by: Dave Faherty Updated:
STANLEY - Police in Gaston County are stepping up patrols at two cemeteries after vandals struck this weekend.
More than a dozen grave sites were damaged, including one with historical significance for people living in Gaston County.
Eyewitness News reporter Dave Faherty learned the vandalism has hit the Stanley community hard.
Church members are keeping an eye on the cemetery, which dates back to the late 1800s.
Church member James Wright said one grave site is of the last slave born in Gaston County.
"That's the oldest. That's a slave marker right there," Wright said.
The marker, along with 12 others, was knocked over or damaged at two cemeteries next to each other.
They belong to Springfield Baptist and Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Stanley.
"I was devastated to see someone with so much hate in them to push over a tombstone like that,” Wright said. “It hurts you inside to see someone do something like that."
Valerie McCain has been a member at Springfield Baptist all her life. She said her grandparents along with several aunts and uncles are buried here.
"I don't see how an individual could have a heart and do something like that,” McCain said. “If it was their family, I'm sure they wouldn't want anybody disrupting the grave site"
Some of the markers damaged belong to veterans who fought during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Wright said his faith allows him to forgive the people who are responsible but only if they come forward.
"If they get help, sure, I can forgive them, but they need to stand up and admit what they have done," he said.
Gaston County authorities are hoping someone driving by the cemetery on Hickory Grove Road saw something over the weekend and will give them a call.
Anyone with information should contact the Gaston County Police Department at 704-866-3320 or Crime Stoppers 704-861-8000.