CLUTE, Texas – Hundreds of gravesites in Brazoria County were robbed of tens of thousands of dollars worth of bronze vases, officials say.
Investigators say the suspects intended to sell the sentimental items as scrap metal.
Before that could happen, officials say some of the loved ones affected took matters into their own hands and helped police find three of the suspected culprits.
“It is very frustrating having to do this over and over again,” said Tony Velazquez, who recently found out his uncle’s grave at the Restwood Memorial Park in Clute had been robbed.
“I think we found out last week on Monday that our vase was stolen,” Velazquez said.
He says this isn’t the first time.
“In December, we bought another one for my uncle because that was the first time that it was stolen,” he said.
Velazquez says this time, the thieves were nice enough to take the flowers out of the vase and put them in the empty hole.
What the thieves didn’t know is that an Apple AirTag was attached to that vase and would help investigators track it and dozens more some 45 minutes away.
“They gave us the login information and allowed us to then track it. We tracked it to a residence right outside of the town of Brazoria,” said Clute Police Chief James Fitch.
Fitch says they were able to arrest the suspects believed to be responsible for stealing 102 vases over the past two months.
“These things run about 600 bucks a piece, so we’re talking $62,000 worth,” Fitch said.
Dillon Bryan Pollock, Cody Eben, and Daniel Lewis Hale are charged with third-degree felony theft.
“They had actually tried to take the entire vases to a scrap yard, they turned them down luckily,” Fitch said.
Police say a fourth suspect is still on the loose.
If convicted, all could be forced to pay restitution. Velazquez and his family are now out $1,200 and say they want the cemetery to help prevent thefts from happening again.
“Overnight security, maybe. Maybe some light posts around here,” Velazquez said.
KPRC 2′s Deven Clarke asked Restwood Funeral Home and Memorial Park officials about any possible security upgrades and was not given a response.
They did issue the following statement:
“Unfortunately, the theft of bronze vases is an issue at cemeteries across North America. It saddens us that thieves are preying on cemeteries and gravesites to commit these crimes.
However, cemeteries, by their nature, are open to the public. As soon as we became aware of the thefts, we notified the Clute Police Department, and it is our understanding they have opened a case.”