Caretaker at historic cemetery accused of throwing garbage in grave

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The caretaker of a historic New Jersey cemetery is facing charges after he allegedly threw garbage and waste into a gravesite.

Rahway police say that Rahway Cemetery caretaker Eric Rickes is charged with desecration of a place of burial. Rickes allegedly put the trash into the grave of someone who had recently been buried. Police say that this happened after local officials ordered Rickes to clean up the site.

Rahway Mayor Raymond Giacobbe said in a statement, "When we entrust the remains of our loved ones to a cemetery, there is an expectation that they will be treated with respect in perpetuity."

The historic Rahway Cemetery sits along St. Georges Avenue. Some of the graves date back as far as 1724. A number of notable people are buried there, including 300 Civil War soldiers and 78 Revolutionary War soldiers.

Abraham Clark is buried there. He is one of five New Jersey residents who signed the Declaration of Independence.

"He was elected to go to Philadelphia. He was a very respected lawyer in this area,” says Rahway historian Al Shipley.

Other graves include 29 of the first African Americans allowed to fight in the Civil War.

"President Lincoln told Congress in effect, ‘We should let these fellas fight because they'll be good fighters and have something to fight for,’” Shipley says.

There is a grave for Dr. Frederick Albee. His bone-grafting saved the limbs of numerous soldiers in World War I, men who would've otherwise faced amputation following injuries on the battlefront.

Rahway police say that they were tipped off to what was happening at the cemetery before they were able to get a warrant to search the site on Wednesday.


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