Published: Tuesday, December 11, 2007
2 stole vets flag-holders in New Castle, cops say
NEW CASTLE, Pa. Two city residents are accused of stealing hundreds of veterans' brass grave flag-holders and selling them for scrap.
Matthew Russick, 23, and Jessica Gustaitis, 22, both of Pin Oak Drive are each charged with institutional vandalism, conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property, desecration or sale of venerated objects and criminal mischief.
Pennsylvania State Police said the markers were missing from St. Vitus Cemetery, St. Mary's Cemetery, Graceland Cemetery and Oak Park Cemetery.
Police arrested both Friday and contend the grave-marker thefts started about two weeks prior, on Nov. 23.
Police said the accused would initially pull the markers from the ground, break off the emblem and leave it on the ground. They were receiving $1 for each stake at a local recycling center.
Police said in the last week, though, they were taking the emblems and stakes and discarding the emblems in ditches, trash containers and isolated parking lots.
Police said a total of 238 emblems were recovered. The total missing number is not known. They expect to get a more accurate count from each graveyard once the snow melts.