The man who authorities say vandalized a historic Hamilton County cemetery and caused thousand of dollars in damage was charged with felony criminal mischief Friday.
A Clay County man turned himself in to the Hamilton County Sheriff Wednesday morning after a warrant was issued for his arrest.
The Sheriff says Robert Kelly Jr., 18, may not be the only person to have charges filed against him for damages caused at the Farmers Valley Cemetery near Henderson.
Suzanne Ratzlaff doesn't have family buried at Farmers Valley, but bringing her fourth grade classes to explore and document the history in the more than 130 year old cemetery has made it a special place for her.
"I think when they come out here and they begin to learn the stories, it's not just a marker, it's not just a place, but the people become real," says Ratzlaff. "I think when the people become real that's when you start to fall in love with history, it connects."
Ratzlaff can speak in detail about a mother and child who perished in the Blizzard of 1873, about the Scottish sea captain who ended up in Nebraska and gave the land the cemetery is located on, or about a man killed in a fight with the Sioux back in 1874.
That's why it's been a struggle for Ratzlaff and members of the nearby community to understand why someone would vandalize the stones, but with one arrest and the possibility of more answers, they say it's getting easier to pick up the pieces.
"Whoever chose to do this was not thinking," she says. "This is sacred ground, this is the history of Nebraska - they could have had grandparents or great-grandparents who settled maybe even in this area if they're from around here."
Many of the headstones that were broken and knocked over have been pieced back together, but it could cost the cemetery association as much as $40,000 to fully restore them all without losing too much of their authenticity.