Vandals strike hard in west Fulton County

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

VIOLA, AR (KAIT) - The small town of Viola sits in Western Fulton County. Over the Christmas weekend, vandals attacked cemeteries, churches and more.

An average headstone weighs about 900 pounds or more. Whomever knocked the stones down didn't do it by themselves and residents say they want these people behind bars.

The Viola cemetery and others were hit during Christmas day.

"They was a gentlemen came over to visit his brothers grave about 11:30 that morning and everything was fine." said Cemetery Board Member Garry Wiliams. "And, then his nephew came back about five o'clock that afternoon and discovered the damage."

Other isolated churches were broken into and suffered some damage according to Fulton County Sheriff Kenneth Foley.

"The Hebron, Mount Piscopal and the Wild Cherry. They looked like they had been rifled like they were looking for money and some had some windows broken out."

The Viola cemetery had it's historic name stone broken, several headstones knocked over and beaten, and a small memorial park in the back corner was destroyed completely.

"Really neat little area back here. Kind of honored the veterans and everything. They just demolished it."

Damage estimates at the Viola Cemetery are placed at about $15, 000 to re-stand stones and replace those that are beyond repair.

Off of Highway 223 North, a mile or so sits the Mt. Calm Church and cemetery. The cemetery too had stones knocked over, vandalized and destroyed. Then the vandals turned their attention to this little stone community building built in 1918.

"They did break a window, knock the pulpit over, broke our little railing around the choir," said Preisdent fo the Cemetery Association Roger Brown. "Strowed all the flower arrangements, really made a mess out of it."

And, then they added the final touch.

"The bulk of the damage was taking white paint and strewing on our burgundy carpet." said Brown.

The center aisle portion has been removed but traces of paint remain around the pulpit, on the pews and what had soaked through the carpet onto the floor below. Brown said he believed the paint was in a closet in the building.

After they finished up with cemeteries and churches, for a change of pace the vandals also went to a gravel pit on South 223 and took out all the windows on a bulldozer and a trailer parked nearby.

Sheriff Foley said they will find the persons responsible.

"We're following up on several leads we've gotten from the community seeing people over there in the vicinity and that's what we're following up on right now. I've got my CID officer and another officer over there checking alibis and see who's done what," said Foley.

Foley also said they are stepping up patrols on the back roads.

"Every night I have stepped up patrols over there, and we stop every vehicle on the county roads just to see who's out and compiling a list."

Viola Mayor Jackie Estes says they are getting money together for a reward, which the city council voted to offer.

"A thousand dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of party or parties involved. And since then, I've had another party add another hundred dollars to give to that fund."

Mayor Estes says another person has raised an additional $1,800. Estes says he hopes the guilty parties will come forward, but if you have information, you can call the Fulton County Sheriffs office at: 870-895-2601

To donate to the reward fund you can call:





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