The Douglas Police Department has made an arrest in the case involving more than 70 gravesite headstones, which had their name plates stolen, at the Page Memorial Cemetery located on the 1300 block of Third Street.
DPD Sgt. Jose Duarte reported, May 16, that detectives have identified a male subject as Manuel Siqueiros Olivarria, 53.
The incident went under investigation late last week. Although detectives believe the thefts may have been occurring for several months, they are only now being reported.
According to Sgt. Duarte, the police department received an anonymous call on Monday, which reported a male subject on a bicycle, acting suspicious in the area of the cemetery.
After responding to the area and conducting an interview with Olivarria, DPD officers searched his property and bicycle to find items of interest, including a chisel, hammer and other tools.
Sgt. Duarte stated in a press update that Olivarria was detained following the investigation’s findings. He later admitted, during an interview, to taking several of the gravestone markers and name plates to sell them in Mexico, which he stated began almost one year ago.
Olivarria will be booked into the Cochise County Jail on multiple felony counts, to include Aggravated Criminal Damage, done to a Cemetery, Aggravated Theft of the Metals and Felony Theft.
The incident will continue to be under investigation, as DPD detectives are still trying to identify more names or victims in hopes that they will come forward and make a police report.
To obtain and/or file a report of damage to a gravesite, contact the Douglas Police Department, and ask to speak with a patrol officer in order, at (520) 417-7550.
As of Friday, investigators have only been able to identify fewer than 10 victims, including the loved one of Hereford resident Tom Felix.
Felix was visiting his grandmother’s gravesite to deliver Mother’s Day flowers when he discovered her nameplate had been removed.
“It is so sad to realize that our society has become so corrupt and so disrespectful, with no morals or honesty, that they would even steal from the dead at a cemetery,” said Felix. “Some of these people have been forgotten by family members or their families have died out. All they had left was their names on their headstones, and now even that has been erased.”
Alex Espinosa, Director of Espinosa Funeral Home, said he hasn’t seen any incident like this in his 36 years of business.
“I’ve heard about it in the cities, but not Douglas,” he said. “It’s awful and it leaves a void in your stomach. Some of these graves are going to be lost forever now.”