Photo by Joseph Robertia
When Don and Mary Reid of Soldotna laid their son, Elliot Reid Sr., to rest five years ago, they planted flowers and left mementos at his grave. Instead of returning to find everything as they left it, the flowers were uprooted and the pots they were in lay in pieces.
"We had glass figurines that were stomped literally into the dirt," said Angela Reid, Elliot Reid's daughter, who lives in Anchorage. "His parents, who visit out there regularly, they're continuously having to pick up flowers."
Angela Reid said her grandparents, Don and Mary Reid, have decorated the grave of her father and uncle, Jason Lee Reid, who died 16 years ago, every year since they died. But, she said, it's harder for them to re-plant the flowers and clean their son's grave up every time it gets vandalized.
"My grandfather's getting too old, and he's not able to get down there and do that," Reid said. "It's very upsetting to my grandparents."
The family of Elliot Reid Sr., a deceased former Alaska State Trooper, hopes the city of Kenai will install surveillance cameras at the cemetery to stop the continued vandalism of Reid's grave.
The Reid family says they have a good idea of who is behind the vandalism, someone with a personal grudge against Elliot, but without enough evidence they have been unable to press charges. Don Reid said when his son Elliot, a former Alaska State trooper, died, he was laid to rest beside his younger brother. But while Elliot Reid's grave has been desecrated, vandals have left his brother's grave alone. "It just don't register," Don Reid said. "Every time we put something there it gets destroyed."
Anna Strunk, Elliot Reid's sister, said her father grows the flowers especially for his sons' graves. While she's angry with the vandals, she hopes they don't go after the tombstone next.
"It's horrible, it's just killing my parents," she said. "My dad's 88 years old and my mom's 84 and both their sons have died, it's just horrible."
Bob Frates, director of parks and recreation for the city of Kenai, said the vandalism is an isolated incident. Generally, he said, when people call him to report vandalism, he notifies the police, who usually set up extra patrols in the area.
"If I get reports of vandalism it's just reported back to the police department," Frates said. "That way they're aware of the situation."
For the most part the instances of vandalism that Frates is aware of involved the Reid family, he said. The only other incident he's aware of happened in summer 2005 when vandals broke several wooden crosses over a three-day period.
"These types of things are taken seriously," he said. "Vandalism at the cemetery is a serious issue for all of us."
Lt. Kim Wannamaker, of the Kenai Police Department, said the Reid family's complaint isn't the only one he's received, but vandalism doesn't happen frequently. When it does, the police department responds by initiating extra vehicle and foot patrols in the area, he said.
"(Vandalism) violates the serenity of the grave site," he said. "That's hard to deal with."
When issues of vandalism are brought to his attention, Wannamaker said he investigates it like any other crime, by searching for evidence and questioning witnesses.
"Sometimes the interviews in conjunction with the physical evidence can lead to apprehension of the people responsible," he said.
With the police unable to catch whoever is responsible for the vandalism, the Reids have suggested putting surveillance cameras at the cemetery. Frates and Wannamaker said the city has considered the idea, but hasn't made a decision.
"I think that if you take preventative measures and you solve problems because of it, then sure it's worth it," Wannamaker said. "There's been a lot of different reasons that came up during discussion as to the reasonable or feasibility issues of it. I'm not saying it's not worth the money, (but) there's a lot more to it than would appear to be on the surface."
Angela Reid said she and her family just want the vandalism to stop.
"Regardless of whatever my father did to these people, he's gone," she said. "They're torturing other people besides my dad and they don't deserve it."
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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