Missing cemetery urns to be restored to end case

 

DOVER — The case of the missing cemetery urns is resolved, and 24 families will see their gravesite plots fully decorated again, authorities said Thursday.

While Donald L. Melvin recently pleaded guilty to misdemeanor falsifying business records, charges against three others were dropped in exchange for full restoration of urns in their original condition; the property was reported missing from Sharon Hills Memorial Park on July 28, 2015, the Delaware Department of Justice said.

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 state halted its case against Ethel A. Melvin, Lauri A. Larlham and Shaughn A. Graves in the Kent County Court of Common Pleas with the condition that charges can be re-filed if the urns are not replaced, according to the Department of Justice.

Donald Melvin, Ms. Melvin’s son, entered his plea on March 16 in the Kent County Court of Common Pleas, officials said, and was sentenced to a year of Level 2 probation with an order that he have no contact with the cemetery.

All four defendants previously had pleaded not guilty of the charges.

The no prosecution without prejudice was entered on March 16. A jury trial previously was slated for Monday.

On Feb. 25, according to court documents, Ms. Melvin rejected a plea offer.

The case centered on two dozen people who reported missing property to the Delaware State Police during an investigation that ended with charges filed against four Sharon Hills employees. The Department of Justice said Donald Melvin had been fired from his job in the aftermath.

Ethel Melvin, of Dover, was the Sharon Hills Memorial Park manager at the time of the case and Mr. Graves, of Camden-Wyoming, was an employee, according to the Justice department. Ms. Larlham was Donald Melvin’s sister, authorities said. Ms. Larlham was a Camden-Wyoming resident at the time of the investigation.

Attempts to reach the Department of Justice and Delmarva Cemetery Management Inc. were unsuccessful.

After the arrests were announced by the Delaware State Police last year, dozens of plot holders quickly flocked to the cemetery west of Dover to check on their property; many reported missing urns at the time.

State police said investigation found that brass flower urns had been taken from gravesites.

The case originally was accepted in New Castle County in error on Aug. 12, 2015, and then moved to Kent County Court of Common Pleas.

Original charges included misdemeanor desecration and third-degree conspiracy.

James Liguori was listed as Ms. Melvin’s attorney, while Deputy Attorney General Nicole Hartman prosecuted for the state.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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