Families victimized by urn thefts join lawmakers in demanding stiffer penalties

News

Lawmakers are trying to crack down on urn thieves. Last June, several families discovered urns missing from their family plots at Sunset Memorial Cemetery in Pearl City.

Two men were arrested, but some lawmakers want stiffer penalties and so they’re looking to make it a felony.

A measure is moving through the State Legislature, House Bill 1578, that would make the crime a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

KHON2 spoke to one of the families affected by this crime, and learned that three families testified before lawmakers, urging them to pass the bill into law, so another tragedy like this doesn’t happen to another family.

Lisa Wond, one of the family members victimized by the thefts, said “It will never stop boggling my mind that people can go so low to do that — especially here in Hawaii.”

It’s been nearly a year since Wond discovered four urns missing from her family’s gravesite at the Pearl City cemetery.

“It’s been really hard on my family. We’re trying to move on and do the best we can.”

In June 2015, Faamanuiaga Vee and Melvin Noble Jr. were arrested and charged for the theft.

“I don’t have too much hope of retrieving the ashes at this point,” Wond said, “but we do have hope that justice will occur.”

State Rep. Gregg Takayama (D/Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades) helped introduce HB 1578 and said anyone who tries to sell an urn to a recycling company would have to show proof of both identity and ownership.

“Anyone who would steal a funeral urn is a despicable crime,” he said, “and no one wants to allow it to continue.”

Wond says passing the bill into law will help the family’s healing process. “That’s one positive thing you can do, to try and prevent it from happening again,” she said.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.