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Detectives still poring over 100 hours of video in probe of Jewish cemetery vandalism

Detectives still poring over 100 hours of video in probe of Jewish cemetery vandalism

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UNIVERSITY CITY • More than a week after vandals toppled headstones at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, investigators have little to report.

Detectives are still methodically poring over 100 hours of video to try to identify who’s to blame.

“It takes some time,” Detective Lt. Fredrick Lemons II said Tuesday. “We can’t fast-forward. We want to be meticulous.”

He declined to say what police have seen so far, or whether the videos have produced any information on suspects.

A total of 154 tombstones in the Jewish cemetery were pushed over during the weekend of Feb. 17-20.

Political leaders and clergy of various faiths joined in offering support for those whose relatives’ graves were desecrated. The crime made national news, even prompting Vice President Mike Pence to join Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens to help clean up the cemetery a few days later.

Police have received some tips, but nothing has panned out, Lemons said.

Lemons did reiterate on Tuesday that he has seen no evidence of a hate crime. However, he points out that a hate crime is up to the prosecutors to allege; and the charge requires knowing the criminal’s state of mind, or intention.

“You have to know motivation,” Lemons said.

Without anyone in custody or other proof, they can’t know motivation, he said.

The law in Missouri defines a hate crime as something the “state believes to be knowingly motivated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation or disability of the victim or victims.”

At this point, University City police are investigating the vandalism as felony property damage, which means damaging something on purpose and that damage amounts to more than $750. The crime is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Sixteen of the 154 toppled tombstones were damaged and will need to be repaired or replaced. The cemetery is trying to reach relatives to get consent before doing anything with the stones, said Anita Feigenbaum, the cemetery’s executive director.

She said she is waiting for an estimate from Rosenbloom Monument Co. on what it would cost to repair or replace the stones. She said she is also looking to upgrade security at the cemetery.

Feigenbaum said police haven’t given her updates on their investigation, what she calls “eerily quiet.”

But she takes comfort in that.

“It tells me they want to do it right,” she said. “They want to dot their i’s and cross their t’s. I have faith in my police.”

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