A Texas family set on protecting the grave of a loved one and others helped police track down three suspects alleged to have made off with roughly $62,000 worth of property from area graveyards.
A string of thefts in the Gulf Coast county of Brazoria was brought to a halt recently by an enterprising family with the help of a device commonly used to locate car keys and remote controls.
“The lengths that my family will go (to) is very far to get what we feel is right for my dad,” said one family member to KTRK after the family had devised a plan to ensure the second vase purchased for her father’s gravesite could be located if stolen. “Why would we want him to be out there with no vase and no flowers? This man worked his whole life to provide for me and my mom and my sister.”
Speaking with KPRC-TV, the decedent’s nephew, Tony Velazquez, explained that they had concealed an Apple AirTag in the replacement vase, “In December, we bought another one for my uncle because that was the first time that it was stolen.”
“I think we found out last week on Monday that our vase was stolen,” he detailed.
No sooner had the family learned that the vase had gone missing than they notified the Clute, Texas police chief, James Fitch, who recounted, “They gave us the login information and allowed us to then track it. We tracked it to a residence right outside the town of Brazoria.”
According to Fitch, over the past two months at least 102 vases had been stolen from area gravesites, and, “These things run about 600 bucks a piece, so we’re talking $62,000 worth.”
When law enforcement officials traveled to the location of the AirTag, they found suspects, Dillon Bryan Pollock, Cody Eben and Daniel Lewis Hale, and charged each with third-degree felony theft. In addition to the alleged criminals, they also discovered a fire with vases melting in it along with shattered pieces of other vases.
The trio had evidently attempted to sell the stolen goods to scrap metal yards only to be turned away, leading them to try and disguise the origin of the precious resources.
“They did not accept the vases, and that’s when they started breaking them and trying to sell them for parts,” Fitch told KTRK.
While the police continue searching for a fourth suspect connected to the thefts, the daughter of the decedent expressed, “We feel very proud that it worked out the way that it did, and the people were finally caught because that’s just disgusting. For the people who just don’t have any sort of regard to the families that already lost their loved ones. They’re already grieving, they’re already hurting, and now they have to worry about paying for another vase.”
Restwood Funeral Home & Memorial Park did not respond to requests for comment about the potential of heightened security measures but did issue a statement that read, “Unfortunately, the theft of bronze vases is an issue at cemeteries across North America. It saddens us that thieves are preying on cemeteries and gravesites to commit these crimes.”
If convicted, the suspects may be forced to pay the victims back.
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