GARY | A former employee of Oak Hill Cemetery was charged Friday in Lake Superior Court with the theft of 62 bronze nameplates from tombstones in the cemetery. The nameplates were valued at $52,000.
Cemetery manager Bobbie Lovett told police the thief pried up the headstones, turned them over and unfastened the bolts to remove the nameplates before returning the headstones to the proper position.
A neighbor of the cemetery, Darius Rand, told police he saw two people, one with a bicycle, removing the plates March 14. As Rand approached the two, one rode off on the bicycle, but Rand was able to detain the second, a teenager. He turned the teen over to another cemetery employee Carlos Saxton, who questioned the teen.
The teen led Saxton to the 4600 block of Rutledge Avenue to point out the home where he said some of the plates were hidden. The teen also took Saxton to a nearby wooded area between Grant Street and Cleveland Street, where they found three nameplates. They then were confronted by a man, who grabbed the teen and the two ran away.
Saxton and Rand both identified the second man from police photographs as David Urbaszewski, a former Oak Hill employee. Police discovered the plates were taken to a Gary auto recycler, who said Urbaszewski and two others brought the plates, which had been cut so the names could not be read.
Police said Urbaszewski claimed the material was wire and scrap brass he had taken from abandoned houses and denied taking grave plates. He was charged with theft and cemetery mischief.