Community reacts to vandalism at historic Reno cemetery

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RENO,, Nev. (KOLO) - In the daylight, Ramona Richards is getting a good look at the desecration done to tombstones at the Hillside Cemetery over the weekend. The cemetery, located near Nevada Street and W. Ninth Street, is one she knows well. It's where her great-grandfather and about 30 other of her relatives are buried. But she doesn't enjoy looking at what vandals left behind.

"I want to spank them," she says.

Reno Police are investigating the crime they believe happened at some point between 2:00 p.m. Saturday and noon Sunday. They say a vandal or vandals damaged four gravestones at the historic cemetery. Officer Tim Broadway says it appears someone used force to deliberately knock them down.

"It's a staple of Reno," says Officer Tim Broadway, referring to how the cemetery is one of the oldest in the City of Reno. "That just makes it really important for us to investigate this crime to identify the suspects."

Broadway says because of how much the damage is estimated to cost, this crime is now considered a felony.

Frances Tryon, President of the Hillside Cemetery Preservation Foundation, is still stunned over what happened.

"I was asking myself, 'Who in the world would desecrate a grave in Nevada this day in age?'" says Tryon. She says her group and a lot of other community groups have been volunteering to restore a lot of the cemetery and gravestones over the last few years and this is a setback.

"It's going to take us at least a year to remount, just because we need a plan," says Tryon. "The stones are 130 years old. They're very fragile. It will never be the same."

A sign outside the gates to the cemetery says it was established in 1875 and that Hillside is Reno's original cemetery. Tryon says it's filled with the names of those who were pioneers in the City of Reno: Plumb, Marsh, and Gould.

Richards says she hopes the vandals are caught, though she doesn't want them punished under the law. She would rather have them spend some time at the site trying to restore the cemetery.

"Come work a few days and realize that these were people and realize the history," says Richards. "I don't want to see them behind bars. I just want to see them understand what they've done, that they've hurt living people related to these people."

Anyone who may have seen anything suspicious at the cemetery over the weekend is asked to call the Reno Police Department or leave an anonymous tip with Secret Witness. The phone number for Secret Witness is (775) 322-4900.