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Desecration of veterans’ gravesites probed in Genesee County

BATAVIA – An investigation is underway into the theft or discarding of nearly 400 flag-holders from at least four Genesee County cemeteries last weekend.

Many of the holders were put in place by American Legion posts in the Byron-Bergen area. State Police and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office investigators said the holders were either stolen or removed and discarded on the grounds of the cemeteries.

Joseph MacConnell, superintendent of the Mount Rest Cemetery in Bergen, called the Sheriff’s Office on Monday morning, when he found the holders, featuring brass veterans markers, stolen from the gravesites of military veterans throughout the cemetery.

MacConnell, in turn, contacted John Durand, superintendent of Byron Cemetery, on Monday morning, and Durand and his aides also found markers missing from several gravesites of veterans.

MacConnell added that he doubts the markers were stolen by scrap thieves, who then resell stolen metal, because it would be difficult to sell such recognizable items.

“My gut feeling,” MacConnell said, “is it might have been kids because a bunch (of markers) were thrown around. We just don’t know.”

The names of the other targeted cemeteries were not available Tuesday.

The flag-holders, installed at the gravesites of veterans by American Legion members or their families, each include a 5-inch, 1-pound brass or bronze medallion with the words, “American Legion,” in an outer circle and a star with “U.S.” in the inner circle.

State police said the medallions are held in place with a 20-inch metal stake that features an arrow at its base. Each flag-holder costs about $32, police said.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to contact the State Police in Batavia at (585) 344-6200 or the Sheriff’s Office at (585) 343-5000.