A tall, slightly built young man in a dark blue dress shirt stood up in court Wednesday and pleaded guilty to knocking over more than 300 headstones in St. Joseph's Cemetery in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Dana Richard Bartlett, age 20, told police that he had been walking home after midnight on April 25, overwhelmed by the stresses in his life including the breakup with the mother of his child and the fact she had a new man in her life, said prosecutor James McAvity.
The community, in response to the actions of this young man, created a facebook group which allowed those affected by the vandalism to share their feelings and their pain. Bartlett, who frequently visited the group, fell deeper and deeper into an unshakable guilt. This guilt would later force Bartlett to confess his crimes to a former girlfriend.
After his confession, his former girlfriend explained to him that he should confess and that if he did not, she would call local police.
On July 2, approximately two months after the vandalism began, Bartlett arrived at the police station and gave a statement during a four-hour interview, McAvity said.
All but two stones have been resurrected, surviving with mild injuries.
"There are two stones that remain down now until we can come up with a better fix for them," said Darryl Olsen, manager of cemeteries for the Diocese of Saint John.
About $7,500 has been put into returning the stones to their upright positions by the cemetery corporation. Some of this sum came from cemetery insurance, as toppled stones interfere with maintenance. But, as not all damage falls under the insurance clause, St. Joseph's Cemetery itself has said it would restore the headstones at no cost to the families. It said the cost would be about $60 per headstone, putting the overall debt at approximately $20,000.
New Brunswick provincial court Judge Alfred Brien remanded Bartlett to jail until Sept. 23, when he will be brought back for sentencing. The prosecutor asked for at least two months to give those affected by the crime a chance to prepare victim impact statements.
McAvity read part of an apology letter written by Bartlett.
"For the families affected by the vandalism I am truly sorry my actions have caused so many to live over the pain again," he wrote.
"All the people who blame my upbringing and my parents, please do not judge them. They had nothing to do with this."