Department of Justice to monitor compliance to restore urns at Dover cemetery

 

DOVER — There’s no specific court-ordered schedule for defendants to restore missing urns to a west Dover cemetery or face re-filed charges.

Clockwise from upper left, are Ethel A. Melvin, Shaughn A. Graves, Donald L. Melvin and Lauri A. Larlham. (Submitted photos/Delaware State Police)

Clockwise from upper left, are Ethel A. Melvin, Shaughn A. Graves, Donald L. Melvin and Lauri A. Larlham. (Submitted photos/Delaware State Police)

The Delaware Department of Justice said, however, that close scrutiny will assure a speedy process designed to assist two dozen people with affected plots at Sharon Hills Memorial Park.

“There is no deadline but it is supposed to happen within a reasonable time frame,” DOJ spokesman Carl Kanefsky said.

“We will monitor it to make sure it happens.”

The case revolved around missing urns reported missing from the cemetery in late July 2015 and four arrests made on desecration and third-degree conspiracy charges. After the Delaware State Police announced the arrests, many Sharon Hills customers rushed to the cemetery to check on their family plots and several complaints were filed with authorities.

Last week, the DOJ confirmed it would halt the prosecution of Ethel A. Melvin, Lauri A. Larlham and Shaughn A. Graves in the Kent County Court of Common Pleas if urns matching the original condition of the missing property were returned to the gravesites.

“The people whose urns will be replaced will be the 24 people who contacted the State Police last year to report that their urns were stolen,” Mr. Kanefsky said.

“We called all 24 people and either spoke to them or left messages indicating that the urns would be replaced.”

While there is no set deadline for missing urns and vases to be restored at Sharon Hills Cemetery, the Department of Justice’s office said it will monitor the situation. (Delaware State News file/Craig Anderson)

While there is no set deadline for missing urns and vases to be restored at Sharon Hills Cemetery, the Department of Justice’s office said it will monitor the situation. (Delaware State News file/Craig Anderson)

Ms. Melvin was the Sharon Hills manager at the time of the reported missing urns, and Mr. Graves was an employee, officials said. Ms. Larlham is Ms. Melvin’s daughter.

Former employee Donald L. Melvin, Ms. Melvin’s son, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor falsifying business records earlier this month, and was sentenced to a year of Level 2 probation with an order that he have no contact with the cemetery.

There’s no specification on who must replace what, the DOJ said, but all the property must be restored to an original state or the case will be brought again.

“As far as how the defendants divide up responsibility for the urns, that’s up to them but all are legally responsible for doing it — i.e., their charges can be re-filed if the urns are not restored,” Mr. Kanefsky said.

“The cemetery in question has hundreds and hundreds of urns, however, no one is required to restore urns that were never reported missing.”

As the case proceeded, all four defendants initially entered not guilty pleas.

An earlier attempt to contact Delmarva Cemetery Management Inc. for comment was unsuccessful.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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