There's a mystery in Meadville.
The Crawford County grave site of a former Pennsylvania governor was desecrated last month, its monument defaced, the grave dug down to the vault and messages written in spray paint on the exterior of a nearby church, cursing the late Gov. Raymond Shafer in French.
Neither the police nor the family know why.
"There seems to be no obvious reason," said the late governor's daughter Diane Shafer Domnick, who lives in Meadville and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh at Titusville. "We do know that it's probably not somebody who did it on the spur of the moment. People had to be ready to do the damage that they did."
The Shafer family is offering $2,500 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for damage to the grave site of the late governor, who led Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1971 and died in 2006,
The vandalism occurred sometime between 6 p.m. Nov. 3 and 9 a.m. Nov. 4, according to a report from state police in Meadville. St. John Church on Mercer Pike in Crawford County was spray-painted with a French message that translates "be cursed for all eternity Shafer" and another message whose significance police do not understand.
In the cemetery across the road from the church, Shafer's grave marker was spray-painted and a marble stone monument was defaced with a metal instrument. The grave was dug into three to four feet, revealing the vault, Trooper Dale Wimer said in a phone interview Tuesday.
Investigators believe multiple people were involved in the vandalism, based on the footprints found and the work required to unearth the vault, Trooper Wimer said. There is no history of vandalism at the cemetery or church, and Trooper Wimer has seen no similar cases in the area.
"It's an extremely different type of vandalism case," he said.
His family believes he was targeted because he was a public official, Mrs. Domnick said.
"Whether it was meant specifically against him, or just because he was a public figure and whoever did it wanted publicity, that's another question," she said.
Shafer, who was born in New Castle on March 5, 1917, and grew up in Meadville, went to Allegheny College, then Yale Law School, according to a book about Pennsylvania politics written by Paul B. Beers.
He was a P-T boat commander in World War II before practicing law in Meadville, then went on to become the district attorney of Crawford County, then lieutenant governor and then was the Republican governor for one term, where he attracted controversy by raising taxes on everything from cigarettes to gasoline and suggesting a state income tax.
"He was unpopular," said G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster. "Just about every group you can imagine at one time probably held a press conference."
After his term as governor, Shafer was briefly chairman of cable television firm Teleprompter Inc., a counselor for Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and later chairman of a national commission that in 1972 called for decriminalizing marijuana.
He spoke no French, Mrs. Domnick said, further adding to the mystery at the church and cemetery. Her family remains "horrified" by the vandalism, she said, calling it a "puzzle."
"But I feel confident that we'll find out who did it, and they'll be prosecuted," she said. "There's no other solution."
Anyone with information can contact Trooper Wimer at 814-332-6911 or Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.state
Kaitlynn Riely: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1707.