Randall man sentenced for receiving stolen bronze star markers from graves

A Randall man has been sentenced in connection with possessing 99 pounds of copper metals, consisting primarily of bronze star markers that had been stolen from local cemeteries in May 2012.

Bruce Everett Boyd, 42, was sentenced Sept. 12 in Pine County District Court for gross misdemeanor receiving stolen property. Judge James Reuter ordered Boyd to serve 365 days in Pine County Jail and pay $3,915 in restitution.

In May 2012, more than 200 bronze star markers were stolen from Isanti Union, St. John’s Weber and Spring Lake Lutheran cemeteries. The markers were replaced in June 2012 due to a $5,240 donation by Snap Fitness Founder/CEO Peter Taunton.

Members of the local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts replace bronze star markers in June 2012 that had been stolen a month earlier in Isanti County cemeteries. NEWS file photo
Members of the local Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts replace bronze star markers in June 2012 that had been stolen a month earlier in Isanti County cemeteries. NEWS file photo

Isanti County Veterans Service Officer Jim Rostberg said it is good for the families impacted by this crime to have some closure.

“There was no doubt how the theft of these markers affected the lives of those who had a loved one buried in one of our cemeteries,” Rostberg said. “The hurt was seen in their eyes with tears running down their cheeks. Comments such as ‘how could somebody do something so hurtful?’ and ‘why would somebody do this?’ was heard time and time again. For the families of the veterans who were victims of these thefts, there is now a feeling of relief.”

Many times the only way to know the person buried in a particular cemetery plot is a veteran is by the presence of a bronze star marker on their grave site, Rostberg said.

“It is a recognition of the veterans’ service to this great nation,” Rostberg said. “It is also a means by which to display the U.S. flag during Memorial Day services, as the bronze star marker is also a holder for the staff of a small U.S. flag. Most veterans do not ask for recognition of their service, they just serve in one of the branches of the military and then return home to their family and friends. The markers are a way to recognize them into the future and we continue to mark the graves of all veterans regardless of when they served.”

According to the criminal complaint, Sgt. Jeff Nelson of the Pine County Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to Nelson’s Recycling in Pine City on May 14, 2012, to investigate the sale of stolen copper.

An employee at Nelson’s informed Nelson she had purchased 99 pounds of brass and other copper metals, consisting primarily of the bronze star markers. The employee showed Nelson the buckets full of broken bronze stars and gave Nelson a copy of Boyd’s driver’s license, which she obtained at the time of the purchase.

Nelson then spoke to Roger Bustrom with the Isanti Union Cemetery on May 25, 2012, who informed him they had two separate thefts of flag holders that included veteran stars from their cemetery.

Nelson later spoke to Isanti County Sheriff’s Deputy Dave Matchinsky who confirmed there had been three incidents of thefts of veteran stars from cemeteries in Isanti County. Matchinsky then worked with the security company for NRI Recycling in Cambridge and obtained a video containing a partial plate of the vehicle involved in the sale, which they confirmed belonged to Boyd.

Matchinsky obtained a taped statement from Boyd on July 18, 2012, who admitted to being present when the veteran stars were stolen, and selling them to Nelson’s Recycling.

Isanti County Chief Deputy Chris Caulk explained Boyd was charged in Pine County because that’s where the sale of the stolen bronze markers had taken place.

“The vehicle description we were able to get from witnesses who saw the truck at Isanti Union Cemetery was a key to this case,” Caulk said. “Our hats also go off to Deputy Matchinsky and Sgt. Nelson in Pine County for the investigation. This case really came down to good old-fashioned police work and digging. Sometimes you find things there, and sometimes you don’t. But in this case, we were able to find something.”

Matchinsky said even though Boyd wasn’t charged with the physical theft of the bronze star markers, it was rewarding to have an arrest in connection with the case.

“It was nice to get him (Boyd) on something,” Matchinsky said. “Even though we didn’t have enough to charge him with the actual theft of the bronze star markers, we got him on possession, and he was ordered to jail and ordered to pay restitution.”

Caulk said technology, as well as cooperation among law enforcement agencies, is key to public safety.

“This case was really about superb police work,” Caulk said. “This case came down to research, phone calls, sharing of information and just a desire to not let it go. Even though Deputy Matchinsky stays plenty busy, he felt this case was important enough to pursue until it came to a resolution. Even though it took over a year to get this case solved, we are happy it did get solved. Sometimes cases just take time, and not all cases are solved in an hour like you see on television.”

Rostberg credits the work of law enforcement.

“I commend Deputy Dave Matchinsky on his dedication to find the culprit of this cowardly act,” Rostberg said. “Many people might assume that law enforcement agencies wouldn’t take a case like this very seriously (stealing veteran markers off of a cemetery) but fortunately the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office considers all types of crimes serious. I would like to personally thank Deputy Dave Matchinsky and Chief Deputy Chris Caulk for consistently keeping me informed on the status of the case as it progressed. Each contacted me on a regular basis to inform me of the progress in the case.”

Rostberg said local law enforcement does a great job.

“If someone plans to commit a crime in Isanti County they feel might not rise to the level of attention that would open an active investigation, I suggest they reconsider,” Rostberg said. “Deputy Dave Matchinsky and Chief Deputy Chris Caulk have demonstrated what is typical with law enforcement authorities in Isanti County — they take crime seriously.”

Caulk reiterated the importance of residents calling in suspicious behavior.

“If the public ever sees something that seems out of order, definitely give us a call because we can’t be everywhere,” Caulk said. “Tips really help us solve our cases. And even if we might not be able to act on a tip that day, you never know if that tip may be useful information in the future. If you see something not fitting in the surroundings, definitely call 911.”