Police in Rahway charged a 78-year-old caretaker for allegedly disposing of garbage in a historic graveyard founded decades before the American Revolution.
Eric Rickes was charged with desecration of a place of burial after police obtained a warrant to search Rahway Cemetery Wednesday. Police sought the warrant after learning that Rickes was throwing waste into grave sites, the department said in a statement Thursday.
Rickes had earlier been ordered to remove waste and debris around the cemetery by the health department, police also said.
“While these are allegations at this point, I am absolutely outraged by the possibility that these activities may have taken place. When we entrust the remains of our loved ones to a cemetery, there is an expectation that they will be treated with respect in perpetuity," Mayor Raymond Giacobbe said in a statement.
The cemetery, founded in 1724, is the final resting place for a long list of notables, including Abraham Clark, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; John Cladek, a colonel in the Civil War who served with the 35th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry; Carolyn Wells, a noted mystery author; as well as African-American veterans of the Civil War, according to the Merchants and Drovers Tavern Museum, which is next door to the cemetery.
Police continue to investigate the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Daniel D’Albero at 732-827-2147.
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