Search for Suspects in President Garfield Tomb Break-in

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, Ohio-- Cleveland Heights police are searching for vandals who broke into the tomb of the 20th president of the United States, James A. Garfield.

It's 180-feet tall and considered by many to be the centerpiece of Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland Heights.

According to police, sometime between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning someone broke into the monument housing Garfield’s body.

"I think it's unfortunate and people get in desperate situations, but I would like to think there are some places that are sacred, and some places that just have an understanding that you don't mess with it and you have a certain amount of respect for something like this, not because he was the president, but someone's grave," said cemetery visitor, Ted Babcock.

According to a police report, about two dozen commemorative spoons were stolen from a case inside.

The flag-draped coffin of President Garfield is in the monument, as well as the coffin of his wife, Lucretia, and two urns holding the ashes of his daughter and her husband.

Although the monument is open to the public certain times of the year, those areas are off-limits.

"I think it's disgusting. I look forward to walking through here and to see everything here, it's like going to a church and stealing stuff from a church," said cemetery visitor, Bob Yankovic.

Police say a cemetery employee noticed the break-in. It appears the vandals broke in through a window. Investigators said they found a T-shirt nearby, two cigarette butts and an empty bottle of whiskey.

"I’m from Mentor, so I grew up going to the James A. Garfield House, and we hear about him and this is really impressive. It kind of illustrates that this guy was a U.S. President and a lot of people care about him and it's a big deal," said Babcock.

Garfield was assassinated in 1881 after serving only 200 days as president. The monument was dedicated in 1890 and has been a major tourist attraction in Northeast Ohio ever since.

"Interesting Cleveland, Ohio has a president buried here," Yankovic said.

The head of the cemetery said the spoons that were stolen had little value.

Cleveland Heights police said they also found a fingerprint on the glass case from where the spoons were stolen. Investigators said they also collected DNA from some of the items they recovered.