By COURTNEY ASTOLFI
Jeffrey Huey, 23, of the 3200 block of County Road 213, was arrested June 7, after investigators caught him stealing a palm tree on hidden camera at the Sandusky cemetery.
After police pulled him over when he left the cemetery, Huey led officers to his Clyde home, where officers discovered a large number of stolen urns, benches, statues and other decorations stored there.
He’s now held at the jail on felony theft, breaking and entering and vandalism charges.
Since Huey’s arrest two weeks ago, investigators have received a flood of phone calls from loved ones in search of missing ornaments.
“People have called sobbing. I don’t think he realizes the extent of what he’s done and the impact of these thoughtless thefts,” Sandusky police Detective Gary Wichman said.
Investigators are still piecing together the far-reaching extent of Huey’s crimes, and have been aided in their search by Oakland caretaker Dan Hedberg.
Hedberg said between family members coming forward and his knowledge of the monuments, detectives have already identified about 30 pieces stolen from Oakland Cemetery.
And the list of missing items keeps growing: Grass-trimmers continue to uncover grave sites with missing pieces, and some ornaments reported missing by loved ones weren’t found amid Huey’s stash.
Detectives originally speculated Huey was turning the ornaments around and selling them for a profit, but they found proof of their suspicions on Facebook.
Photos Huey posted to his Facebook profile were essentially advertisements for stolen urns, complete with “product descriptions.”
“It’s the lowest thing you can do, stealing from the dead,” one woman who lost a century-old statue told Hedberg.
Huey worked for an auto parts distributor while he was taking classes at the University of Toledo, detectives learned.
His job required him to travel across northern Ohio, which could have taken him to the multiple places he allegedly stole from.
“People come visit out here for years and years, and then these things are taken, for him to sell and try to make some money. It’s just sad,” Hedberg said.
Only a palm tree and an urn with planted flowers have been returned to Oakland Cemetery. All other ornaments are held by the Sandusky County sheriff’s office, as part of their own investigation.
Huey is held in the Erie County jail on a $20,000 bond.