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Headstone thief sentenced

A Sellwood man has pleaded guilty to stealing four headstones from a Dufur cemetery and using them to landscape his yard.

Christopher Kelley, 53, admitted Monday to first-degree theft, a Class C felony, and abuse of a memorial to the dead, a Class A misdemeanor.

He was sentenced Jan. 27 by Wasco County Circuit Judge Janet Stauffer to six days in jail, followed by 24 months of probation and 200 hours of community service. He will also have to attend theft prevention school and stay away from the Rebekah Community Cemetery, where he took the gravestones while on a rock hunting trip in the area.

“I have to say that Mr. Kelley accepted responsibility immediately and seemed remorseful,” said District Attorney Eric Nisley. “He has gone from having no convictions to a convicted felon, which is a significant thing.”

He said Kelley is a Tri Met bus driver who might end up losing his job because of the conviction. He also faces a potential restitution cost of $5,000 or more to replace granite headstones that were damaged during removal.

“To me, it seems like a fairly nonsensical thing to do and disrespectful to the deceased,” said Nisley. “The memorials are there to honor the dead, not gratify the peculiar interests of one person.”

The theft of gravestones took place in July 2013 and a friend of Kelley’s informed authorities about the crime after hearing the story of how they were acquired. The recovered headstones were 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.

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