Metal thieves looted the Chowchilla Cemetery over the weekend, desecrating at least 21 interment spaces in a mausoleum, the Madera County Sheriff’s Department reported Tuesday.
Deputies said thieves pried brass brackets off chamber walls that hold floral vases. Authorities estimated the total value of the lost brackets at about $2,000, spokeswoman Erica Stuart said in a news release.
No arrests have been made.
“We’ve had metal stolen from just about everything you can think of in Madera County,” Stuart said. “But this is the first time they’ve desecrated a sacred place for other people.”
Investigators believe the crime occurred sometime from late Friday to early Monday, Stuart said.
Deputies responded at 3 p.m. Monday to the scene at Road 141/2 , just south of Avenue 231/2.
Stuart called the theft “troubling” and that the motive in such cases typically involves selling the metal for scrap to fuel a narcotics addiction.
A similar case was reported last year in Merced when nine urns filled with human remains were taken from the Evergreen Funeral Home and Memorial Park. Merced police said the remains were dumped in a trash can and the urns sold for scrap metal.
Marc Reid, 55, and Richard Madsen, 68, have pleaded not guilty to all charges in Merced County Superior Court. The two are being tried separately, with Reid scheduled for a jury trial April 29 and Madsen for a trial-setting conference April 30, according to court records.
Anyone with information about the mausoleum theft is asked to call the Madera County Sheriff’s Department at (559) 675-7976 or Crime Stoppers at (559) 498-7867. Anonymous tips can be made through the Valley Crime Stoppers at www.valleycrimestoppers.org.