Court dates set for cemetery employees accused of desecration

West of Dover, Sharon Hills Memorial Park is the site of burial plots that stretch over several acres. (Delaware State News photos/Craig Anderson)

West of Dover, Sharon Hills Memorial Park is the site of burial plots that stretch over several acres. (Delaware State News photos/Craig Anderson)

DOVER — Three cemetery employees charged with desecration after police investigation into the alleged scrapping of brass vases from Sharon Hills Memorial Park have court dates scheduled for early next month.

Shaughn A. Graves, 39, of Camden-Wyoming, will be arraigned in Kent County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 2, followed by Ethel A. Melvin, 59, of Dover, and her son Donald L. Melvin, 36, of Camden-Wyoming, on Sept. 9.

Police described Ms. Melvin as the Sharon Hills manager, with Mr. Graves and Mr. Melvin identified as employees.
Lauri A. Larlham, 42, of Camden-Wyoming, Ms. Melvin’s daughter, has a Sept. 9 court date.

Pictured is a brass vase with flowers at Sharon Hills Memorial Park west of Dover.

Pictured is a brass vase with flowers at Sharon Hills Memorial Park west of Dover.

On Aug. 3, the Delaware State Police announced misdemeanor desecration and third-degree conspiracy charges against the defendants. Additionally, Ms. Larlham and Mr. Graves were charged with falsifying business records.

The case stemmed from an initial claim by a 77-year-old Dover man on July 28 that several brass flower vases were missing from a headstone on three of the victim’s family grave sites in the cemetery west of Dover near Del. 8, police said.

Preliminary investigation determined that the brass vases allegedly had been stolen and then scrapped at a Dover business, police said.

On Friday, a spokesman for Sharon Hills Memorial Park — which opened in 1959 — issued the following statement when asked for comment:

“As we go through this process of these serious alleged charges, I am proud to say that the staff at Sharon Hills Memorial Park has and will continue to provide care and comfort to those lost and their families as we have done faithfully over the years,” said Louis Ottaviano, who earlier maintained that the defendants are innocent of all charges.

Pictured is an empty flower vase holder at Sharon Hills Memorial Park.

Pictured is an empty flower vase holder at Sharon Hills Memorial Park.

“Thank you to all who have offered their support, as these are trying times for all.”

After the arrests were announced in a news release earlier this month, scores of Sharon Hills plot owners rushed to

the cemetery to check on their property.

According to state police, more than 20 families called law enforcement to discuss alleged missing property and their interactions with staff members.

According to Delaware Code, desecration is a class A misdemeanor.

“A person is guilty of desecration if the person intentionally defaces, damages, pollutes or otherwise physically mistreats any public monument or structure, any place of worship, the national flag or any other object of veneration by the public or a substantial segment thereof, in a public place and in a way in which the actor knows will outrage the sensibilities of persons likely to observe or discover the actions,” the law reads.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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