06/01/2012 12:20 pm ET

Martinez Grave Robbers Steal Brass Handles, Bolts From Coffins

A 140-year-old Bay Area cemetery was plundered by grave robbers seemingly for a few brass coffin handles, according to KTVU.

St. Catherine Cemetery caretaker Pete Carpenter was alerted to the break-in by a passing hiker who noticed a crypt had been vandalized.

According to the Martinez News-Gazette, several crypts had been vandalized and two coffins were left outside and open, exposing the bodies inside.

"The door was completely off the hinge and the two coffins were out," said Carpenter in an interview with KTVU. Carpenter pointed out that one of the coffins belonged to the grandmother of a family who still lives in Martinez.

The Martinez News-Gazette reported that several of the vandalized coffins were missing bolts and brass handles, leading police to suspect that metal thieves might be to blame.

"It's horrible," said Carpenter to KTVU. "People like that shouldn't be allowed loose."

The incident is the latest and most serious in a string of vandalism incidents at the cemetery, according to the Martinez News-Gazette. "They've been busy," said Carpenter. "We've been trying to keep up with them but it's hard."

Carpenter told the Martinez News-Gazette that he believes vandals and loiterers are to blame, but with a string of recent Bay Area metal thefts, police aren't so sure.

In October, the Harvey Milk Plaque at the Castro Muni station was stolen. That same month, The Huffington Post reported on the theft of a 700-pound pelican statue robbed from a Novato state park. And in an especially alarming incident in December, thieves stole copper wire from active BART tracks after a spike in copper prices.

"Really we're dealing with sick minds," said Carpenter of the cemetery vandals. "You can come up with all kinds of excuses but that's it."