After an investigation lasting almost exactly six weeks, criminal complaints have been filed against three teenagers accused of damaging approximately 100 headstones at the Rock Church Cemetery near Livingston. The Grant County district attorney's office has filed criminal complaints in Grant County Circuit Court charging Daniel Stivarius, 18, rural Fennimore; Britton Middleton, 17, rural Livingston; and Jonathan Plourde, 18, Platteville, each with 75 counts of criminal damage to a cemetery as well as nine counts of criminal damage to property.
The charges stem from an incident which occurred during the early morning hours of Aug. 10 at the Rock Church Cemetery located on Rock Church Road in the Town of Clifton. Later that morning, a member of the Rock Church Cemetery Association reported the damage to the sheriff's department.
A vehicle contact initiated by a deputy later that evening led to the arrest of two of the individuals.
The investigation continued until the case was forwarded to the district attorney's office on Sept. 12.
All three appeared in Grant County Circuit Court for initial appearances on Monday.
The 75 charges of criminal damage to a cemetery are class 1 felonies, with penalties for each count carrying imprisonment of not more than three years and six months or a fine not more than $10,000 or both.
The nine counts of criminal damage to property are class A misdemeanors.
An preliminary hearing for each of the those accused is scheduled for Oct. 4 at 10:15 a.m.
"The Rock Church Cemetery Association is glad to see that all three were formally charged in the incident," said Rita Riley, a member of the association.
Rita's husband Pat Riley, along with cemetery caretakers Frank Riley and Bob Place took an inventory of the damage after the incident.
The Rock Church Cemetery Association had local men work to repair all of the stones in the "old" section as best they could. "Sadly, some are cemented back together in many pieces," said Rita Riley, noting that even after some of the stones were set back up, many of them are chipped and sustained scratches and other damage. The cemetery has paid for the headstones to be positioned back onto the base.
A fund has been established to help with the costs associated with the vandalism. The goal is to raise $10,000. "The thing we have been surprised at is all of the donations we have received from people not even from the area," said Rita Riley. "In fact we have received donations from eight states not counting Wisconsin. I think that shows how important this cemetery really is to people. We would love to be able to reach our goal."
Donations can be dropped off at any Livingston State Bank location or mailed to: Stephanie (Straka) Anderson, PO Box 61, Livingston, WI 53554 or Rita (Oleson) Riley, PO Box 104, Livingston, WI 53554.