Representatives of the Lihue Cemetery Association have offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the vandal or vandals who desecrated over a dozen gravesites and smashed 60 to 70 vases on late Friday night or early Saturday morning, Oct. 10 or 11.
The cemetery, on Wehe Road, near the county base yard, has been the subject of attacks before, but never like this.
“This means war,” said Michael Ellis, vice president of the Lihue Cemetery Association. “This time they went too far. These stones withstood the hurricanes and everything else, and now this.”
“It was what we call ‘baka no ehikara,'” said one Japanese woman through tears as she walked to her in-law’s gravesite, which had the headstone knocked over. “Baka no ehikara” literally translates as “the strength of craziness.”
Hawaiian, Japanese, and old kama‘aina families such as the Wilcoxes and Rices had their gravesites desecrated, said Ellis, adding that it appears the choice of graves was random.
Some 16 graves in total, and vases from many other graves, were smashed, said a man who wished not to be named but is one of the caretakers of the cemetery.
He said it had taken him eight hours and four trash cans to clean up the glass around the two-foot stone wall that serves as the entrance to the cemetery. On Monday morning, he was still cleaning up what he could.
“My wife and I enjoy taking care of the property,” he said. “When you see this, your heart sinks.”
The “Rice section,” a small, enclosed area at the back of the cemetery, was the hardest hit, with 11 gravestones knocked over, leaving a line of cracked and shattered marble.
Ellis said those gravestones might have been targeted because they were the oldest and most brittle, and the area provided the most seclusion.
“Some were from the 1800s,” said Ellis, and the tall and thin construction of the marble, as well as their age, made them the easiest to destroy.
“It looks like a hurricane came through this section,” said the caretaker as he pointed to the toppled Rice gravestones. “It seems like a lot of anger” was on display.
“I don’t think it was targeting anyone,” said Ellis. Whoever did this “just wanted to destroy.”
Ellis believed that the choice of graves was made on the ability of the perpetrator to get leverage to kick the headstones over, he said. Most of the graves targeted were on flat land.
All the toppled gravestones, and others still upright, had shoe-prints on them.
As the caretaker, the man said he had earlier seen evidence of people in the cemetery after he closed the gate at 7 p.m. every night. He has found rubbish and beer bottles before, and six stones were vandalized in the spring, but nothing like this.
“This is the worst it’s ever been,” said the caretaker.
At least four of the stones are beyond repair, said the caretaker, adding that it will cost $3,000 apiece to replace them.
Ellis said that the repair and replacement of the gravestones might cost upwards of $15,000.
“Why do something so strange and morbid?” Ellis said. “This is too much already. Something has to be done.”
He said that he hopes by informing the public and offering the reward that this will curtail further desecration.
“I think the public has a right to know. The cemetery is not public, but it is for the public. (By informing the community) maybe this will never happen again,” Ellis said.
Also over the weekend, three county vehicles parked on the road leading to the cemetery were vandalized. A refuse container and a dump truck were covered with graffiti, as witnessed by a TGI photographer, and a rubbish truck had its window broken. There was also glass on Wehe road. County workers at the base yard said none of the vandalism was there on Friday.
County and police officials did not return repeated calls seeking comment.
If anyone has information regarding the cemetery vandalism, the number for Crimestoppers is 241-1691, ext. 1.