Families speak out about grave theft at an Estill County cemetery

Posted at 5:45 PM, Jul 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-12 17:53:42-04

ESTILL COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Three Irvine families are speaking out about a trend of theft in cemeteries in this community. One theft, as recent as this past Saturday. Two moms come here daily to be with their sons.

One mom, Kristi Crowe, says, "This is my happy place right now. This is where I connect with him. I do, I pray with him, I do my devotion every morning with him. And it's really heartbreaking when you come here to be with your child and the night before everything was here and then you come back, and it's gone."

Crowe's son Blake was a baseball coach in the area - she comes to sit with her son and brings different items to honor his memory. Her friend Paula Adams comes here to be with her son Dalton. He loved music.

"Every morning, on my lunch break, usually every evening I will come in and sit at the grave and play a song," says Adams. "He loved music I might play a song that he's recorded, a song that he was always playing at home, or just a favorite song of his."

Over the years, theft has become a growing issue at this cemetery. Just this past week, according to an Estill County Sheriff's Office citation, one woman admitted to stealing angels and flowers off of graves.

"An anonymous tip came into dispatch that there was a female there taking flowers and putting them in her car," said Estill County Sheriff Chris Flynn. "Hope Johnson was arrested and charged with violating graves on the same date. Five flower arrangements, one ceramic angel figurine, and one solar light object was recovered."

Now, this cemetery's owner, Tony Murphy, says he's doing everything he can to keep this a safe space - but is asking for the community's help.

"Notify somebody. You know we can’t be here 24 hours a day. We're here a lot. We've got a lot of eyes, we've got cameras on the cemetery,” says Murphy.

Another family moving back to Estill County says this cemetery is the only way their children can connect with their grandmother and relatives. Bobby Henry's mom died when he was young. He wants his girls to know her.

"When someone disturbs a memorial you know, that's a very intimate thing that you’re messing with," said Henry.

Henry’s wife, Natalee Henry, says this is the only way her girls can make memories with her grandmother.

"This is how they spend mother's day with their grandma, they bring her, her gift and for her grave and they put it on there and they hope that it stays there they hope that she enjoys it," she said.

All three families hope no one ever has to experience their loved ones being violated in this way.

Paula Adams says, "It just makes you angry it makes you think why do you feel like it's okay to steal from somebody that's dead? What gives you the right to feel that way?"

These families are looking for answers and looking for peace for their loved ones, once again.