As the reward for information about the Mount Carmel Cemetery gravestone vandalism has increased to $74,000, new information reported to police indicates that much of the damage may have been caused days or weeks earlier than originally suspected. According to multiple news reports, the superintendent of Laurel Hill cemetery in North Philadelphia’s Swampoodle section told police detectives last week that he saw many overturned gravestones at Mount Carmel on Feb. 21, five days before the damage was first reported to authorities.
Bill Doran, who has worked at Laurel Hill for more than 30 years, assumed that the damage at Mount Carmel had already been reported, so he didn’t contact police or the cemetery’s management. On Feb. 26, another visitor to Mount Carmel observed more than 100 overturned gravestones and contacted authorities. As word spread publicly about the damage, leaders of the Jewish community and elected officials expressed concerns that the vandalism was motivated by anti-semitism. Mount Carmel, at 5701 Frankford Ave., in Wissinoming, is a Jewish burial ground.
Doran had gone there to view a particular gravestone that one of his clients wished to replicate for a grave at Laurel Hill.
“(The overturned stones) didn’t raise any red flags, because when I got there, the gate was unlocked and open, so I assumed the people that run it knew about it and didn’t want publicity,” Doran told the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Doran told CBSPhilly that he saw what appeared to be newer and older vandalism. He also saw extensive litter and remnants of large drinking parties.
As news of the vandalism reached international audiences and evoked comments from President Trump in his address to a joint session of Congress, dozens of volunteers — including many from the region’s building trades unions — gathered at the cemetery to assess the damage and clean up the grounds. Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has pledged to install security equipment in the cemetery. Police said initially that more than 100 stones had been overturned. Jewish community leaders cited figures of several hundred. Donors including the Anti-Defamation League, the Fraternal Order of Police, Councilman Allan Domb, Mayor Kenney’s office, the 15th Police District Advisory Council and families from Miami and Las Vegas have contributed to the $74,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of those responsible. Anonymous donors have contributed at least $15,000.
Call 215-686-3153 or 215-686-TIPS to report information about the case. ••