ROCKDALE COUNTY, Ga. - A memorial dedicated to our country's war veterans will take an estimated $200,000 to restore after it was vandalized last month.
According to board members with the Walk of Heroes War Veterans Memorial in Conyers, the damage to the sculptures and plaques was so extensive it will likely take months to repair.
"When I got to the site, I felt like I was coming to a funeral," recalled Darin Riggs, a board member for the memorial. "It was just heart wrenching for me. It just was not pleasant to come out here that day."
Officials with the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office said four people broke into the memorial park on December 15 and used tools and tree branches to pry multiple bronze pieces from their mounts.
Authorities in Union City arrested Bryan Loys Sears, 25, of Weatherford, Texas on Tuesday and charged him with criminal trespass and felony theft by taking. Deputies previously arrested Keshia Martin Black, 42, of Newnan and Wendall Tolbert, 51, of Taylorsville. Investigators have obtained a warrant for a fourth suspect, but would not release that person's name.
Now, Riggs and others who work to maintain the memorial hope the community will help them raise the funds necessary to rebuild it. Deputies were able to recover many of the stolen metal pieces, but they are currently being held as evidence in the case and the sculptor may not be able to use them for the restoration.
In the meantime, the memorial site may look even more bare than it already does.
"He's [going to] actually have to take the other three statues down and take them back to his studio to rebuild everything properly. So, at some point soon the whole statue's going to be gone," said Riggs.
To donate to the memorial's restoration fund, visit walkofheroes.org/theft-vandalism.