Theft prompts CA county to take tainted headstones
June 9, 2011
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – The theft of a headstone marked with a racial slur sent Northern California officials rushing Tuesday to remove nearly three dozen more grave markers that identify settlers from a Gold Rush mining town.
It was the second such headstone to disappear from Mormon Island Relocation Cemetery near Sacramento.
“We can’t guard the cemetery 24/7,” El Dorado County spokesman Mike Applegarth said. “Once the word is out that two are stolen, there’ll likely be more vandalism.”
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers relocated the graves from a site known as Negro Hill to construct Folsom Dam in 1954. In the process, the engineers allowed the N-word to be chiseled into the 36 new markers.
The cemetery was later turned over to El Dorado County, which is collaborating with the California Prison Industry Authority to order new gravestones. Officials with that agency noticed a marker was missing Tuesday and filed a crime report.
Another marker has been missing since at least April.
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Eric Reslock, a spokesman for the prison authority, said there were no footprints at the cemetery, suggesting the latest theft had occurred before recent rains.
County Supervisor James Sweeney said in May that he didn’t want the gravestones paraded around to mock the county for a mistake it didn’t make.
However, Reslock said whoever stole the headstones won’t be able to display them publicly.
“It’s similar to when someone steals a work of art,” he said.
Advocates have long called for replacement of the offensive gravestones, which came to the attention of county supervisors in late April.
A month later, the board voted to get rid of the concrete slabs and make way for polished, granite replacements at a cost of $18,000.