Police, families look for answers after flower thefts from veterans’ graves

Police, families look for answers after flower thefts from veterans’ graves

This Memorial Day weekend, Baraboo police and families are looking for answers after reports of crime at the local cemeteries affecting veterans’ graves.

Barbara Dent often visits her father, a World War II veteran, at Walnut Hill Cemetery.

“I just tell him that I love him and wish he was here,” she said.

His gravestone is the only place she’s ever had to visit him.

“I know nothing about him,” she said. “I was only 3 weeks old when he died.”

Her father, Robert Marquardt, died in combat.

“I wish I could see him, meet him,” Dent said. “I wish he’d been here when I was growing up.”

During their time together at his gravesite, she comes empty-handed.

“Just myself and my prayers and my tears,” she said. She doesn’t bring flowers, she said, because they get stolen.

“Off somebody’s grave, that’s really personal and that’s not right,” the cemetery’s superintendent, Rick Stieve, said.

Working there for 26 years, Stieve said the theft of decorations is not a new problem, but that doesn’t make him any less angry — especially given the timing.

“With all the people coming up here, it’s really emotional, too,” he said.

“It has a little deeper sting,” Baraboo Police Chief Mark Schauf said.

Police are looking into reports of numerous flower thefts from graves — Schauf said possibly up to 30 over the past couple of days, likely in broad daylight — from Baraboo’s neighboring cemeteries, Walnut Hill and St. Joseph’s.

“It starts with frustration,” Shauf said. “There’s a little disbelief.”

He’s not sure if there’s more than one perpetrator, or why it’s happening.

“Whether they’re trying to steal them to resell themselves or it’s angry family members, I don’t know,” Shauf said. “But that’d be a question I’d love to ask somebody.”

While stopping by to visit her father this holiday weekend, Dent is left with the same question.

“I just would like to know why they’re doing it. What’s their reasoning behind it,” she said. “Flowers are not that expensive. Why do they have to disrespect the military service people and the families?”

Police ask anyone with information to call the department at (608) 355-2720 or Sauk County Crime Stoppers at 1 (888) TIP-SAUK to remain anonymous.