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Men Charged With Stealing Vases Suspected of Preying on Other Cemeteries

July 11, 2008

By Gene Warner, The Buffalo News, N.Y.

Jul. 11–Two Town of Tonawanda man are accused of stealing 40 vases from Elmlawn Cemetery and selling the copper from those vases, but now detectives think that they may have preyed on several other area cemeteries.

Town of Tonawanda detectives are checking with other police agencies and officials at three other cemeteries, following the arrest of the two town residents.

Detectives believe the two men sold some $5,200 worth of copper and other metals in seven or eight trips to one of the scrapyards.

“We just got off the phone with Buffalo detectives,” Lt. Detective Joseph Carosi said today. “They’re looking into similar thefts at Forest Lawn.”

Elmlawn Cemetery last month reported the theft of at least 70 vases, valued at $350 apiece, and anonymous tips led detectives to a scrap yard in Niagara County where some of the metals were sold.

Robert Samson, 52, of Sheridan-Parkside Drive, and James Howard, 47, of Pyle Court, were arrested and charged with grand larceny, criminal mischief, criminal trespass and cemetery desecration.

The cemetery vases weigh about 7 and one half pounds each, and they’re made of roughly 70 percent copper.

“People obviously are stealing them because copper’s at a premium now,” Carosi said.

Following information from the two suspects, Town of Tonawanda police are alerting detectives and cemetery officials at Forest Lawn, Mount Olivet and Acacia Park Cemetery about similar vases believed stolen from their grounds.

Samson was in the news two years ago, in an entirely different type of case. Complaints about the towering sunflowers that lined the sidewalk in front of his home led to him being charged with “sight obstruction,” a code violation.

The charge later was dismissed.

e-mail: gwarner@buffnews.com

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