Solution eludes police in Nyssa cemetery case

Broken headstones awaited cemetery visitors after the May vandalism at Hilltop Memorial Cemetery. (Enterprise file photo)

NYSSA – Leads in a vandalism case at a local cemetery more than three months ago are going cold, leaving area law enforcement officials frustrated.

The Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and the Nyssa Police Department are still running down a few leads connected to the vandalism case at Nyssa’s Hilltop Memorial Cemetery, said Undersheriff Travis Johnson.

The crime happened early on May 2 when more than 40 graves were damaged with headstones destroyed and memorial benches shattered. Officials estimated the damages at more than $50,000.

Cody Packer, the Hilltop Cemetery sexton, said about 10 damaged headstones have been replaced.

Packer said since the vandalism, the cemetery added two security cameras and a gate to the site.

“We have taken a lot more precautions,” said Packer.

Johnson said police are troubled leads haven’t led to any arrests.

“Especially for the guys working on it, it is a terrible crime that affects a lot of people. To work this hard and not have a lot of good leads is frustrating,” he said. 

Johnson said one deputy has worked the case full time since May with other officers filtering in and out of the investigation over the summer.

“Our deputies take it real personal. It is our job to keep the county safe and free from things like that and when it happens, you bet these guys feel some ownership in that,” said Johnson.

He said the few leads remaining involve “social media” but declined to get into specifics.

“We are still trying to come up with anything that will give us some direction,” said Johnson.

Nyssa Police Chief Ray Rau said he is surprised and frustrated that the case is approaching a dead end.

“We haven’t heard a dang thing. We got our ear to the ground, but we have no leads,” said Rau.

He said his department is sending extra patrols to the cemetery and it closed off access to the area from a nearby gravel pit.

“It is extremely frustrating because I thought someone would say something,” said Rau.

Johnson agreed.

“Whomever did it is tight-lipped,” said Johnson. “I think we all look at a gravesite and those that have passed as a sacred thing. To desecrate those headstones and a burial site, it just hurts,” said Johnson.

Reporter Pat Caldwell: [email protected] or 541-473-3377.