Police: WWII Memorial Plaques Weren't Stolen From Hackensack's Flooded USS Ling, After All

Four memorial plaques that vanished from the flooded USS Ling submarine on the Hackensack River weren't stolen by thieves, as originally suspected: A member of the once-floating museum took them home for safekeeping, police said Thursday.

The USS Ling was flooded by whoever took the plaques.
The USS Ling was flooded by whoever took the plaques. Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine
Jon P. Stevens, Laura Palmese
Jon P. Stevens, Laura Palmese Photo Credit: COURTESY: Hackensack PD

Police began investigating after a caretaker reported the plaques dedicated to Navy seamen killed in World War II gone from the River Street museum last month.

As it turned out, "they were in possession of a member of the association," Capt. Peter Buscilgio said.

When that person learned of the investigation, "he reached out to the museum and returned the plaques," the captain said.

"The member advised Gibert Delaat of the Ling Museum that he was safeguarding them from being destroyed or stolen before the plaques and other artifacts were going to be removed from the property," Busciglio said.

Delaat and other association members "were obviously not aware that a member had taken the plaques and do not want any further action taken against one of their members," he said. 

At some point, the submarine was flooded by vandals -- followed by scavenger thefts.

Three new people -- two men from Long Island and a Massachusetts woman -- were accused of trespassing on the Ling with another man who already is facing related charges, Busciglio also said.

All four "were observed on the submarine [on July 28] and later identified via video footage as the investigation proceeded," the captain said.

He identified the new defendants as:

  • Edward Johnson, 33, of Commack, NY;
  • Stacey Bouley, 34, of Worchester;
  • Robb Hemberger, 37 years, of Island Park NY 11558.

They were with Jon Stevens of West Haven, 48, Busciglio said.

Last week, city police charged Stevens and fellow Connecticut resident Laura Palmese, also 48, of Colchester, with stealing a lantern and shoulder lapel from the museum on Aug. 11.

SEE: CT Couple Charged With Burglarizing USS Ling After It Was Flooded

Damage had already been done to the submarine when the couple "removed a lantern and a Medical Corps lieutenant shoulder lapel," the captain said.

"There are two or three of these groups," he said. "They go to abandoned warehouses, old psych wards and take things."

Authorities who arrested Stevens found items stolen from other locations while executing a search warrant at his home, he said.

Municipal Court appearances for all four charged in the trespassing case from July were set for Oct. 24.

The submarine came to Hackensack in 1973 from Brooklyn, where it had been used for Naval Reserve training. 

The museum was recently evicted from the property behind the Heritage Diner due to the construction of new housing units next door at the former site of the Bergen Record newspaper.

All of the records and artifacts were supposed to go but the submarine was to remain, commission members said.

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