Cemetery vandalism charges filed

Camas man accused of destruction of property

By Paris Achen, Columbian courts reporter

Published:

 

A 22-year-old man has been charged in connection with vandalism of 15 headstones Oct. 23 at Camas Cemetery.

Michael D. Garwood of Camas appeared Tuesday in Clark County Superior Court on a bench warrant accusing him of destruction of cemetery property.

Garwood was arrested within two days of the vandalism at 630 N.E. Oak St. However, charges weren’t filed until recently because prosecutors said they needed more evidence, and Garwood was released.

Meanwhile, Garwood’s friend, John H. Denton, 23, of Vancouver was prosecuted as an accomplice in the crime. Denton pleaded guilty March 21 to destruction of cemetery property and was sentenced to 50 days in the Clark County Jail.

Judge David Gregerson on Tuesday set Garwood’s bail at $2,500 and appointed Vancouver attorney Gregg Schile to defend him. Garwood is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge May 23.

The vandalism damaged headstones in the oldest part of the cemetery, known as the Pioneer Section. One headstone was broken beyond repair and others were toppled over.

Garwood is accused of vandalizing the headstones after a night of drinking with four friends. The group was drinking at a house in Camas when they decided to go for a walk, according to a court affidavit.

During the walk, one of the friends said she wanted to see her grandparents’ grave at the Camas Cemetery. The group of five entered the cemetery, where two of the friends — Denton and Garwood — separated from the rest of the group, according to the affidavit. They later rejoined the other three, who had gathered around the grandparents’ grave, the affidavit says.

One witness told Camas police that Garwood was holding a piece of a broken headstone and threw it on the grandparents’ grave, according to the affidavit.

The vandalism touched some members of the community and prompted them to replace the headstone that had been destroyed. The headstone belonged to Swiss immigrant Alexander Stuber, who died at age 41 in 1908.

Most of the gravestones were pushed off their base, so crews put them upright the next morning, said Ed Senchyna, the cemetery’s senior grounds maintenance worker. Stuber’s marker, however, was smashed beyond repair. With no known living relatives to replace his headstone, his grave would have been left unmarked, Senchyna said. Instead, community members donated money to the Friends of the Camas Cemetery to cover the $1,000 replacement cost.

According to the 1900 census, Stuber was unmarried and worked as a laborer at a sulfite mill, which made pulp for paper. He could read, write and speak English, and he owned his own house.