Stolen cemetery vases found in Minneapolis park

  • Article by: MARY LYNN SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 25, 2012 - 11:36 PM

Nine plastic bins in the Camden boat launch parking lot were filled with the bronze vases taken recently from area cemeteries.

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Bronze vases have been stolen from the graves (like this one in foreground) at area cemeteries, most recently Tuesday at Washburn-McReavy's Glen Haven Memorial Garden.

Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

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The thieves who stole more than 100 vases from Twin Cities gravesites may have had a change of heart. But probably not.

Their attempt to turn their bronze booty into cash was more likely foiled by alert scrap metal dealers or curious park patrons.

Two people called Minneapolis park police at 8:45 p.m. Thursday when they noticed plastic bins covered with cardboard in the parking lot of the Camden boat launch in North Mississippi Regional Park. Officers quickly checked them out and discovered that each of the nine bins was filled more than a dozen bronze vases.

And they knew what they had. "It's pretty obvious," park police Sgt. Anne Deneen said.

The crooks most likely swiped the vases, valued at $200 to $500 each, because bronze is made primarily of copper that they thought could be sold to scrap dealers.

But reports of the heist had been all over the news, and police had informed scrap dealers to be on the lookout for the stolen goods.

It could be that media attention was going to make it difficult for the thieves to trade in the vases for cash, Deneen said. Or, it could be that they dropped them in the parking lot for someone else to pick up.

"It's hard to know," Deneen said.

Whatever the reason, Jay Larson, cemetery manager for Washburn-McReavy's Glen Haven Memorial Garden, is ecstatic that the vases have been recovered. Larson said he fielded hundreds of phone calls from families about the thefts from his cemetery and Washburn-McReavy's Crystal Lake Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Vases were also stolen from the Gethsemane Cemetery in New Hope. The thefts came just days before the Memorial Day weekend, which draws large number of visitors to cemeteries.

Some families were upset that the gravesites had been violated. Others were concerned that their vases would be stolen. Some said they planned to take their vases home rather than leave them for thieves, Larson said. But many more figured the thieves wouldn't return. "With all the publicity, they figured the thieves might not be able to sell the vases," Larson said.

Larson said police called him Thursday night to tell him they found more than 100 of the bronze vases. Although Larson hasn't seen the recovered vases, he said they're most likely the stolen ones. They were taken to the Minneapolis police crime lab to be processed for fingerprints or any other evidence that might lead to the crooks.

Larson said police weren't sure when he will be able to pick up the vases, but he said it would be nice to have them back on the graves for the Memorial Day weekend.

But just the news about the recovery will make a "great Memorial Day for the families," he said. "This is absolutely good news."

mlsmith@startribune.com • 612-673-4788

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