PIKEVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Dorothy Taylor was surprised to see an empty space where the flowers placed at her husband's grave once were.
"Who would steal off a graveyard?" Taylor said.
It's a question funeral home and cemetery operators in Eastern Kentucky are asking these days. Pike County Deputy Coroner Zeb Hampton, who works for J.W. Call and Son funeral home, said cemeteries across the area are having issues with stolen flowers
The thieves are hard to catch because it's hard to tell if the person taking flowers off a grave is a family member replacing them, Hampton said.
Gary Justice, who owns Johnson Memorial Park in Pikeville, said a thief recently stole the flowers from the grave of Sheriff Charles Keesee's wife.
"They don't have any reservations about anything," Johnson said.
Some cemetery operators are stepping up security among the headstones and memorials. Mountain View Memory Gardens General Manager Chris Sheridan enlisted the help of Constable James Worley in patrolling the cemetery. Thefts have dropped some since then, but there are still complaints, he said.
"They take the vases and drop the flowers. They're more interested in selling the metal," Sheridan said. "It's the worst thing you can think of."
Larry Thicker, who oversees Annie Young Cemetery in Pikeville, pitched a tent and stood guard the week before Memorial Day to stop people from taking flowers to put on the graves of their loved ones.
"I manned the fort," Thicker said. "I stayed up there a week."
Taylor and her family took matters into their own hands after flowers were stolen from the grave of her husband of 46 years, Gailand Taylor. Her son, Larry Taylor, put wiring around a vase on the fourth level of the monument. Even though it took a ladder to reach the vase, it was taken anyway.
"My husband never stole anything in his whole life," said Taylor, of Phelps.
Taylor said she hopes whoever took the flowers realizes that what they've done is wrong.
"The Lord forgives all, but they have to repent," Taylor said.
Information from: Appalachian News-Express, http://www.news-expressky.com
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