News 12 at 11 o'clock / Tuesday, June 18, 2013
AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. -- An Aiken County man is behind bars accused of stealing memorial vases from a cemetery and selling them to a local recycling center.
Aiken County deputies arrested 52-year-old Michael McKinney Tuesday night. They say he took more than 50 vases from Aiken Memorial Gardens.
Families who have loved ones buried there are shocked someone would do this.
"That's definitely the lowest of the low. I don't know how anybody could steal anything off of a grave," said Michelle Salters.
Her grandmother has been buried at Aiken Memorial Gardens for almost 30 years.
"I mean, that is their final resting place, and I think that's what it should be, a resting place," she said. "Not something that is there for somebody to come along and just destroy it."
Last week, 55 of the copper memorial vases were stolen off of graves.
"It feels like it violates your privacy," Salters said.
It's something that's even difficult for investigators to understand.
"It's there for the families to remember them by, and why would you take anything from somebody's last resting place?" said Capt. Eric Abdullah with the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators say McKinney then tried to sell them to a local recycling center.
"We don't want anyone's family's final resting place or anybody's property to be damaged or stolen by someone who's just out to try to make a quick buck," Abdullah said.
The incident report says the recycling center bought the first round, but when he tried to bring more, the recycling center refused.
"There's really no true explanation of why someone would actually do that," Abdullah said.
"That's a very low-life person," Salters said.
Salters hasn't been able to make it out to the cemetery to check her grandmother's grave yet, but she says she can't imagine what she would feel if her's is gone.
"It would definitely break my heart," she said. "I mean, nobody deserves to have that happen."
There is no word yet on when, if or how the vases will be replaced.