Teens in custody in church, cemetery vandalism

5:26 PM, Aug 3, 2011   |    comments
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Two teenagers were in custody Wednesday after the historic Bethesda Presbyterian Church and six Civil War grave markers at its cemetery were vandalized.

Two teenagers are in custody Wednesday after the historic Bethesda Presbyterian Church and six Civil War grave markers at its cemetery were vandalized.

Vandals spray painted vaguely paranormal terms and symbols all over the cemetery in the Russellville community of Hamblen County.

They also broke out several Civil War-era glass panes and windows at the historic church and left candles burning inside.

Hamblen County Sheriff Esco Jarnigan said the teens who were in custody would be charged with vandalism.

Investigators found the teens thanks to a bike that was left at the scene.

"Hopefully it will send a message that we are not going to allow the desecration of cemeteries," Jarnigan said.  "Anybody that would do this to a cemetery, there's just not much to the human being."

The church, which once served as a Civil War hospital, dates back to 1825 and is on the National Registry of Historic Places.

The vandalism occurred on two separate occasions last week, and cemetery caretakers filed a police report on Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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