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Vandals knock over gravestones in Versailles

VERSAILLES — Henry and Mary Ann Disponette died within weeks of each other — he on Dec. 5, 1981, she on Jan. 22, 1982.

Since then, their graves had been beneath an 8-foot-tall, white marble stone that resembled the façade of a Greek temple. Two fluted columns and a cornice. The Disponette name displayed prominently at the top. The names of their 11 children at the base.

On Wednesday, the stone — along with 151 others in Versailles Cemetery — lay flat on the grass, thanks to vandals who had swept through. Twenty stones had been cracked or broken the night before.

"That's not mischievous. That's sick," said Ann Thompson, a daughter of the Disponettes, as she looked at the toppled stone.

Versailles police continue to seek clues about those responsible, and have offered a $2,000 reward for information leading to their arrest and conviction. Felony charges are possible including institutional vandalism, said police spokesman Pat Melton. The cemetery is owned by the city of Versailles.

"This is truly a despicable act," Melton said. "Why someone would get their kicks from desecrating gravestones, I don't know."

The cemetery gates were locked, so it appeared the vandals jumped a 4-foot rock wall, Melton said. Cemetery manager Terry Brown said he was shocked by the extent of the damage.

"I've been here 20 years. I've never seen anything like this," Brown said. "I think there probably had to be three or four or five people, because some of the stones are quite large."

Brown and cemetery maintenance employee Chris Littrell said it will take time to put the stones back in place.

"You can't just lift these up by hand," Littrell said.

Donna and Deedee Gaines were saddened to see the resting place of their parents, Jim Owen Gaines and Doris Gaines, disturbed.

"I just can't imagine being this bored," Donna Gaines said.

Deedee Gaines offered some ideas for punishment.

"I think it would be very fitting that the persons who did this would have to interview all the family members who had a tombstone knocked over and let them tell a little bit about their loved ones," she said.

Deedee Gaines added: "I think it might be very nice if they might have to actually plant some flowers out here and do a little maintenance."

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