Buford church offering reward to find cemetery vandals

BUFORD -- A plaque at the entrance of New Prospect United Methodist Church's cemetery reads, in part, "Their bodies are buried in peace but their names live on generation after generation."

Lately, though, vandals have been disturbing that peace, turning over tombstones and upsetting church members to the point where the small Buford congregation is offering a reward for the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators.

"We're just appalled and dismayed that someone would do that to desecrate a sacred burial place," said church member Joe Kennedy. "We're disturbed and upset and mad and angry."

The most recent damage was done within the last few weeks, when two ancient tombstones were forced over and out of the ground. A similar happening occurred in recent months, Kennedy said.

The damage thus far has amounted to about $600, he said.

All this comes after church members pitched in for an $80,000 fence and retaining wall to protect the centuries-old cemetery.

"That cemetery holds the original members of the church," Kennedy said. "Most all of the prominent members of the community were buried there."

Kennedy and the rest of his church family don't have any specific suspects, but think it might be youngsters from a nearby apartment complex, one that has a "well-worn path" to the back of the cemetery, he said.

Members of the church's 100-plus person congregation are quickly pitching in the $1,500 or so to install motion-sensor lights and cameras. They'll also be offering a "substantial" reward of at least $1,000, Kennedy said.

"We're still just finding it very hard to believe that someone would stoop to that level," Kennedy said.