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SurfKY News Investigates Cemetery Vandalism Reports

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MADISONVILLE, Ky. (6/29/13) – Over the past two weeks, SurfKY News has received multiple reports from individuals stating that they believed that tombstones were being removed from Fuquay Cemetery, an 1800’s era grave site located on Shamrock Drive in Madisonville.After an in-depth investigation into the situation, evidence points towards the fact that no stones have been removed from the cemetery.

Originally, SurfKY News assigned the story to an investigative reporter. The reporter began by visiting the cemetery and taking note that there were only five obvious tombstones/markers, with several other rocks that could possibly have been grave markers as well. While on the scene, the reporter noted that several tree limbs had been removed from trees surrounding the cemetery.
 
From there, the reporter contacted Asplundh, a statewide Kentucky tree-trimming service that had recently done some work around the cemetery. A director of the service told the reporter that, as far as he knew, his crews had not actually altered anything in the cemetery and had only worked around it.
 
At this point, the owner of the land surrounding the cemetery, Frank Versnick, was contacted in reference to his activity on the land. Mr. Versnick informed the reporter that he had been mowing in and around the cemetery for years, and that no tombstones had been removed from the property, to his knowledge. Versnick did state that he had removed a wrought-iron fence from around the cemetery, but stated that the fence was not originally part of the cemetery. Versnick said that the fence was actually placed there by the prior owner to protect it from large exotic animals that he had in the field. Versnick went on to say that he had plans of planting bushes and/or shrubs around the cemetery to beautify it.

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To verify the information provided by the aforementioned interviewees, the investigative reporter then contacted several state and local officials in reference to the history of the Fuquay Cemetery. The majority of those contacted had no knowledge that the cemetery existed, and no records of those buried there.
 
Finally, after consulting local genealogical experts, the reporter located a book that was published in 1970, entitled, “Hopkins County Cemeteries.” Within this book was a list of each tombstone located in the cemetery at the time of publication. After revisiting the cemetery, the reporter found that the five tombstones listed in 1970 were still present today, the only difference being that one of them had fallen at some point over the last 40 years.
 
In summary, it appears that no tombstones have been taken from the cemetery at this time.
 
On a side note, Kentucky law states the following in reverence to violating graves…
 
KRS (Kentucky Revised Statutes) 525.115 - Violating Graves
 
A person is guilty of violating graves when he/she intentionally:
1)  Mutilates the graves, monuments, fences, shrubbery, ornaments, grounds, or buildings in or enclosing any cemetery or place of sepulture; or
2)  Violates the grave of any person by destroying , removing, or damaging the headstone or footstone, or the tomb over the enclosure protecting any grave; or
3)  Digs into or plows over or removes any ornament, shrubbery, or flower placed upon any grave or lot.
 
The provisions of subsection (1) of this section shall not apply to ordinary maintenance and care of a cemetery nor the removal and relocation of graves pursuant to procedures authorized by and in accordance with applicable statutes.
 
Violating graves is a Class D felony.

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SurfKY News would like to thank the Hopkins County Historical Society, Genealogical Society, Madisonville Police Department and Frank Versnick for assisting and being generally helpful in this case.

J.L. Graham
SurfKY News

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

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