Homeless Woman Accused of Desecrating Graves in Historic Seffner Cemetery
Law enforcement and church officials do not believe it was a hate crime, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
SEFFNER – A homeless woman has been accused of removing tombstones and stealing from graves at an historic African-American cemetery, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said.
Channon Marie Clarkson, 35, was charged with removing, disfiguring destroying, or injuring a tomb and grand theft in the third degree ($300-$5,000).
The incident happened about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 7) at the Unity African Methodist Episcopal Church Cemetery, 1013 Dr. King Boulevard W in Seffner.
Deputies said a church employee spotted Clarkson roaming the cemetery, then pulling two headstones up from the ground. Clarkson removed engraved templates from several grave sites as well. When deputies located her, they found several items in her purse that she removed from other grave stones, including angels and flower holders.
After a discussion with the pastor, church leadership and Clarkson, it was determined that this was not hate-crime related. Deputies said Clarkson, who is homeless, is believed to suffer from a mental illness.
The church, which has been is Seffner for 126 years according to a pastor, is still determining the total amount of damage, but it is expected to exceed $5,000.
Photos courtesy of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
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