Repo Man’s Tip Leads to Suspects in Veteran’s Tombstone Marker Thefts

stln_grv_mrkersAlpine, CA – June 6, 2014 – While doing inventory on a repossession, a Repo Man stumpled upon a video card that evidenced a trio of stealing brass markers from veterans graves to sell for scrap metal.

An unnamed Repo Man came across a digital video card that helped detectives identify two of three people suspected of stealing markers from veterans’ graves at Alpine Cemetery. The video clearly showed two men and a woman grinding the names off the brass plaques as they talked about the process according to sheriff’s Detective Richard Bolter.

One man has been charged in the case, the woman is being sought, and sheriff’s officials are asking the public’s help in finding the third suspect. His photo was released by Crime Stoppers on Friday.

“Without the video, we would have no case whatever,” Bolton said. “I’m grateful they were foolish enough to do it.”

The theft of eight brass military markers was discovered on April 5, 2013 at the Victoria Drive cemetery. No leads in the case developed until two weeks ago, Bolter said.

Bolter reported that a Repo Man cleaning out a repossessed car found the photo card, which he viewed in hopes of returning it. The video showed people grinding brass markers to remove the names.

The card was turned over to the San Diego police, who also viewed it and used facial recognition software to try to identify the trio. Bolton said the software led them to the two suspects.grave_robbr

The first suspect, Colin Bechter, 27, was already in jail on unrelated charges. He was re-booked on Tuesday and arraigned Friday on eight counts of damaging cemetery property, one count of grand theft and one of possessing stolen goods. Bechter pleaded not guilty, a county prosecutor said.

The woman has been identified but not found. Bolton did not release her name.

Authorities said the missing plaques were valued at $3,500, but their worth to a recycler as scrap metal was more like $25 each.

Bob Duck, the manager at Alpine Cemetery said, “You took something off a veteran’s grave that can’t defend himself and he might very well have died defending you. I think that’s absolutely appalling,”

The veterans’ markers belonged to six men and one woman. The dates of their deaths range from 1968 to 1994.

About 450 veterans are buried at Alpine Cemetery. After the thefts, the grounds were fenced and security cameras were installed.

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