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Sandra Lilly hadn’t put a Christmas tree on her son’s grave for fear it would be stolen like the other decorations she’s lovingly placed in Hill Crest Cemetery since her son’s death in May.
“I told my husband that he had to have one because it’s tradition at our house since Josh was little to have a tree and keep it lit all night on Christmas Eve so Santa could find our house, but I didn’t want it to end up like the other stuff – just gone,” she said.
A Corinth woman was arrested on Dec. 12 and charged with receiving stolen property over $300 and resisting arrest after Grant County sheriff’s deputies used a tracking device hidden inside a toy to follow her from Hill Crest Cemetery in Dry Ridge to the Corinth Cemetery.
Kimberly C. Goodrich, 48, is being held in the Grant County Detention Center on a $5,000 cash bond.
When deputies pulled over the maroon van Goodrich was driving, they discovered it crammed with items that appeared to have been taken from area cemeteries.
“We’ve already positively identified three things that had been taken from other graves because families have stepped forward after learning of the arrest,” Dills said.
The first item, a wooden wagon filled with gourds, went missing on Nov. 11.
“It was raining that day,” Lilly said. “I almost didn’t get out of my car but I kept looking at the grave and knew something wasn’t right.”
“I just bawled my eyes out,’” she said. “I couldn’t believe it.”
During the next several weeks more items, like a flower arrangement Sandra made especially for the grave were gone.
The Lillys began talking to other families who complained of items being removed from their loved ones graves. Then, they contacted Dills, who suggested placing a tracking device inside something left at the gravesite.
On Dec. 8, the Lilly’s assisted Dills in placing the tracker inside a toy remote-controlled car. The device, if moved 50 feet from the grave, would activate Dills’ cell phone.
Just four days later, the call came. Dills said he used a computer to keep track of the device as it moved from Dry Ridge to Corinth. He sent deputies to intercept.
Before they could get to the Corinth Cemetery where the signal was coming from, the signal moved to Nobles’s Truck Stop and finally to a building less than a mile away.
Dills said that’s where they discovered Goodrich alleging placing items from her van into the building.
“She did not have permission to use that building, so it’s possible that she could be facing burglary charges,” Dills said.
Dills said he’s received numerous complaints in his 20 years of law enforcement about cemetery thefts, but with shrinking budgets did not have the money or manpower to hold a stakeout.
“Technology has made it much easier to do something like this,” he said.
Police have recovered almost 50 items from the van and building, including items that ranged from a statue of a Labrador Retriever that weighs 35 pounds to concrete angels that stand 2 feet tall.
When police attempted to arrest Goodrich, Dills said she grabbed a handful of pills and attempted to swallow them.
“That lead to the scuffle while trying to arrest her,” he said.
Goodrich was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center – Grant County where she was treated before being taken to jail. She will return to court on Dec. 22, but Sheriff Chuck Dills said he expects the case to end up before a Grant County grand jury.
“If you’re going to take property that doesn’t belong to you, just know it may be monitored,” Dills said. He suggested anyone who has items missing from a gravesite, especially within the last few weeks, should call the sheriff’s office at 824-3333.
For the Lilly family, there is some comfort in Goodrich’s arrest.
“You hear of it happening. I just felt like Josh could not rest because someone was stealing from him,” Lilly said. “We know (if convicted) that she’s not the only one, but we hope at least this will be a warning to others.”
“The way I look at it you’re stealing people’s love. It’s not the money or the item because people who put stuff out there are doing it because they loved that person.,” Lilly said. “I don’t know if there’s any punishment that would be fair.”