Metal thieves loot cemetery

EVERETT — Someone has been stealing from Everett’s dead.

During the past two months, about 30 bronze vases have disappeared from grave sites at the Evergreen Funeral Home and Cemetery.

“It’s sad,” funeral home general manager Dennis Christie said. “These are peoples’ mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmas and grandpas.”

The cemetery is the final resting place for more than 50,000 people and has been hallowed ground since Everett’s beginnings. Now, officials are considering adding surveillance cameras and tightening access at night.

The vases have been removed from different sections of the sprawling 80-acre cemetery. The thefts have been reported to Everett police.

Stealing bronze vases and markers for sale as scrap is more common than people might think, Christie said.

“It’s a national problem,” he said.

Christie recently moved to Everett from Kansas. He remembers about 10 years ago, the cemetery where he was working had about 100 bronze vases stolen.

“As scrap metal prices have increased, we have seen a spike in these kinds of incidents,” said Jessica Koth, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin-based National Funeral Directors Association. “These are very sacred places where you wouldn’t expect it.”

Scrap metal is an $85 billion industry each year in the United States, according to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington, D.C.

Thieves follow the market.

Recyclers increasingly are working closer with law enforcement agencies to catch scrap metal thieves, the trade organization reported. They routinely report people who try to sell suspicious items, such as manhole covers, aluminum bleachers, park benches and spools of new copper wire.

Bronze vases also should raise red flags among scrap metal recyclers, Christie said.

That risk doesn’t stop some thieves.

Three years ago, Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies investigating a string of burglaries raided an Arlington man’s property and found four old bronze urn markers discarded in a doghouse. All were traced to an Everett mausoleum, and police believed they were stolen for sale as scrap metal.

Evergreen Funeral Home is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for the thefts.

New vases will be engraved with the name of the cemetery and the grave’s location on the grounds.

Christie hopes someone will come forward with information.

“This is something we really want to get some help with,” he said.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, stevick@heraldnet.com.

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