Five mausoleums defaced at Calvary Cemetery

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Five mausoleums were vandalized on two nights at Calvary Cemetery in Woodside last week, but an active investigation has produced no leads in the case, police said.

Sgt. Brian Conlon of the 108th Precinct said vandalism to one mausoleum was discovered July 9 and the damage to four others was found the following day. At least two of the incidents occurred overnight between the two days, Conlon said, since no vandalism had been noted when officers examined those tombs after the first incident.

In all five instances, the vandals broke through the front doors of the mausoleums and in two cases they penetrated the crypts by breaking the marble casing along the tombs’ inner walls.

The bodies themselves, some of which had been interred as long as 40 years ago and were therefore significantly decayed, did not show immediate signs of tampering.

“As far as we know and can determine, there are no missing bones, body parts or anything like that,” Conlon said.

Cemetery Assistant Superintendent Andrew Nagle said “hundreds of thousands” of people are interred on the 400-acre property, which is run by the Trustees of St. Patrick’s Church in Manhattan.

The cemetery is divided into four sections located on either side of the spot where the Long Island Expressway intersects with the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, including parts of Woodside and Blissville. The vandalism occurred at the corner north of the BQE and west of 58th Street.

Conlon dismissed published reports indicating the vandals stole property from the mausoleums as premature, although he acknowledged that burglary is one motive being considered in the case.

“We don’t have any information that anything was actually taken out of there,” he said. “We’re trying to determine through the families (whose relatives were buried in the mausoleums) what in fact was in the coffins.”

Conlon said the incidents may also prove to be “sheer acts of vandalism,” although the motive “could be anything at this point.”

“It’s still being actively investigated at this time, but there’s no leads as of yet,” Conlon said.

Although the cemetery landscape is dominated by tombstones, the property is also lined with small family mausoleums housing as many as eight crypts each. The tombs, frequently designed with classical architecture featuring stone columns and intricate stonework, can be entered through heavy metal doors set along the front walls.

Coffins run the length of either side of the tombs, with four set atop each another behind a uniform marble wall. Stained-glass windows are typically embedded in the rear wall directly above a small Catholic altar.

Although cemetery representative Nagle declined to comment for fear of interfering with the police investigation, he spoke briefly about the cemetery staff’s contact with the affected families.

“We’re helping,” Nagle said. “We’re in the service business, that’s what we do.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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