Two more defendants plead not guilty in cemetery case


DOVER — Two more defendants pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor desecration after police investigated alleged illegally scrapped brass cemetery vases in late July, the Delaware Department of Justice said Thursday.

Camden-Wyoming residents Laurie A. Larlham, 42, and Donald L. Melvin, 36, entered their pleas in Kent County Court of Common Pleas earlier this week, and have case reviews scheduled for Oct. 14.

On Aug. 28, Shaughn A. Graves, 39, of Camden-Wyoming, entered a not guilty plea in the case involving Sharon Hills Memorial Park west of Dover. A case review is scheduled for Sept. 30.

Ethel A. Melvin, 59, of Dover, has an arraignment scheduled for Friday, Sept. 18. She was Sharon Hills Memorial Park’s manager at the time Delaware State Police announced arrests, authorities said.

According to a Sharon Hills spokesman, Mr. Graves and Mr. Melvin were employees at the time of the arrests. The spokesman claimed the defendants were innocent of all charges.

All defendants were charged with desecration and third-degree conspiracy in early August. Mr. Larlham and Mr. Graves were also charged with falsifying business records, and Mr. Melvin was also facing multiple traffic charges, according to authorities.

Delaware Code defines desecration as 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,” according to the law.

The announced arrests drew significant community interest in the days that followed, with Sharon Hills plot holders and their families flocking to the cemetery to check on property.

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