Police looking for suspects after mental hospital cemetery vandalized

Posted at 9:24 PM, Oct 25, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-25 23:24:38-04

EVANSTON, Wyo. -- Just days before Halloween, Wyoming police are trying to solve a disturbing mystery: They want to know why someone is digging up old graves at a cemetery in Evanston.

Now, police are asking for the public's help to catch the vandals.

The mental hospital in Evanston used to be known as the Wyoming State Insane Asylum. In the 1800s, this is where Evanston's mentally ill were committed. When they died, they were buried amidst the sagebrush and rocks, north of the Wyoming State Hospital, overlooking the city.

"There's a lot of history here," said Terry Hand.

The cemetery is just up the hill from the Wal-Mart where Terry Hand works. He said he finds peace among the resting, but while on a lunch break here two weeks ago that peace was disturbed.

"Just a big old pile of rocks on the side of this gravesite,” he said. “It was all piled up, and a big hole going straight down is what I saw. The grave markers on these four graves here were thrown and askew."

Someone tried digging up the grave.

"That took a shovel, and they worked hard at it," Hand said.

Terry called police, and when cops surveyed the cemetery they found 13 grave sites in all had been vandalized. Lt. Bill Jeffers of the Evanston Police Department said it’s a troubling crime.

"It's most definitely disturbing when you have something this disrespectful happen," he said.

While police found small holes dug and grave markers tossed about, underneath the earth there were no remains disturbed or coffins broken into.  Also, it doesn't appear anything was stolen.

"State hospital employees told me these people really didn't have anything as far as belongings and they don't understand why someone would be digging in there," said Officer Becky Lendes.

Were they grave robbers or up to something more devious? That's one of many questions police are asking. Cops are working extra patrols to catch the vandals but have no leads.

"Anybody that saw anything suspicious in the last month or two is definitely urged to call us," Jeffers said.

"It's just a terrible thing that happened, hopefully it'll get resolved,” Hand said.

Anyone with information about these attempted grave robberies is asked to call Evanston Police Crimestoppers at 307-783-6400.