CHERRY HILL, N.J. (WPVI) --After visiting the graves of her father and her in-laws at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Cherry Hill Easter Sunday, Carmen Paternoster and her family made a disturbing discovery.
"We see one headless and then we really look and there's like a sea of just really defaced gravesites, statues, religious statues, saints, Jesus, Mary, angels with no heads," Paternoster said.
Twenty-nine of the statues were found defaced in mid-January. Police responded and investigated, but no arrests have been made. The vandalism spree was not publicized when it happened, but now with Easter and the warmer weather, more people are coming to the cemetery and horrified by what they see.
"I mean this is sacred. Why would you want to come and knock them over?" said Dominic Lope of Gloucester City.
"It's horrible. It's sacred land; your relatives are here and you don't like to see anybody mess with it," Angelo Sinesi of Haddon Township, said.
The cemetery alerted the families affected by the vandalism and recently held a meeting to update them on the plan to repair all the damaged grave markers.
The cemetery, which is owned by the Catholic diocese of Camden, is getting estimates from monument companies. Families would be responsible for paying for repairs.
Carmen Paternoster wonders if the vandals were targeting Christians.
"It made me feel like that's awful, that's such a desecration," Paternoster said.
The cemetery plans to lock up some of the gates at night and upgrade its security cameras. And while plans are made to repair the statues that have been beheaded, relatives of those buried here remain disgusted by the senseless vandalism.
"I think it's disrespectful basically. You have to respect the dead," Mirta Quinones of Pennsauken, NJ said.
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