OXFORD – Three Oxford teenagers have been arrested for the desecration of a local cemetery. They’re also accused of breaking into the Oxford Memorial Library on the same night.
The youths allegedly used a shovel and spade to knock over 30 headstones at St. Joseph’s Cemetery after unsuccessfully trying to dig up a grave. Police say the teens then headed to the library, where they broke in and stole a donation box full of change last Thursday.
Devan Ellsworth, 18, of Greene Street, and two youths, ages 16 and 17, whose names are not being released by police, were arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including burglary and cemetery desecration.
The Village of Oxford Police Department and Chenango County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the incidents Thursday and said the Oxford High School aided in the eventual arrest of the three suspects, two of whom were apprehended after classes ended Monday, said Oxford Police Chief Richard Nolan.
The 16-year-old in the case was arrested early Monday morning because he had already been expelled for truancy, Nolan said.
Sheriff Thomas J. Loughren said, “I went to the cemetery myself once I heard and there are no words to describe the utter disrespect these kids had. In my time as Sheriff, you see these sort of crimes from time to time and I could never, under any circumstances, understand why someone would commit such a horrendous act against their own community. It just boggles the mind.”
Nolan said the suspects used the same tools at the graveyard that were used in the burglary. The three young men at about 1 a.m. Oct. 16, began damaging the cemetery, said Nolan. The chief said the youths not only toppled about 30 headstones, but also that they tried to dig up a grave with the shovel and spade. Nolan reported a shallow ditch about 2 feet across and half a foot deep was found in front of a broken 120-year-old headstone, indicating the boys abandoned the attempt to unearth the coffin.