Boys who damaged cemetery pay for their crime

CENTRAL POINT — The families of two juveniles arrested this spring for vandalizing more than four-dozen headstones in a historic graveyard paid nearly $5,000 in court-ordered restitution last week, and the boys have performed community service at the cemetery to help make up for their actions.

The boys, a 10-year-old from Central Point and an 11-year-old from Medford, damaged headstones and caused other damage at the Central Point Cemetery on Hamrick Road in late March.

They were arrested weeks later, prompting an outcry from a number of residents who demanded the boys be held accountable.

Joe Ferguson, deputy director for Jackson County Juvenile Services, said a check was presented last week to the cemetery owners, Idiart Law Group LLC, a local law firm that has established a foundation to provide care for the grounds.

"My understanding was it was the youths' families who gathered that money themselves. As part of our process and looking at these kids, the issue was making sure restitution was being paid and the kids were being held accountable," Ferguson said. "They worked as a family unit to collect the $5,000, and the kids also did some community service there at the cemetery as part of the accountability piece."

Aaron Nadauld, a member of the Central Point Cemetery Restoration and Beautification Foundation, confirmed a check had been received and said the money would be put to good use.

"We're happy with this outcome. We're not happy it happened but we're happy it's being resolved," Nadauld said, noting that the work would be scheduled with Oregon Granite and Stone to ensure repairs are properly made.

Dirk Siedlecki, an Eagle Point resident and chair of the Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries, has kept a close eye on the cemetery since the vandalism last spring.

Siedlecki, who networks with coordinators and volunteers for historic cemeteries in the region, said the emotional damage was tougher to gauge than the property damage.

With so many pioneers buried in the cemetery, a number of elderly residents, descendents of the town's early founders, were affected by the boys' actions, he said.

"I've been very eager to make sure that restitution would be made. It doesn't always happen, so I'm delighted that it has in this case. We had vandalism in the Jacksonville cemetery that occurred in the mid-'60s that is still evident," he said.

Siedlecki suspects the two young boys were not alone in their actions.

"There is some feeling there might have been others involved, but there was no one else pinpointed, so these two young kids ended up taking responsibility. At any rate, it's good to see some accountability taking place."

Don Bohnert, a Central Point resident who said he was saddened to discover significant damage to the headstones of his grandparents and a cousin who died in infancy, agreed.

"I guess kids will be kids, but the important thing is they were held accountable. I think it's great the families agreed to do what was right, and it feels good to know the boys maybe did do some kind of restitution out there so they know it wasn't just a fun thing they got away with," said Bohnert. "Accountability doesn't always happen anymore."

Nadauld said the $5,000 in restitution would be used to repair damaged headstones. While volunteers have been trained to do minor repairs and complete other work on headstones, Nadauld said the stones were historic, so the work would be done by a professional.

Community help is still needed at the cemetery on an ongoing basis. To volunteer, call 541-772-6969.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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