While local and state law enforcement investigate the Aug. 31 vandalism of a Confederate statue in a Screven County cemetery, outraged citizens have donated money, raising the reward for information to $10,000.
Sylvania police Chief Shane Burke said the investigation is ongoing, with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation assisting the Sylvania police in identifying persons responsible for toppling the statue.
Landscapers working in the Screven County Memorial Cemetery noticed the statue early that Friday morning when they arrived to work, finding the marble soldier on the ground in pieces. The landscaping crew had seen the monument the day before and it was whole, Burke said.
The statue was erected in 1909 by wives and daughters of Confederate soldiers and was moved from a city park in the 1950s, when the space it previously occupied was turned into a parking lot, he said.
Adam Bazemore, camp commander for the Black Creek Volunteers Camp 549 Sons of Confederate Veterans, said the destruction is devastating. Its value is "priceless," since the historical monument was purchased by survivors of the Civil War soldiers who died in the fight, but the group does plan to replace the soldier part of the statue. The base remained intact, he said.
"We are looking at different estimates" to replace the statue, he said Monday.
The reward, which has increased from the $2,000 originally offered by the Sons of Confederate Veterans to five times that much thanks to private donations, shows how angry citizens are about the vandalism, he said.
The reward's increase is due to a "grassroots effort with many different donors," he said. "Some gave $100, some gave $500."
The memorial statue is a source of pride for many in the community who value their heritage and history, he said.
"People care," he said. "They want to see the criminals caught; they want to see the statue replaced."
Bazemore said this is the first time the statue has ever been defaced or damaged, and the vandalism took effort.
"It is solid marble," he said. "A piece of the pedestal (that was toppled) dug a foot into the ground" upon impact.
The $10,000 reward is offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of parties responsible, he said. Anyone with information is asked to call the Sylvania Police Department at (912) 564-2056 or the Statesboro Region 5 Georgia Bureau of Investigation office at (912) 871-1121.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.