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Nearly 100 headstones overturned at Warrenton Cemetery

Nearly 100 headstones overturned at Warrenton Cemetery (Richard Reeve/ABC7)

The Warrenton Cemetery is a place of rest and a piece of history.

"It is part of the fabric of the community," says Jeff Michael, a neighbor. "This is old Virginia in a lot of ways."

The desecration of 93 gravestones has left many in the town stunned and upset. The stones, toppled over, some of them broken.

"I started crying," recalls Maggie Lovitt, the curator at the Fauquier History Museum. "I looked at my phone, and saw the news report and it just, it broke my heart."

Police say overnight, between Wednesday and Thursday, someone cut a diagonal path through the cemetery, knocking down gravestone after gravestone.

Some of them, dating back to the 1700s, weighing hundreds of pounds.

"Nothing was targeted. It just seemed like it was random," says Head Caretaker Ernest Thompson, among those who discovered the vandalism around 8 a.m. Thursday.

"It is sad, it's terrible. I mean, this time of year, it's Easter," he added quietly.

Investigators say there was no apparent pattern to the destruction.

While whole rows of headstones were knocked over, some date from the 1970s, others, from much earlier times.

Police say they have no idea who would do this.

"This was very sad, very impactful to our community," says Warrenton Deputy Police Chief Gary Dillon. "They're very disturbed by it and very upset. They want the perpetrators brought to justice."

For a lot of folks here, this was very personal.

There are 869 civil war soldiers laid to rest in the cemetery.

Many families have loved ones buried here.

"It's uncalled for, in any way shape or form," Virgina Malone says.

She visited the cemetery Friday, to check on her husband's gravestone, which was untouched.

But other families, she believes, will be hurt by this.

"The trauma that it does to the relatives, people that have people buried here," Malone says.

Police are doing more than investigating. They are trying to document each gravesite.

"Our detectives are actively comparing the plot numbers with the map the cemetery provided for us, so they can identify those plots," Dillon says.

Meanwhile, an online crowdfunding effort has already begun, to help to pay for restoration of the damaged markers. Organizers hope to raise $50,000.

"When anything happens, everyone rallies together to support the town that we love," Lovitt says.

Warrenton Police are asking anyone with information about the vandalism to contact Detective Brian Kie at 540-428-9587.

"To desecrate it in any way is just senseless," Michael says. "It's like ripping a bandaid off. I'm sure it will heal, and we'll put it back together, and we'll move forward."

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