Three charged with selling Dover cemetery urns for scrap; fourth sought

DOVER — Three Kent County residents were arrested and a fourth sought after investigation into the alleged scrapping of several brass flower urns taken from a cemetery west of Dover, authorities said.

According to the Delaware State Police, Sharon Hills Memorial Park manager Ethel A. Melvin allegedly gave permission to Dover Scrap Yard to scrap urns brought in by people on May 12.

Authorities said investigation began July 28 when a 77-year-old Dover resident reported that several brass flower urns were missing from family burial sites. State police spokesman Sgt. Richard Bratz said the urns were part of a headstone on three gravesites.

In their preliminary investigation, Sgt. Bratz said, troopers went to Dover Scrap Yard to check on brass urns possibly being presented. Police determined urns allegedly had been taken to the business and scrapped for money.

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/Delaware State Police)

The scrap yard initially refused to scrap the urns without the seller presenting a business license. That allegedly was provided after the people returned, according to authorities. Also, the scrap yard required permission from the cemetery manager. That, too, allegedly then was given, police said.

Authorities alleged that $120 was paid for the scrapped brass urns on May 12, along with $234 for transactions on April 24 and May 4. Documents were signed indicating the urns were property that could be scrapped, police said.

According to Sgt. Bratz, the urns were scrapped and have not been returned to the family.

Police said Ethel A. Melvin, 59 of Dover, was apprehended on July 28 at the Sharon Hills cemetery. Charges included third-degree conspiracy and desecration. She was arraigned at Justice of Peace Court 2 and released on bond.

Police said the “same family also manages cemeteries in Camden and Smyrna.”

Ms. Melvin is the mother of Donald L. Melvin and Laurie A. Larlham, who also were charged, police said.

Mr. Melvin is maintenance supervisor at all three cemeteries, police said. Ms. Larlham is not employed at the cemeteries, police said.

After turning herself in to Troop 3, Ms. Larlham, 42, of Camden-Wyoming, was charged with falsifying business records (two counts), desecration and third-degree conspiracy. She was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 2 and released on $4,000 unsecured bond.

Authorities said Mr. Melvin, 36, of 900 Moose Lodge Road in Camden-Wyoming, is sought on charges of third-degree conspiracy, desecration and multiple traffic charges. Police described him as a white male approximately 6-foot-1, weighing 203 pounds with blue eyes and brown hair.

Also charged was Shaughn A. Graves, 39, of Camden-Wyoming, who was apprehended at his residence. Charges included third-degree conspiracy, desecration and falsifying business records. Mr. Graves was arraigned at Justice of the Peace Court 2 and released on $4,500 unsecured bond.

Mr. Graves works at all three cemeteries under Mr. Melvin’s supervision, police said.

Police said there is no further criminal investigation ongoing.

According to police, a family member who holds a trust for the cemetery has been contacted.

“The original owner of the cemetery died several years ago and the business was put into a trust,” Sgt. Bratz said.

“The trust was turned over to the deceased owners son … who lives in California.
“He was notified via telephone service and advised of the incident and he stated he would be conducting an internal investigation.”

Police said anyone with information on Mr. Melvin’s whereabouts could contact Troop 3’s Cpl. S. Ballard at 697-4454.

Authorities said information also could be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at (800) TIP-3333, at www.delaware.crimestoppersweb.com, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”

Last year, state police investigated alleged thefts at the Sharon Hills cemetery by unrelated suspects, Sgt. Bratz said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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