By Associated Press - Tuesday, September 22, 2020

HONOLULU (AP) - Police in Hawaii opened an investigation following the desecration of headstones at an Oahu cemetery.

Headstones were toppled at the Waianae cemetery on the western side of the island last week, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

The Honolulu Police Department said a family submitted a report of vandalism and the department started a desecration investigation at the cemetery.

Desecration is a misdemeanor, but the law was amended in 2002 to increase the penalty to one year in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.

The enhanced penalties resulted from vandalism at cemeteries that prompted lawmakers to conclude the misdemeanor penalties were insufficient deterrents.

Waianae Hongwanji Temple owns the cemetery but no longer has weekly services or a priest assigned to the cemetery. The Waianae temple’s membership board did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Ruby Quijano, 75, said she visited her mother’s grave on her birthday Sept. 13 and found the headstone had been moved and left on the ground near the Teramoto family crypt. Three men from the family hoisted the headstone back to its rightful place.

Quijano said she saw other toppled headstones.

“Who would do things like that,” Quijano said. “It was devastating. I was shocked.”

Quijano’s niece, Myra Fujii, posted photos on social media to inform other families with loved ones buried in the cemetery about the desecration.

Fujii converted to Christianity from the family’s Buddhist faith, but still participates in the traditions of cleaning the family graves and placing mochi rice cake and oranges at the sites to mark the new year.

Vases, incense holders and candles have been stolen from the graves over the years, Fujii said.

“Back when I was growing up, there was respect for the graves, for the dead,” she said.

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