2 arrested for cemetery thefts targeting vets

Friday May 11, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Two 26-year-old Pittsfield men have been charged with trying to sell brass medallions from the U.S. flag stands taken from military veterans’ graves at St. Joseph’s Cemetery.

Lyle Parker of Scalise Drive and Matthew Demastrie of Clarendon Street have each been charged with one count of receiving stolen property over $250. Each has pleaded not guilty.

On May 2, the manager of a local scrap yard notified police when Parker was trying to sell him five containers of the medallions, according to police.

Cemetery superintendent Paul Guillou identified the medallions as being from St. Joseph’s.

In the containers, police found 50 to 60 medallions honoring veterans from various branches of the military. Some of the plaques dated as far back as 1918.

In late April, Demastrie sold 226 pounds of brass rods during three trips to the scrap yard for $383.40, according to the police report. The nondescript rods hold the engraved medallions.

Police said the metal’s scrap value would have been $907. But, police stated in their report, "The value of the markers cannot be measured in monetary terms."

According to Guillou, more than 200 flag stand assemblies were stolen from veteran’s graves in the oldest part of St. Joseph’s Cemetery, which has been in operation since 1853. At some graves, the plaques were the only indication that a military veteran was buried there.

Parker told police that Demastrie had told him of a pile of scrap metal the pair could cash in, according to the report. Parker said the duo took the brass from a pile located in the back of the cemetery on Pecks Road. Parker said he had no idea the items were commemorative military grave markers, and that he had never seen them in the cemetery before.

Police also found several hack saws and a small pipe cutter in the trunk of Demastrie’s car. Although those tools are frequently used to remove copper wire and other metal to sell for scrap, police have yet to determine whether they were used to remove the brass from the cemetery. However, police said the hinges on the stolen medallions were broken.

Both Guillou and Pittsfield Cemetery Superintendent Greg Price said the plaques were made of one-piece mold, and would all have to be replaced due to the way the rods were snapped off.

Parker and Demastrie were both released on personal recognizance following their arraignments in Central Berkshire District Court on May 3. Pre-trial hearings are scheduled for Demastrie on June 21 and for Parker on June 26.

Parker is represented by Thomas Donohue Jr., while Demastrie is represented by Julie A. Forest.


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