'Let them rest in peace': Proposed bill would criminalize grave vandalism

'Let them rest in peace': Proposed bill would criminalize grave vandalism
Teens caught on camera walking on a fallen police officer's grave sparked the legislation. (Source: WALB)
Teens caught on camera walking on a fallen police officer's grave sparked the legislation. (Source: WALB)
Janice Smarr, fallen Americus Police Officer Nick Smarr's mother (Source: WALB)
Janice Smarr, fallen Americus Police Officer Nick Smarr's mother (Source: WALB)

AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - A South Georgia lawmaker has proposed a bill to make it a crime to trespass on or vandalize anyone's grave across the state.

Back in July of 2017, Janice Smarr, mother of fallen Americus Police Officer Nick Smarr, said she repeatedly saw footprints covering her son's grave.

"Nick and Jody, they died for Sumter County," Jaince explained. "Their graves shouldn't be stomped on, spit on by anybody."

Janice ended up putting up a game camera, which captured photos of four teenagers apparently walking on Smarr's grave.

MORE: Fallen officer's mom frustrated about vandalism of son's grave

"That shouldn't happen," said Sen. Greg Kirk of Americus. "We saw that, and we were taken aback and thinking, well that could have been my loved one."

The teens received minor charges for trespassing because the cemetery, though public, had posted hours.

However, police said the teens' actions of stepping and one of them even spitting on the grave may not have technically been a crime under Georgia law.

It's only currently illegal if the grave is that of a military member or veteran.

"Until this bill passes, that's the only graves that have been protected," said Kirk, who dropped Senate Bill 347 in the Senate Hopper last week.

SB 347 would make it a 'high and aggravated misdemeanor' to trespass on or vandalize a military grave.

But, it would also make it a crime to trespass on or vandalize any person's grave across the entire state.

"The end goal is to give law enforcement the tools they need to press charges when incidents like that take place in the future," Kirk explained.

Janice said she is in complete support of this bipartisan bill because she believes no one should experience the disrespect she experienced last July.

"That's the last place I know Nick went right there before he went to Heaven," Janice said about her son's gravesite. "Let them rest in peace."

Next, the proposed bill will be assigned to a committee for study.

Copyright 2018 WALB. All rights reserved.