Man vandalizes a cemetery attempting to exhume his loved one, while other culprits deface veteran burial grounds.
Danny Frazier, 34, from Tennessee caused almost $30,000 in damage to a burial grounds in an apparent attempt to exhume his deceased grandmother, according to authorities. A witness called the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to report a homeless man was tearing up the cemetery at Huckleberry Springs Church in Knoxville.
When officers arrived, they discovered broken tombstones and holes in the ground where Frazier had been digging. He was still on the premises, and had been seen there the previous day, according to witness reports. Upon questioning, police reported Frazier admitted to damaging the burial grounds in an attempt to resurrect his loved one. He was arrested and has been charged with vandalism and criminal trespassing. He is being held on $20,000 bond.
In September, Mujera Benjamin Lungaho, 30, of Arkansas was charged with felony first-degree criminal mischief, felony desecration and removal of a cemetery grave marker, in another case of cemetery vandalism, according to police spokesperson Lt. Casey Clark. Officers had estimated the damage exceeded the $50,000 statutory limit in the city code for charging someone under a hate crime ordinance.
The incident occurred in the early morning at Oakland and Fraternal Historic Cemetery and involved defacing the mass grave of 900 soldiers by chipping and spray-painting “Black Lives Matter” and obscenities on the headstones, said cemetery sexton John Rains. In addition to the vandalism, several grave markers were stolen. Rains said, in total, he found nine wooden headstones for unknown soldiers defaced.
“We’re just going to wait and see what the justice system does on this,” Rains said. “I hope they go away for quite a long time for what they’ve done not just at our cemetery but other things that they desecrated.”
Authorities are also investigating a July episode in which a white woman and a black man were seen on video from a game camera donated to the Oakland Historic Cemetery approaching the Confederate Memorial obelisk and attempting to pull it over with a rope. Officials believe at least two other people were involved, including the driver of a vehicle that left tracks in the cemetery.
“They’re developing some leads, and you know a lot of that depends on if this fellow will talk to them and what evidence they find,” Clark said.
There is no evidence that the events are connected. The police were able to pull latent prints from the Oakland Historic Cemetery master lock in July but have not found a match.
Following the death of George Floyd, many long-standing Confederate monuments throughout the U.S. were voluntarily removed. Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney of Richmond, Virginia, for example, ordered the removal of several statues in the city.
“These statues, although symbolic, have cast a shadow on the dreams of our children of color,” Stoney said. “Let me be clear, removing these monuments is not a solution to the deeply embedded racial injustices in our city and nation, but is a down payment.”