Vandals damage 24 headstones at historic Maryland church cemetery

- A cemetery at one of the oldest churches in Prince George's County was vandalized over the weekend. Police are asking for the public's help in finding those responsible for toppling about two dozen headstones.

St. Thomas Episcopal Parish in Upper Marlboro is the county's second oldest continuously-operating church and cemetery, dating back to the 1800s, and it's on the National Register of Historic Places. Prince George's County Police Chief Hank Stawinski said it's believed the cemetery was vandalized sometime Friday night, and the damage was discovered on Saturday.

In all, 24 headstones were knocked over. Stawinski said police are taking the situation very seriously, and detectives are working around the clock to find the person or people who did it.

"This is our collective heritage, and as I've said before, I'm not from someplace else," Stawinski said. "This is my home. and I take this as a personal affront."

Stawinski said soldiers who fought in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War are among those buried in the graveyard. At a news conference from the church on Tuesday morning, Stawinski called upon those responsible to come forward.

"You may not have been cognizant of what you were doing. This might seem like it's funny, but I encourage you to step forward and take responsibility for what you've done," he said.

Steve Kinsinger, the church's Senior Warden, said he and the rest of the church staff were disheartened when they discovered the toppled headstones on Saturday.

"It's unfathomable that somebody could come in and do this, not only to our cemetery, but to our parish and to the entire Diocese of Washington," Kinsinger said.

The cemetery is not under video surveillance. Kinsinger said church officials have talked about adding cameras or gates in the past, but since the church is supposed to be open to the public, the issue had not been on the forefront-- but it will be now.

Anyone with information about the crime is asked to call the Prince George's County Police Department at (301) 868-8773. A cash reward is being offered. Callers wishing to remain anonymous may call Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477), text “PGPD plus your message” to CRIMES (274637) from a cell phone cell phone or go to www.pgcrimesolvers.com to submit a tip online. 

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