Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

October 12, 2013

Despicable

Stealing markers from graves of veterans angers, offends

ASHLAND — We have learned from years of experience that many people consider few deeds more despicable than desecrating a grave, whether it is vandalizing tombstones, stealing flowers lovingly  placed on the final resting places of beloved family members or using graveyards as a place to party late at night.

But if the misdeed involves stealing markers from the graves of World War II in hopes of getting money by selling the stolen markers for scrap metal, the deed becomes that much more despicable and is sure to raise the ire of not only family members but also veterans.

That’s why 26-year-old Derrick K. Hale of Hitchins surely became one of the most disliked people in Carter County after pleading guilty to four counts of stealing markers from the graves of veterans.

While the crimes he admitted to committing were all Class D felonies carrying sentences of one to five years, by considering each crime separately, Hale could spend a total of 15 years behind bars, although that is unlikely. 

While Hale appeared contrite and had little to say at his sentencing before Carter Circuit Judge Rebecca Phillips, others let the court know what they thought of  Hale’s actions.

“In my eyes this is a very heinous crime. I think that the offer needed to be where it’s at to discourage this type of thing from happening again,” Carter Commonwealth’s Attorney Brandon Ison said.

Retired U.S. Army CSM Robert Kahl directly addressed Hale during the hearing. “I don’t know where you ever got the thought in your mind to do something like this. I’ve served in the honor guard and seen those families mourn and now you’ve caused them to mourn again,” he said.

“I hope that you never have the privilege of being buried in a marked grave so nobody will know where you lie,” said John Sellers, a Navy veteran and the grandson of local aviation pioneer Matthew Sellers.

“Violating anyone’s grave is a horrible thing, but the ironic part of all this is that you violated the graves of men who fought and died so that you could have the right to a trial by jury,” Judge Phillips said. “I’ve dealt with you a lot, and I know you can do better than this. I hope that you’ll use this time in custody to better yourself.”

Under state sentencing guidelines, Hale will be eligible for parole after serving three years of his sentence, so long as the sentencing guidelines in his other convictions aren’t in conflict with parole eligibility requirements.

The grave-violation charges stemmed the theft of four brass and bronze plaques from the graves of veterans buried in Hill Crest Burial Park behind the Kentucky Christian University campus. According to the Grayson Police Department, KCU, which maintains the cemetery, reported Dec. 21, 2011, there were two markers missing. Detective Roy Ison launched an investigation, and, through various interviews, Hale emerged as a suspect.

Police were able to confirm Hale did have some grave markers in his possession and tried to sell them at a local recycling center. To its credit, the recycling center refused to buy the markers, and workers there made a copy of Hale’s identification card and contacted the police.

Fortunately, the plaques — valued at $750 each and owned by the U.S. government — have all been returned.

There is no indication that Derrick Hale is a dangerous criminal, but he did steal grave markers that family members honor and cherish in hopes of enriching himself by selling them. When he is released from prison, our hope is that he will follow the judge’s advice by bettering himself.

1
Text Only
Editorials
  • What's next?

    While virtually all cities in northeastern Kentucky provide their residents with some utility services — water and sewer, mainly, and sometimes natural gas — to the best of our knowledge, Olive Hill is the only town in the FIVCO‚Äąregion with its own electrical company.
     

    April 13, 2014

  • 'Waited too long'

    Lt. Garlin Murl Conner left the U.S. Army as the second-most decorated soldier during World War II, earning four Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars, seven Purple Hearts and the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions during 28 straight months in combat.

    April 12, 2014

  • Enact HB 3

    The National Rx Drug Abuse Summit is under way hundreds of miles from eastern Kentucky in Orlando, Fla., but the three-day conference which runs through Thursday, was organized by Operation UNITE, the eastern Kentucky anti-drug group that knows all too well the devastating impact the prescription drug epidemic continues to have on this region.

    April 11, 2014

  • State officials cease efforts to stop advance of ash borer

    Kentucky’s war against the tiny emerald ash borer responsible for already killing more than 25 million ash trees in the eastern United States has ended in surrender — by state officials, not the tiny insect.

    April 8, 2014

  • Demise of apparel industry in Kentucky continues

    The steady demise of the once thriving clothing industry in small Kentucky towns continues with the latest factory to announce it is shutting down being one of the largest: Fruit of the Loom has announced it is closing its last remaining plant in Jamestown, a move that eventually will see the elimination of more than 600 jobs in the small town near Lake Cumberland.

    April 7, 2014

  • None on ballot

    The 2014 Kentucky General Assembly considered an unusually high number of proposed amendments to the Kentucky Constitution on such issues as casino gambling, the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons and the elimination of state and local elected offices.

    April 4, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

  • Time runs out

    Two bills proposed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins and designed to boost the economy of this region have apparently died in the Kentucky Senate after being approved by the House of Representatives. Despite easily being approved by the Democratic-controlled House, neither bill was even brought up for a vote by the Republican-controlled Senate.

    April 2, 2014

  • Dismal numbers

    The good news is that the health ratings of all but two area counties improved in the latest ranking of the state’s 120 counties. However, before we pat ourselves on the back for those improvements, the overall health of residents of counties in northeast Kentucky remains rather dismal. Yes, we are improving but we still have a long, long way to go.

    April 2, 2014

  • Kentucky losing many of its old barns

    Many of those of us who are old enough to remember traveling on two-lane highways  have fond memories of the role barns played in keeping us informed. By reading advertisements painted on roadside barns, we learned about Mail Pouch chewing tobacco and Rock City and Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tenn.

    March 26, 2014