SANDUSKY, Ohio - Since 1850, people have been coming to scenic Oakland Cemetery near Sandusky to pay respects to their loved ones. But since May, someone has been coming here for something else.
"Families were calling us up and saying ‘We're missing this, we're missing that,'" said Oakland Cemetery manager Dan Hedberg.
Hedberg said vandalism was rare at the well-manicured grounds, but lately stone statues of angels, flower urns and even benches had disappeared from grave sites.
After several theft reports were filed, including one of a potted palm tree that repeatedly vanished, the Sandusky police had an idea to catch who was responsible.
"We comprised a plan, basically setting up a trap to catch who was ever doing it," said Sandusky Police Det. Gary Wichman.
They set a hidden camera up in a tree across from a grave site. There, they placed a potted palm tree like one that had been taken before. Then they waited.
About a week later, their plan paid off. The surveillance camera captured a white truck pulling up to the site, and a man picking up the plant and putting it in the vehicle. What he didn't know was that the plant contained a tracking device, which alerted police that it was being moved. Police later arrested 23-year-old Jeffery Huey, of Clyde.
"We handcuffed him and escorted him to his residence in Clyde and pretty much our jaws dropped when we pulled into his driveway, Wichman said.
What they saw were dozens of urns, angels and benches all allegedly taken by Huey. Police have been getting calls from all over northern Ohio, as well as Michigan, from cemeteries and people who had items disappear for grave sites.
"It's sad enough when someone comes out and sees a loved one," said Hedberg, "but when they come out and have to find things gone, that's about the lowest you can go, stealing from a cemetery."
Huey was charged with felony theft, breaking and entering and vandalism.
Sandusky police are in the process of sorting out the stolen goods and returning them to their owners. Anyone who has had items taken from area cemeteries should contact Sandusky police.