FLAT ROCK, Mich. (WJBK) - Many were disturbed to learn about vandalism at a historic cemetery on Memorial Day, and now it appears police are on hot on the heels of the person they believe is responsible. The case involves an angry teen, a big mouth and the power of social media.
The historic landscape at Vreeland Cemetery in Flat Rock is a hidden treasure of sorts in the area, but it was transformed into a crime scene this past weekend. Head stones left alone for centuries were cracked in half or toppled. Grave sites of more than a half dozen war soldiers were desecrated.
Who would do such a thing? Lesley Harkai of the Flat Rock Historical Society has an idea.
"The younger generation now really doesn't have any respect for those things that are historical," she says. "Or at least not many of them do."
So, Lesley looked to social media.
"The community needed to know, and so that was the only purpose for putting it on Facebook," she says.
Now Flat Rock police say they know who did it, posting this message:
"We are happy to say we have positively identified a juvenile suspect responsible for the headstone and marker damage at the Vreeland Cemetery. Charges are being sought on this individual. We are still investigating this heinous crime and will keep you posted on the outcome."
Some of the tips allegedly revolved around a teenage boy angry over a girl, and using the Vreeland Cemetery as his outlet.
"Apparently he had been bragging about it, so they reported him and the local police picked it up from there," Harkai says.
Lesley says she knows this because the tips originally came to her.
"People had privately messaged me on the [Historical] Society Facebook page," she says. "Different people that weren't connected reported it separately. So, they all knew."
Now she and the volunteers are left to pick up the shattered and costly pieces of history. She has a message for the young man said to be responsible for all this.
"I think he should have something to do with repairing the damage that is done," she says.
Repairs, she promised, will come as fast as possible. This story not only touched a nerve locally, but nationally as well. We're told donations have poured in from as far as Alabama.
The headstones will have to be shipped off to be repaired but they will be back in place in their rightful place.