Metro East Man Wanted in 'Despicable' Cemetery Crime Spree

Mar 4, 2021 at 7:53 am
Thomas Williams is accused of stealing about 80 vases from burial sites. - COURTESY BETHALTO POLICE DEPARTMENT
Thomas Williams is accused of stealing about 80 vases from burial sites.

A Metro East man is wanted in the theft of dozens of brass cemetery vases that police suspect he may have sold for scrap metal.

Bethalto, Illinois, police officers were called on February 23 to Rose Lawn Cemetery. During the previous night, about 80 vases had been stolen off of burial sites, police say. Officers found the discarded flowers scattered across the ground.

At the time, Bethalto police Chief Mike Dixon called the thefts "despicable" and put out a plea on Facebook for tips. He added a note to whoever was responsible.

"As for the suspect(s), who I’m sure will see this post, I want you to know that our officers will identify and apprehend you, and our State’s Attorney’s Office will ensure you are relocated to the state ran facility for which you belong," Dixon wrote. "You would serve yourself well by turning yourself in and showing the courts that you have some small amount of remorse and decency."

Whether the vase snatcher did actually see the post is uncertain, but no one came forward to surrender to police. Authorities say the cost of replacing all the vases is more than $4,000, but they estimate the total value as scrap metal is less than $50.

The cemetery is covering the cost of the vases, police say.

On Tuesday, Bethalto police provided an update. They now say the thief is a 52-year-old named Thomas C. Williams, last known to be living in the Wood River or East Alton area. Williams has a long arrest record, mostly for run-of-the-mill traffic violations, driving under the influence busts and the occasional theft case, according to Madison County court records.

Prosecutors for the Madison County State Attorney's have issued a felony theft charge, and there is a warrant for Williams arrest along with a $20,000 bond once he's in custody.

Police were still looking for him this week and ask anyone with information to call 618-377-5266.

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