Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley said Thursday that a pending case involving the theft of headstones from four graves at a Dufur cemetery is a “first” for his career.
“I’ve never prosecuted anybody for this crime before,” he said.
Christopher Kelley, 53, will be in court Jan. 27 to enter a plea on four counts of first-degree theft and four counts of abusing a memorial to the dead. Each count carries a potential $50,000 fine plus restitution. He is being represented by attorney Daniel E. Russell of Portland.
Kelley is a Tri Met bus driver and currently living with a friend in Portland. He has been accused by Nisley of removing grave markers from the Rebekah Community Cemetery near Dufur during the month of July, 2013.
Tom Illk, a friend of Kelley’s, turned him in after reportedly being shown the headstones and told that they were stolen.
Illk informed authorities that Kelley claimed to have come across the headstones during a trip to Wasco County where he was looking for rocks to decorate the garden of his Sellwood home.
The recovered headstones are for: Edwin Albaugh, who died at 29 in 1891; Oley Brown, 8, who died in 1905; Edwin Quinn, 2, who perished in 1885, and his younger brother Little Will, who died at age 4 in 1893.
“I don’t know what Mr. Kelley’s purpose was for taking them but a search warrant was executed and they were recovered from his backyard,” said Nisley.