LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. — Arizona authorities have arrested a man suspected of stealing more than 1,700 brass grave markers from a Litchfield Park cemetery and selling them for profit.
Catlin James Hessler, 31, faces 10 felony counts of trafficking in stolen property, but Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office deputies suspect him in more thefts, according to a court docket.
Deputies suspect Hessler stole 1,770 brass grave markers, but 1,670 remain missing, authorities said. White Tanks Cemetery employees use them to mark the graves.
The markers are about the size of a hockey puck and are worth more than $43,000 combined, deputies said.
“It’s such a cliché, but when I was a kid, people would not even think about doing that,” Rick Fleshman told KTVK-TV. “And here we are in these times when people will do pretty much anything to just get ahead. It’s very sad.”
Fleshman has a cousin buried at the cemetery, KTVK-TV reported.
“This is a cemetery for unclaimed people, and we just dug around the internet until we found him there and found out he had died in a hospital alone,” Fleshman said. “It was a big deal for our family.”
Cemetery workers installed cameras and were able to get a vehicle description and license plate number, authorities said. The vehicle was registered to Hessler’s parents.
When interviewed by authorities, Hessler acknowledged he was at the cemetery visiting his girlfriend’s grave.
Court documents show law enforcement checked databases and found 11 different transactions between May and September at a salvage yard for brass sales from Hessler. Workers at a metal salvage company identified Hessler, saying he came in five times with a plastic milk crate of about 20 brass markers each, authorities said.
An attorney for Hessler was not listed on court records.