Saratoga County

Kids cited as Mechanicville grave vandals

City police have arrested five children, one of them 9 years old, who they say vandalized a historic

City police have arrested five children, one of them 9 years old, who they say vandalized a historic cemetery March 30.

The children range in age from 9 to 13 years old; four are from Mechanicville and one is from Stillwater. Their young ages shocked city officials, including police, who hadn’t had dealings with these children before.

Mayor Anthony Sylvester said he was among those who thought older youths would be involved.

“I was just dumbfounded,” he said. “You kind of expect them to be older kids. They’re just lucky one of those stones didn’t fall over on them.”

Some of the headstones the children are accused of toppling weigh as much as 1,000 pounds.

In all, they allegedly damaged 91 stones during daylight hours at Hudson View Cemetery, which lies on the border of Mechanicville and Halfmoon on Pruyn Hill. The portion where the vandalism occurred was the oldest section, where graves date from the mid-1800s, and is in Mechanicville.

The suspects will be charged as juveniles and their cases are expected to go before Family Court. Police won’t release specific details of what happened, but said all five children participated in the vandalism at the 30-acre graveyard.

Police still have no idea why the children toppled and broke the headstones, said Lt. William Rabbitt. Police got a lead in the case from a girl who was in a “local play area” with one of the suspects.

“Another juvenile overheard one of the suspects bragging about what they did,” Rabbitt said. The girl told her parents, who brought her to tell the police.

Once they were questioned, the children cooperated with authorities, as did the parents, who were upset at what their children did, police said.

Police said in a news release that the children’s parents “would like to express deep sorrow to all those impacted by this action.”

Rabbitt said one of the children was 9, one was 10, one was 11 and two were 13.

Since police publicized the vandalism, residents, businesses and organizations in the small, tight-knit community have offered their time or money to help repair the damaged headstones.

Caretaker Stephen Doty has replaced some of the larger stones that were knocked off their bases, said his father, Jim Doty, the recently retired caretaker. Volunteers likely will have special work days at the cemetery before the spring cleanup day usually slated for May, Doty said.

Sylvester said he hopes the court requires the children to perform community service at the cemetery.

“At least I would want them up there most of the summer,” he said, adding that if there’s not enough to do at the graveyard, there’s always work elsewhere in the city. “We would certainly have things for them to do.”

Hudson View Cemetery has almost 7,000 graves, including the 1861 monument for Civil War soldier Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, who grew up in Mechanicville and is considered the first Union officer killed during that war. His grave was not damaged, but some nearby were.

Doty estimated the total damage at between $200,000 and $300,000, with at least half of the stones damaged so badly that they are unrepairable.

Most of the rest are tipped over and can be set back up, either by hand or with machinery.

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