Monday, March 04, 2024

Thieves ransack St. Regis cemetery storage shed

Mineral Independent | January 3, 2024 12:00 AM

The Mineral County Sheriff’s Office is conducting additional surveillance on Montana 135 from the St. Regis flashing light intersection to the Peninsula turnoff, but not necessarily for speeders.

Theft, and the final straw for St. Regis Volunteer Fire Department Chief Jerry Dockter, was the cemetery. 

“All of the lawn stuff. Gas cans. Chains. The straps to lower caskets into the ground were even taken. Why? The metal detector. They kicked the door in on the storage shed and helped themselves,” he fumed. “What kind of a low life do you have to be to break into the cemetery and steal all of their stuff?” 

There was no damage to any headstones or vandalism of any type, but without insurance this is a hit that the residents and cemetery volunteers certainly are unhappy about. 

“The weed whipper, the chainsaw, the trim saw. Everything that we had for maintenance we use. They stole the batteries out of the bus at the Fire Hall a few days earlier,” Dockter remarked. 

Kat Kittredge, assistant fire chief, said it is over a felony amount. “Probably $3,000 to $4,000,” she said.  “Why would someone take the handles off the weed sprayers?” 

Dockter asked no one in particular of the small group on the sidewalk in Superior before the County Commissioners Soup & Sandwich gathering last Thursday evening. 

“Even if the county did have insurance on it, the deductible would most likely be higher than the value of the items,” Duane Simons, County Commissioner, offered.

“They took 5-gallon buckets that were in there and just scraped everything they could on the shelves and work benches into them. Wrenches, screwdrivers, a few ratchets,” Kittredge said. “The only thing that they didn’t steal were the rakes and shovels because they would have had to use them. And that would have been work!” Dockter said forcefully.

Fortunately, there were two riding lawnmowers in the building that were not taken and Dockter feels that’s because they couldn’t get the wide doors open. All of the motorized tools were Stihl products, Kittredge said. 

“The serial numbers are all supposed to be written down so hopefully if somebody tries to pawn them, it will red flag that it’s stolen. ACE Hardware registers the numbers so we do have that to go on.”

In the matching timeframe, Big Sky Forest Products on the same side of the road had two chainsaws stolen from their mill. 

Jim Hermes is the caretaker of the cemetery and he has volunteers, like Dockter, helping in whatever way they can, so this is even more of a bitter sting because it’s a volunteer program. Dockter had talked to Hermes about marking the graves with the metal detector to stay ahead of the upcoming funerals and that’s when the robbery was discovered. 

The lowering straps and needed hardware have been ordered at the express shipping rate.

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