Historic Society Hill graveyard hit by vandals

June 13, 2011 2:50:16 PM PDT
An act of vandalism turned the historic graveyard at a Philadelphia church into a crime scene after several tombstones dating back to the 1700's were destroyed over the weekend.

Seven of the tombstones were in the burial ground of St. Peter's Church, which was founded back in 1761.

The stones, some very fragile, were vandalized late Saturday night.

It comes after two other stones were deliberately damaged about one month ago.

"It's terrible. You spend a lot of time and effort and money keeping this graveyard as a beautiful place," said David Richards of St. Peter's Church.

Church officials have a strong notion who their suspects are, pointing to South Street just two blocks away.

"Because we're so close to South Street and the creeps are there," said Dorothy Stevens of St. Peter's Church.

Church officials lock the gates at 7:00 each night, but say South Street revelers scale the walls of the graveyard and come in for all sorts of late-night debauchery.

"We have a group of about 20-ish men who are in the church yard at night. They party and they leave their beer cans and their liquor bottles and their condom wrappers and their drug packets," said Stevens.

Nearly 20 years ago at least five of the marble gravestones were shattered. The church had to raise thousands of dollars for repairs and the process was just completed.

Now they will have to embark on raising at least $5,000 to repair the latest damage.

"It's discouraging, it's heart-breaking. People are buried here and it's hallowed ground," said church member Steve Zettler.

Police say there is little chance they will catch those responsible, saying patrols had already been increased. Church officials say they do not want to resort to metal bars on top of the wall and make a peaceful, hallowed place into a prison.

They say they may consider more lighting and even a watchdog.