HOULTON, Maine — Police said on Friday that they have now located all four of the individuals they were seeking in connection with the theft of the grave marker of the town’s founder from a local cemetery.
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said that Earl Little Jr., 22, and Brian Devoe, 28, both of Houlton, who were wanted for questioning in the case earlier this week, have since been summoned for theft by unauthorized taking or transfer.
Leonard Devoe, 18, of Houlton and Jeremy Skura, 23, of Hodgdon were summoned for that same class D crime on Tuesday.
Police allege that all four men were consuming alcohol and partying in the Evergreen Cemetery one night earlier this month when they began joking with one another about removing the headstone of Joseph Houlton, who founded the town in 1807 and died in 1832, from the cemetery.
The men allegedly lifted the 70-pound stone from its lot and placed it in a vehicle to be taken to Skura’s residence in Hodgdon.
The following morning, Asselin said Skura panicked and drove the stone to a swamp on the Hollywood Road, which is a short distance from the Houlton-Hodgdon town line. Skura removed the stone from his vehicle, walked approximately 15 feet into the swamp and discarded the property in the water.
Caretakers at the cemetery noticed the headstone missing and called police. Asselin said that the department received information on their anonymous tip line on Sept. 12 that assisted them in recovering it.
Police escorted Skura back to the swamp on Tuesday afternoon and had him retrieve the stolen property, the chief said.
Milton Cone, the chief of the Houlton Fire Department and also the town’s cemetery superintendent for decades, said on Friday afternoon said this is the first time in his memory that someone has stolen a grave marker from the cemetery.
“We’ve had a few complaints in the past about items taken off graves, such as flowers, but not a marker,” he said.
Cone said that caretakers at Evergreen Cemetery regularly inspect graves along with performing maintenance on the lots, which is how they quickly realized that Houlton’s marker was missing.
There was no evidence that the four attempted to disturb any other grave markers in the area.
At this point, Cone said that the town is repairing minor damage to the Houlton stone that occurred before the theft.
He estimated on Friday that it would be back in place in the cemetery by the middle of this coming week.