Students Chop Cemetery’s Pine Trees

By Rick Harrison

Published December 17, 2004, issue of December 17, 2004.

Santa Claus might not have to check his list twice to judge the naughtiness of five college students in Michigan who hopped the fence of a Jewish cemetery on December 6. According to police, the students cut down a pair of pine trees to decorate their dormitory.

Four 18-year-old boys and one 19-year-old girl, all from the University of Detroit Mercy, the largest Catholic university in Michigan, were caught after a neighbor called the police. The neighbor had spotted their attempt to steal the two trees from Machpelah Cemetery, a Jewish graveyard in Ferndale.

Upon being spotted, the students left the sawed-down trees behind, but police caught them in a car.

“It was a very juvenile thing to do,” said Lt. Norm Raymond of the Ferndale Police Department, who downplayed any conscious disrespect the students might have had for the religious significance of stealing Christmas decorations from a Jewish resting place. The cemetery, which abuts a small city park as well as a pair of other cemeteries, was not marked from the side on which they entered. “I’m not sure they knew what they were jumping into,” Raymond said.

University spokesman Gary Lichtman said in a statement: “We were disappointed to learn of the alleged actions of these young people. We have extremely high expectations of all our students and will closely monitor this situation.” The school said it will await the result of the police investigation before deciding to take any action.

The students face charges of misdemeanor larceny, malicious destruction of property and trespassing, carrying potential penalties that include jail time, fines and payment of costs to replace the destroyed property.



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