According to information provided by the Clay County Sheriff's Department, more than 40 bronze flower vases attached to grave markers at Clearview Cemetery, located on State Road 340 West, have been reported missing since November.
"It's really sad that someone is so desperate they would take something from a cemetery," Sheriff Mike Heaton told The Brazil Times. "Doing something like that demoralizes someone's memory of their family member."
Although some family members have noticed the flower vases were missing from loved-ones graves during the past few months, Heaton said the cemetery owner recently notified authorities after the holidays.
With scrap bronze being sold for $1-$2 a pound, investigators believe the heavy bronze vases were probably stolen by scrap metal thieves.
"After taking multiple vases, the potential amount would add up pretty quickly," Heaton said about investigators notifying local scrap dealers in the Wabash Valley about the thefts. "This is a very distinct item to try and sell."
According to information provided to Heaton, the cost for grieving families is potentially much greater. To replace a simple bronze flower vase is approximately $160, but depending upon the type and style of the vase stolen, the cost could be upwards of $500-600.
Many other instances of similar cemetery thefts have been reported throughout Indiana, including the arrest of a Peru man for attempting to sell 47 brass vases stolen from a Logansport cemetery in October.
With more than 40 vases stolen from individual graves, Heaton said if a suspect were to be arrested, they could potentially be charged with 40 different counts of theft.
"The formal charges in this case would ultimately be up the (Clay County) Prosecutor's Office, but, as far as law enforcement is concerned, this is 40 thefts from 40 different families," Heaton said. "We are increasing patrols in the area and the investigation continues, but a case like this is really disheartening."
Anyone with information about this case, or any other, should contact the Clay County Sheriff's Department at 446-2535.