Police Arrest Suspected Cemetery Thief

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DALLAS TOWNSHIP -- Police in Luzerne County say they were looking to see if a man arrested Monday for targeting two cemeteries is also responsible for stealing from others.

He was in jail Tuesday night charged with swiping more than $400,000 worth of bronze vases from the burial parks in the Back Mountain area.

Bronze vases are meant for families to honor their loved ones with flowers at Chapel Lawn Cemetery in the Dallas area, but throughout the cemetery, there are holes in grave markers where those vases have been swiped.

Police say the guy to blame for that is Robert Krostag of Exeter Township. Police arrested him after a scrap yard reported that he was selling the vases.

"We've had more than 400 of them stolen. When the families come in to put flowers in the vase and realize they are gone, you can't imagine the complaints we would get," said Rick Malinowski, manager of Chapel Lawn Cemetery.

Malinowski said the thefts happened all summer into the fall.

He said each vase was cast in bronze and worth around $700.

“We would get hit every week. It would seem he'd come in on a Saturday and take 40 or 50 vases. We would come in on Monday and the ground superintendent would find out they're gone and we would file a police report," said Malinowski.

Malinowski said a lot of vase thefts came in the cemetery's veteran’s area. He said the place took precautions to protect veteran’s flag markers by placing them in cement, but the vases were vulnerable.

"We're just glad they finally caught the culprits," said Malinowski.

At Fern Noll Burial Park there's even a sign posted warning all the thefts. There have been more than 300 vases stolen and those who have family members there said they can't believe it.

“Sometimes there has to be something wrong with you to do something like that.  It's mostly drugs I guess," said John Latzman of Ashley.

Latzman had several family members buried at Fern Noll.

He knows it's hard for cemeteries to secure themselves from thieves, and he's just glad police made an arrest for the thefts here.

“Well you know it's all over today for a couple dollars. They do just about anything today you know," said Latzman.

State Police said they were looking to see if Krostag was also responsible for thefts at a cemetery in Franklin Township in the back mountain.

Krostag is already charged with a separate burglary in Plains Township.