‘It breaks my heart.’: Mother grieving after son’s grave desecrated

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Thefts involving valuable metals are on the rise. Now, some thieves are taking things a step further, stealing bronze flower vases from gravesites and selling them for scrap metal.

It’s something one grieving mother is trying to keep from happening to anyone else.

Several years ago, Lealah Price was driving her two sons home from school, when she suddenly had a seizure.

“I ran off the road and hit a tree and had no clue,” said Price. “And I was diagnosed with seizures following the car wreck… he passed away from his injuries in the car wreck.”

Though her seven-year-old lived, Price’s 10-year-old son, Earnest died in the crash. Though it’s been years, Price said the loss has been difficult. She buried Earnest in Oleander Memorial Gardens near her home.

“And to me, it’s the most beautiful cemetery in Wilmington,” she said. “And it’s private. I thought even with what was going on in the other cemeteries, I figured it was safe, but it’s not. Nothing is safe anymore.”

She often visits her son’s grave as a way to heal. When she discovered someone had stolen her son’s vase from his grave, she said it added insult to injury.

“Losing him was hard enough. And this is the only place I can come for his birthday and stuff like that. It breaks my heart and it makes me angry. That’s where I decided to find out where they were taking them.”

According to Horton Iron and Metal, this is nothing new. The owner said thieves steal things like car rims, copper wiring, and yes, cemetery flower vases to sell for scrap metal, often cutting items up or flattening them beyond recognition to avoid detection.

They recently called police after a man tried to sell them cemetery vases from Pender County. The wave of thefts are now affecting Wilmington, with several vases stolen from Price’s cemetery.

Price says this isn’t a victimless crime. Now whenever she visits, she feels the only safe place she has to be with her son has been violated.

“He’s my first baby,” she said. “I just, I just don’t understand.”

We reached out to Oleander Memorial Gardens. They responded in part:

“We take safety and security very seriously…However, cemeteries are open to the public. Over the last week, a few bronze vases were stolen from the cemetery. It saddens us that thieves are preying on cemeteries and grave sites. We hope that area scrap metal dealers will be watchful for people selling bronze vases.”

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