CARRIERE, MS (WLOX) - People in a Pearl River County community said they're tired of vandals and thieves targeting their churches and cemeteries and they want parents to step up. Sheriff deputies have charged a Carriere teen with three recent church burglaries and officials said more arrests are expected. Some community members said there are other acts going unreported and it's time now for neighbors to speak up.
Magnolia Monument company owner Neville Miller described what the First Baptist Church Carriere cemetery looked like after someone drove a truck through the final resting place.
"We think it's a dual wheel vehicle came in and knocked down seven of our monuments," Miller said. "They pushed some of them as far as 30 feet. They had to have hit it with quite an impact to knock a 1,500 pound monument 30 feet."
Miller said while headstones have been reset upright they'll need to be glued down and repaired which he estimates will cost about $6,400. For First Baptist of Carriere, the vandalism from Thursday night is a difficult blow. Earlier this month the church building was one of three in the area burglarized and ransacked.
"Breaking in is one thing, but why destroy stuff? Like them tombstones," the Reverend William Gary Smith said. "The Bible says do onto others as you'd have them do onto you, but some people seem like they've never even heard of the Bible."
Some community members said it's time for parents to start getting more involved in monitoring and disciplining their children.
The Reverend Smith described driving a young man home once who had been caught stealing.
"When I got him to his grandmother with whom he lived he said, 'Grandma, I stole this from Brother Gary.' Instead of saying you should steal anything she said, 'I told you you've got to be better. You've got to be more careful than that.' I thought that's a new one on me."
"What is this parenting? Bad parenting," said Miller. "What's causing our children to come into a cemetery and run over seven graves? This is sacred ground."
Miller said there are many cemeteries that have been damaged, but people aren't coming forward.
"Some of our pastors just quiet kind sweet gentle people. They don't report a lot of this stuff that is going on," said Miller. "If we could catch these young men that did this and just put them in jail for three or four days it would teach them it's a no no. The pastor of the church said, he said in an article was going to pray for them. I'm going to prosecute them then pray for them."
The Pearl River County Sheriff's Department is still investigating Thursday night's cemetery vandalism. Officials said whoever committed the crime will be facing felony malicious mischief charges. Magnolia Monument owner Neville Miller is offering a $500 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.