves.
Other areas didn’t escape with such minor damage.
“It hit all of our family,” said Virginia Anne Waters, who counted eight graves of relatives that had been vandalized — most with large, century-old headstones that had been toppled and now lie in shambles on the grass. “When I found out, it made me sick to my stomach.”
At least two of the graves belonging to Waters’ family were those of men who fought during the Civil War.
Hu Daughtry, the commander for the Metter chapter of Georgia Division of Sons of Confederate Veterans, said at least four of the desecrated sites belong to Confederate soldiers — including the grave of his great-great-grandfather William Bowen, a private in the 9th Georgia Infantry Regiment.
“I don’t quite see what reason someone could have for doing something like this. I don’t think whoever did it understands the serious ramifications associated with their actions,” Daughtry said.
“It is definitely an abomination and something we could have done without,” he said. It is very upsetting, and it’s senseless.”
After discovering the damage Tuesday, Daughtry was interviewed for a television news piece. After the program aired, he mailed the video clip to friends and fellow Sons of Confederate Veterans members throughout the region.
He said the reaction has been overwhelming.
“People have gotten real upset about this and been very supportive,” he said. “We have received a lot of positive responses from people wanting to help.”
Michael Mull, lieutenant commander of the Metter chapter of Sons of Confederate Veterans, said Lake Church has insurance coverage that will cover the costs of repairing the grave markers.
The organization hosts several memorial ceremonies and war-time reenactments at the cemetery.
Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454