First defendant in cemetery desecration case pleads not guilty

DOVER — One defendant has pleaded not guilty in a case involving alleged illegally scrapped brass cemetery vases while three others await arraignments within the next two weeks, officials confirmed Wednesday.

According to the Delaware Department of Justice, Shaughn A. Graves, 39, of Camden-Wyoming, entered his plea by filling out a form on Aug. 28, and did not make an appearance at the Kent County Courthouse on Wednesday as previously scheduled.

Clockwise from upper left, Ethel A. Melvin, Shaughn A. Graves, Donald L. Melvin and Lauri A. Larlham are facing charges after investigation into the alleged scrapping of brass urns from Sharon Hills Memorial Park cemetery in Dover, authorities said. (Submitted)

Clockwise from upper left, Ethel A. Melvin, Shaughn A. Graves, Donald L. Melvin and Lauri A. Larlham are facing charges after investigation into the alleged scrapping of brass urns from Sharon Hills Memorial Park cemetery in Dover, authorities said. (Submitted)

Four arrests — including three cemetery employees — were made after Delaware State Police investigated a report of several brass flower vases allegedly missing from Sharon Hills Memorial Park west of Dover on July 28.

Scheduled for arraignment next Wednesday are Lauri A. Larlham, 42, of Camden-Wyoming, and Donald L. Melvin, 36, of 900 Moose Lodge Road, Camden-Wyoming.

Ethel A. Melvin, 59, of Dover, has an arraignment set for Sept. 18. Police said she was the cemetery manager at the time of the arrest, while Mr. Melvin and Mr. Graves were employees.

Shortly after the arrests, a Sharon Hills spokesman maintained that the defendants were innocent of all charges. He said that Ms. Larlham is not a Sharon Hills employee.

When announcing the arrests in early August, police said Ms. Melvin was charged with third-degree conspiracy and desecration.

Mr. Melvin, the son of Ms. Melvin, was charged with third-degree conspiracy, desecration, and multiple traffic charges, according to authorities.

Mr. Larlham, the daughter of Ms. Melvin, was charged with two counts of falsifying business records, desecration, and third-degree conspiracy.

Mr. Graves was charged with third-degree conspiracy, desecration, and falsifying business records.

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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