FAIRFIELD — Nearly two weeks after the latest act of vandalism at a child’s grave site, a reward has swelled from $250 to $3,000 for information to help police find who’s responsible.
Meanwhile, the number of decorations and mementos at the burial site has also grown, following widespread community shock at the vandalism of the grave belonging to 6-year-old Avery Lane.
Despite the outpouring, Fairfield police say the investigation has stalled with no useful tips.
“We have investigated the leads that our detectives have generated and found none of them were involved in the incident at the grave site,” said Fairfield Police Chief Thomas Gould. “We have not developed any new leads at all.”
Gould said members of the Friends Cemetery Association have been cleared of any wrongdoing in connection with the vandalism. He said if no one is charged with the vandalism, the reward money will be returned to the donors in the next 60 days.
Avery’s mother, Tabitha Souzer, visited the Quaker cemetery next to the North Fairfield Friends Meeting House on Middle Road Thursday afternoon. She brought along her 2-year-old daughter Riley.
Colorful pinwheels, a shepherd’s hook with a hanging lantern, a glass angel and other items have been left there since the site was hit by vandals May 3 and 4, when toys were smashed, a visitor’s bench was thrown into the woods and keepsakes were either stolen or thrown in a trash pile.
Souzer said Riley knows Avery is her sister, and that Avery is in heaven. On Thursday, Riley leaned forward and kissed an image of Avery etched into the black granite headstone — an act she performs each time she visits.
“She’ll ask me, ‘Why is she up there, can I go, too? I’ll stay with her for a little while,’” Souzer said of Riley. “And I’m like, ‘No you can’t honey,’ and she asks me how she got there and can she come back from the sky?’ I say, ‘No, she can’t.’ I don’t want her to worry about death and to be sad or be scared that it’s going to happen to her.”
Avery died from complications of influenza in December 2012.
The recent vandalism was the third time in the past year that the grave site — adorned with colorful decorations in the otherwise plain cemetery — has been the target of vandals, according to the family. There has been no new acts of vandalism there and no suspects, according to police.
The reward money continues to grow from the original $250 offered by Kennebec County sheriff’s Deputy Jacob Pierce, in whose arms Avery died after the emergency medical call that day in December 2012 when the child died. Fairfield police upped the reward to $350, with more donations and pledges offered in the days that followed.
“It’s holding at $3,000 right now,” Gould said Thursday of the reward fund.
Souzer said people she doesn’t know have been making trips to Avery’s grave site in recent days to leave new decorations: a ceramic cat, a little angel and flowers among them.
Though heartened by that support, Souzer said she is disappointed that no vandalism suspects have been identified.
“I kind of thought, with the reward money, I thought somebody would turn somebody else in,” she said. “I’m glad it (vandalism) stopped, but at the same time, just because they stopped doing it to Avery, doesn’t mean that they’re not going to move on and do it to someone else.”
Souzer said members of the congregation of the Friends Meeting House have said they would meet with her to discuss decorations on the grave site.
Michael Trombley, pastor of the church next to the cemetery, has said graves at the cemetery, some dating back 200 years, generallly reflect the simple life that members of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, adhere to. He said Quakers intend to maintain that decorum even after death.
Souzer said she hopes church overseers will allow some of the new decorations to remain at Avery’s grave.
Friends Cemetery Association Sexton Ron Fenlason, who is in charge of the upkeep of the graves, said the association is scheduled to meet soon and he expects the matter of Avery’s burial site will be a topic of discussion.
“We’re reasonable people. We’ll be reasonable, no question about that,” Fenlason said Thursday. “We try to keep the cemetery beautiful.”
Fenlason said he is concerned about an apple tree that was planted without his knowledge behind Avery’s grave, a move that violates the association’s bylaws. Souzer said Thursday the tree is a dwarf apple tree and will not get much bigger.
Fenlason said the association will meet with Souzer and her family after their next meeting and discuss the matter of the tree and the burial site decorations.