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Driver damages Evergreen Cemetery headstones, flees

Driver damages Evergreen Cemetery headstones, flees

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Evergreen Cemetery's caretaker is working with Britt police in an open criminal investigation after the headstones of numerous burial plots were knocked off their foundations on Christmas night or early on the following morning.

"The Police Department received a call at approximately 5:30 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26, regarding a vehicle in the cemetery with heavy damage and damage to multiple headstones," said Britt Police Chief Mark Anderson.

Following initial investigation, John Fransen of Britt was identified as the driver of the vehicle and was arrested the next day. Fransen was charged with driving while his license is revoked, reckless driving, operating while intoxicated, and leaving the scene of an accident with property damages.

Anderson noted that the case is active and, although charges have been filed, the person or persons involved are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Cemetery sexton Brian Hiscocks said that he anticipates the damage costs will be high, but he did not yet have any firm damage estimates.

"There is a lot of damage and we don't want to break anything further in cleaning up and assessing this," said Hiscocks. "The stones were knocked off and left behind on the grounds, along with an abandoned pickup truck. Foundations of several gravestones will also need repairs and the grass and grounds were pretty torn up too."

Hiscocks described it as a difficult situation. He said that he is working with the Britt Police Department to prepare damage estimates, which will be used in the investigation, as well as for insurance and restitution.

He noted that it appears that if local family members have a homeowners insurance policy, it may cover damages to the gravestones.

"I feel bad for the families and I actually feel kind of bad for the (suspect)," said Hiscocks. "It is my understanding that alcohol was involved. Apparently, he did a lot more damage than he probably realized."

Jackie Hampe of Britt took to Facebook regarding the damage incident, stating that her husband's grandmother's and grandfather's headstones were pushed completely off the foundation and found at least 15 feet away. 

"It is sad and disrespectful to the family," she said.

Rob Hillesland is community editor for the Summit-Tribune. He can be reached at 641-421-0534, or by email at rob.hillesland@globegazette.com.

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