Vandals strike gravesite of former Pa. governor

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Something puzzling has happened in Meadville, a community 90 miles north of Pittsburgh.

The gravesite of former Gov. Raymond Shafer 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 governor in French.

State police in Meadville have no suspects and no leads. And the family of the late governor, who led Pennsylvania from 1967 to 1971 and who died in 2006, has no idea what prompted the vandalism.

"We do know that it's probably not somebody who did it on the spur of the moment," said the late governor's daughter Diane Shafer Domnick, who lives in Meadville and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh in Titusville. "People had to be ready to do the damage that they did."

The family is offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for the vandalism.

The damage occurred sometime between 6 p.m. Nov. 3 and 9 a.m. Nov. 4, according to a report from the Pennsylvania State Police in Meadville. St. John's 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 that 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 itself was dug into three to four feet, revealing the vault, Trooper Dale Wimer said in a phone interview today.

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.

"It's an extremely different type of vandalism case," he said.

Shafer, born in New Castle on March 5, 1917, was 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."

It remains "a puzzle," why someone would vandalize her father's gravesite, Mrs. Domnick said. "But I feel confident that we'll find out who did it, and they'll be prosecuted. There's no other solution."

Anyone with information can contact the state police at 814-332-6911 or Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers at 1-800-4PA-TIPS.

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