FLEMING | The tampered grave of 12-year-old Baxter Stenard Fritz was partially put back together on Monday afternoon. The statue found toppled over was perched back in place atop the unmarked grave at St. Joseph Cemetery.
Monday morning marked the sixth time in one year that the grave has been vandalized.
Just days after the year anniversary of Baxter's death, his mother, Patty Stenard Fritz, walked up to her son's grave to find many of the precious items she's left for him torn up or taken. An urn gone, a small statue of the blessed Mary twisted and the faceplate of Baxter's grave turned upside down.
“We find comfort in coming to the cemetery to see him,” Patty said. “But I'm beginning to become afraid of coming here. I just don't understand who would do this to a child.”
Baxter died unexpectedly on Nov. 23, 2011, after suffering from an infection, his mother said. The family has been unable to afford a gravestone for their son and have decorated the flat sheet of cement the best way they can, they said.
Patty, along with her sisters, Karen and Donna Stenard, often visit the cemetery to pay respect to Baxter and have been disheartened about the vandalism that occurred to his place of rest.
To protect her son's site, Patty and her sisters have tied down their decorations as best they can, they said. But it hasn't prevented someone from tampering with his grave.
“I just want to know who would have the guts to do this to an innocent child,” Donna Stenard said. “He's done nothing to deserve this and these actions are such a sign of disrespect to him and to our entire family.”
The family has reached out to the police and the cemetery to help stop the vandalism but despite their best efforts, they said, they still have no idea who is destroying the grave. Baxter's grave is the only one targeted on a regular basis.
Officials believe that the incident could be a personal vendetta of some sort but the family can't think of any reason to target an innocent child, they said.
Sheriff David Gould was informed of the situation early Monday afternoon and said that the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office will patrol the area.
Gould is asking anyone with information to contact officials and that tips will remain anonymous.
“We hope to get a handle on this and if we can find the person who did this, they will be prosecuted,” he said. “It's disturbing to hear of anyone desecrating a grave — and a child's grave no less — is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”