A 14-year-old girl and a 14-year-old boy said to be members of a local set of teens known as “Gothics” have been arrested for the recent macabre case of vandalism at Verdugo Hills Cemetery, police said.
The boy was arrested Monday and the girl was arrested Nov. 20, authorities say, in the attack on eight crypts and seven caskets in which the mummified remains of a woman were propped up and a cigarette placed in the mouth.
The youths from the Tujunga section of Los Angeles, not identified because of their ages, are part of a set of teens whose members often dress in black, wear white facial makeup and have a fascination with the occult, authorities say.
The Gothics set gained a slight surge of popularity after the witchcraft-themed film “The Craft” was filmed at the local school, Verdugo Hills High.
“It’s what they call themselves - we’re not considering this a gang, just a group of teenagers,” said LAPD Lt. Joseph Garcia. “It’s sad that they do something like this, that they can’t find anything else to do.”
Dr. Gary Turner, principal of Verdugo Hills, said he was not familiar with the group until Monday, when he talked to his school police officer about them. “I’m going to find out what we can find out about this. Apparently, the LAPD knows a lot more than I do about it,” he said.
The break-in and vandalism at the cemetery, also known as Hills of Peace, occurred between Oct. 30 and Nov. 12, said Detective Jim Vojtecky. The coffins were exposed after marble tiles were broken on the mausoleum.
Garcia said that the vandalism occurred on a single night after Halloween.
Vojtecky credited Officer Frank Sanchez, assigned to the juvenile detail, with the quick resolution of the case.
“Within 48 hours, we were able to identify three possible suspects who claim to be part of a group,” Vojtecky said. The Gothics dye their hair unusual colors and attend local middle school and high schools, Vojtecky said.
Last Wednesday evening, Sanchez was questioning one of the group as part of an unrelated assault investigation.
“He obtained a statement that spelled out the involvement of this subject and several others,” Vojtecky said. The girl was detained at Sylmar Juvenile Hall.
Vojtecky said he was at a loss to explain the behavior of the youths.
“They have nothing better to do,” Vojtecky said. “They live in the area, it was a good place to hang out.”
The vandalism was the latest in a string of bizarre incidents occurring at the cemetery since 1978.
In that year, heavy winter rains unearthed coffins and washed bodies into the yards of canyon houses.
Caretakers have lived on the grounds over the years, but the cemetery was abandoned this past spring.
Concerned residents in the area have complained to state officials - the graveyard’s conservators - about the lack of security on the grounds.