Updated: Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011, 6:38 PM MDT
Published : Tuesday, 20 Sep 2011, 5:07 PM MDT
ROSWELL, N.M. (KRQE) - A cruel crime in Roswell.
Al Mantelli's father passed away in 1988. He and his family placed flowers on his grave for his father's birthday in late August.
When Mantelli returned last week, something was missing from the World War II veteran's grave.
"We walked by my dad's site and noticed that the urn and the flowers were gone, which really upset me," Mantelli explained.
Someone had stolen an ornate brass vase that was connected by a chain from the Marine Corp placard. The elder Mantelli had enlisted in the Marines a few months after Pearl Harbor serving with the 3rd Marine Division in the Pacific and fighting at Iwo Jima and Guam.
"I guess people are getting the idea that scrap metal's worth money; times are hard," Mantelli said. "But that wasn't scrap metal. It was an important piece to my dad's gravesite."
For his family, it was a symbol; a gesture of something elegant for someone who had appreciated the beauty in life.
"It was a part of him, he liked beautiful things, he liked trees, and he wanted to be in the shade and he liked flowers, but he always said flowers are for the living," Mantelli said.
The family still leaves flowers at his site.
But the site of the missing vase has the Mantelli family asking why his grave was targeted.
"I was angry, you know, why my dad's? All the other ones are out here, why my dad's?"
Mantelli said he plans to replace the stolen urn.
Detectives are still looking for the thief or thieves.
Mantelli's has a message for them: "Put themselves in our shoes, you know think of the consequences just like people who go out and graffiti things, and destroy things--they never think of the consequences that it causes other people, but if it were to happen to them, what would they do?"
Police said crimes like this are rare for the area, and when it does happen, the person stealing from the gravesite usually knows the family and is intentionally trying to hurt them.
Detectives said this case appears random, and are checking local pawn shops to see if the vase turns up.