Man charged with cemetery desecration; fencing, grave markers recovered

Phillip Wood. Source: FCSD
Phillip Wood. Source: FCSD
Published: May. 24, 2017 at 4:53 PM CDT|Updated: Feb. 26, 2018 at 11:26 AM CST
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PINE BELT (WDAM) - A Pearl River County man is behind bars and charged with a felony after allegedly stealing items from at least three Pine Belt cemeteries.

Philip Wood, 38, was arrested Tuesday and charged with one felony count of cemetery desecration.

According to Mississippi Code, Desecration of a cemetery is described as the following:

1) (a) Every person who shall knowingly and willfully dig up, except as otherwise provided by law, obliterate, or in any way desecrate any cemetery where human dead are interred, or cause through word, deed or action the same to happen, shall upon conviction be imprisoned for not more than one (1) year in the county jail or fined not more than Five Hundred Dollars ($ 500.00), or both, in the discretion of the court. In addition to any penalties that the court is otherwise authorized to impose the court may, in its discretion, order such restitution as it deems appropriate.

(b) In construing this subsection (1), a cemetery shall mean any plot of ground (i) on which are grave markers of stone, wood, metal or any other material recognizable as marking graves, or (ii) the boundaries of which are defined by a recorded plat, a fence line or corner markers, or trees, or are defined in any other discernible manner.

Forrest County Sheriff's Department investigator Nick Calico said they received a call on Sunday, May 21st about damage to Entrekin Cemetery.

"We were advised that there was damage to the cemetery, and that chain link fence was removed from the cemetery," Calico said.

Calico said through the investigation, and with help of other agencies a suspect was developed.

"On Tuesday, May 23rd, we were able to locate Philip Wood at his residence on Hickory Grove Road and take him into custody," Calico said. "While we were taking him into custody, we also discovered two headstones located on the property that were both stolen from cemeteries in other jurisdictions."

According to Covington County investigators, at least one headstone was taken from Willow Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Collins. That grave marker belongs to a Korean war veteran, James Hulon Yawn Jr. (Oct. 20, 1930- March 7, 2002).

Authorities are also investigating another headstone marker that has been linked to Smith County, from Calvary Presbyterian Church cemetery. That grave marker belongs to Rachel Esther Burrow-Bownds. (March 6, 1953 – July 25, 2005).

Wood is currently being housed in the Forrest County Jail, and Calico added that the investigation is ongoing and other charges are pending.

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