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Cemetery Thefts Bring More Grief To Family

The bronze grave markers at the graves of Michelle Ryan's parents were stolen last year. (CBS)

The bronze grave markers at the graves of Michelle Ryan’s parents were stolen last year. (CBS)

Pamela Jones Pamela Jones
Pamela Jones serves as a general assignment reporter for CBS 2...
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CALUMET PARK, Ill. (CBS) — Stealing from the dead?

Police say that’s what someone is doing at a suburban cemetery, and it’s costing families thousands of dollars.

Police say Cedar Park Cemetery in Calumet Park is getting hit hard by thieves looking to cash in on bronze grave markers. CBS 2’s Pamela Jones walked the grounds with a woman who has been trying to fight back.

Someone swiped a bronze grave marker that identified the final resting places of Michelle Ryan’s parents.

“I was just in shock. I just felt like ice water went through me,” she says.

Ryan’s family noticed the theft in May 2011, but a quick walk on the grounds shows they weren’t the only family hit. Several more items have been stolen from the cemetery.

Ryan filed a police report and asked the cemetery to replace the marker, which was valued at $2,000.

She says the cemetery responded by telling her if the family wanted another bronze marker, they’d have to pay themselves.

“I feel bad about coming here now because I don’t feel that we should have to pay again for another gravestone when it was already here,” Ryan says.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office says they’ve dedicated an officer to patrolling the area.

“We’ve had approximately 50 different reports or complaints,” Detective Jason Moran says. “We have been in conversations with Cedar Park over this time and have encouraged them to do more, even hiring security.”

A representative for the cemetery tells CBS 2 that theft has not been a major problem. But the Ryan family says the office is trying to bury the issue.

“I think people should know what happened. It’s the only way to get this to stop,” Michelle Ryan says.

The cemetery representative says many families have already replaced their markers. They’re being encouraged to do so with granite, because those don’t get stolen.