ENOCHVILLE, NC (WBTV) – Six juveniles have been accused of damaging dozens of headstones at a church cemetery in southern Rowan County as well as multiple other crimes, according to a report at the Rowan Sheriff’s Office.
Deputies say that approximately 37 headstones were knocked over at the cemetery behind St. Enoch Lutheran Church. Church members say the vandalism likely occurred between Wednesday night and early Sunday morning.
On Thursday, deputies said that six juveniles – four males and two females – had been named as possible suspects in the case. They said the juveniles were also suspects in “multiple reports theft, vandalism and burglary” in the Enochville area over the last several months.
The juveniles’ names have not been released, but officials said that several were already on juvenile probation for convictions on past crimes. One of the accused was placed in a juvenile detention facility, and investigators say they’re working to place another in the same facility.
The sheriff’s office has not detailed any of the other crimes the group is accused of, but WBTV was at the cemetery that was vandalized on Tuesday.
“The reaction is everything from anger to heartbreak,” said Reverend Dale Cline. “I think everyone’s initial reaction to this is anger, and that comes from our dear, that we fear we are no longer secure, but after a few moments of getting over that I really think that I feel sorry for the folks that do this. We certainly offer forgiveness to them for this, of course that doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences to their actions.”
The cemetery was established at St. Enoch in 1835 and many of the damaged markers are more than one hundred years old.
Earlier in the week church members had asked four juveniles to leave the church property after they had been seen playing around the grounds when no one was supposed to be there.
Reverend Cline also said that someone had driven a car into a part of the cemetery and “cut doughnuts” on the grass.
“But we certainly offer forgiveness,” Cline added. “I think we have to turn to scripture and think about the third chapter of Revelation, John’s revelation to the church at Philadelphia, and Christ says that the door is open and that door is evangelism, that door is welcoming people in and offering that forgiveness specifically to those who are persecuting them and harming them, and so I think that as the church we have to look at it that way, even though people vandalize our facilities, don’t respect our cemeteries, we have to offer forgiveness for that.”
Cline says the church is now taking extra security measures including the installation of cameras, motion sensitive lights, and patrols on the church grounds.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rowan Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700, or Salisbury-Rowan Crime Stoppers at 1-866-639-5245.