Cemeteries Victim of Theft, Vandalism

The public is encouraged to check family members’ gravesites for missing grave markers as there have been several reports of theft and vandalism at Chewelah and Valley area cemeteries.

The Forest Center Cemetery Association in Valley reported vandalism on April 30 when they noticed trees were uprooted, the flag was stolen, headstones were tipped or broken, and nine and a half gravestones were missing.

Terry L. Verhaag, 48, of Valley, was found to be in possession of over 70 gravestones and markers on his property. He has been charged with three counts of Unlawful Removal of Grave Markers.

According to media reports, Verhaag was originally arrested for disorderly conduct outside the Chewelah Safeway on May 1. Authorities then noticed the stolen items in Verhaag’s truck and obtained a search warrant.

Jim Myers, Forest Center Cemetery Association president, said that when the authorities had come to return the stones, they discovered they did not all belong at that cemetery and other cemeteries were victim of the same crime.

The Stevens County Sheriff’s Office is investigating this case.


In this Photo: Two Chewelah Pioneer Cemetery headstones tipped over.