PEORIA — The suspected Springdale Cemetery vandals have been found, according to police.
A 16-year-old boy was arrested Monday and charged with criminal damage to property, said Peoria Police spokesperson Amy Dotson. He was later released into the custody of his parents. The boy's companion, a 16-year-old girl, was deemed to have no involvement in the crime.
The vandalism occurred between 2 and 3 p.m. May 20. About 40 monuments were pushed over, with damage estimated at more than $10,000. Some of the damaged monuments had been recently restored. A witness who investigated after hearing a suspicious crash took photos of the pair.
Though the images were turned over to the police, they weren’t able to identify the pair because the photographer was standing a long distance away. So Springdale Cemetery general manager Mark Matuszak contacted the Journal Star with the hope that if more people saw the images the suspects would be identified. On Friday, the day the photos ran in the print edition, a tipster called Matuszak.
“He lives nearby and he said he knows who the suspects are,” said Matuszak. “I turned him over to the Police Department. I wanted to make sure this guy was for real, not just somebody chasing a reward. The police interviewed him then went over to the young man, who also lives nearby.”
Matuszak received many calls after the article ran, mostly from people expressing disgust with the vandalism and support for the cemetery.
“The outpouring from the public has been fantastic,” said Matuszak. One call came from Tony Ardis, former president of Peoria Firefighters Union Local 50.
“They have volunteered to help us in the restoration of the monuments that were knocked down,” said Matuszak.
Restoring the damaged monuments won’t be as simple as picking them up and putting them back on their bases — many are large and will need to be lifted with a crane. But Matuszak welcomes all the help he can get.
“I’ll be working with the monument restoration committee to see how we can work with the firefighters,” he said. “I thought it was a very cool offer.”
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