- Associated Press - Monday, February 24, 2014

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) - A Columbus man who was called a grave robber for stealing ornamental vases and military veterans’ nameplates from local cemeteries has been given up to eight years in prison.

Steven Bequette was sentenced last week in Platte County District Court, the Columbus Telegram said (https://bit.ly/1juasJa ).

Online court records say Bequette had pleaded no contest to drug possession and to attempted theft after making a deal with prosecutors, who lowered the theft charge.

At Bequette’s sentencing hearing, Judge Robert Steinke angrily told Bequette that his crimes were “deplorable, unconscionable, and they show a complete lack of respect for the deceased, the families of the deceased and particularly for those who have served our country in the military.”

At least 40 families were victimized by the graveyard thefts at Roselawn, All Saints and Columbus cemeteries. Court documents say the vases and grave markers were valued at $10,125.

Bequette asked the judge for probation and a chance to pay restitution.

“I apologize for what transpired,” Bequette said. “I had no idea what I was scrapping out was stolen or I wouldn’t have done it. I would like to be able to pay the costs for the families’ losses.”

Steinke instead sentenced Bequette to 20 to 60 months on the theft charge and 18 to 36 months for the drugs. The sentences are to be served consecutively.

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Information from: Columbus Telegram, https://www.columbustelegram.com

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