Vandals damage or destroy 50+ headstones in Eastern Oregon

Posted at 4:38 PM, May 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-04 18:38:49-04

Friday marks four years since Kenneth Justesen’s mom passed away and while he should be busy celebrating her life, instead he’s grieving the destruction of her headstone.

“This is something that my mom picked out before she died,” said Justesen.  “She knew she was dying and she special ordered this and it took three months to get it.” 

The Sheriffs office said sometime Wednesday night or early Thursday morning vandals made their way into the Hilltop Memorial Cemetery outside of Nyssa, Oregon and damaged or destroyed more than 50 headstones of men, women, children and veterans who are buried there.

"I had a hard time coming over here cause I knew it was probably hers,” said Justesen. “There are some really nice ones here but were not as ornate.”

"This is a despicable crime,” said Malheur County Sheriff Brian Wolfe. “I’ts a very emotional topic, especially if you have family or friends who’s headstone was damaged."

The Sheriffs office is actively searching for the person or persons responsible, but they are left scratching their heads as to why this would happen.

"It just doesn’t make any sense to us as to why somebody would have the desire to do something like this go and destroy any let alone that many headstones and memories of family members,” said Sheriff Wolfe.

While some likely can be repaired, others must be replaced, but for Justesen and many others mourning, there’s no replacing the sentimental value the headstones had.

“She wanted something that would stand out so people would recognize her gravesite so it’s just kinda sad to see it all broke up,” said Justesen.

Officials with the cemetery district are working with the district’s insurance carrier to see what coverage there might be for the damage. To help offset the costs, a GoFundme page has been set up to help with the repairs.