June 8, 2010 in City

Dozens of planters stolen from Spokane graves

Workers recover 61 after finding them for sale on street corner
By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Jim Falkner, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries of Spokane, holds one of the 61 Memorial Day planters that were recovered among those stolen over the past 10 days. The flowers are now on the shelves in the greenhouse at Holy Cross Cemetery.
(Full-size photo)

Cemetery employees suspected something was amiss. One by one, they learned of missing flower decorations, purchased for $25 to honor fallen loved ones on Memorial Day but now missing from gravesites at three Spokane cemeteries.

Then Monday morning, someone spotted a woman selling the colorful planters – sans the American flags – on a north Spokane street corner for $5 apiece.

An employee with Catholic Cemeteries of Spokane staked out the sale until police arrived and determined that, indeed, the for-sale planters had been pilfered from the diocese’s cemetery system.

Employees recovered 61 stolen planters. They aren’t sure how many of the 758 purchased since April 15 may have been looted.

“They just wanted their loved ones to have flowers on Memorial Day, and someone in our community doesn’t respect that or doesn’t understand that,” said Breeann Kostelecky, an employee. “We just want people to know there’s somebody out there that can do something that gross.”

Flowers were missing from gravesites at three Spokane cemeteries: Holy Cross Cemetery, St. Joseph Cemetery and Queen of Peace.

But how the planters ended up being hocked on the southeast corner of Stevens Street and Buckeye Avenue for a fraction of their original price remains a mystery, at least for now.

Spokane police Officer Brian Eckersley said the investigation could wrap up today.

“(Detectives) know who was selling them, and they have information on who she might have gotten them from,” Eckersley said.

The woman suspected of selling the stolen planters has not been arrested. She didn’t answer her door in the 2600 block of North Stevens on Monday afternoon and did not return a phone call seeking comment.

It’s unclear if she knew the flowers were stolen – a neighbor said she doubts she or her husband would do such a thing.

“I just can’t imagine anything like that with them. Nothing,” said Carran Kelley. “I think someone must have sold them a bill of goods.”

Kelley said her neighbor started selling the flowers last weekend.

Employees placed 758 planters on gravesites May 28. Some buyers had already picked up the planters, so it’s impossible to know how many may have been stolen. But judging from the sales at the black market flower stand, Kostelecky suspects quite a few.

“We watched her sell 22 in 45 minutes and that was on a Monday morning,” said Kostelecky. “I can’t even imagine what this weekend looked like.”

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