Pieces of a desecrated Georgia war veterans memorial remain submerged in a lake after three people have been arrested and a fourth suspect remains on the run.
Metal statues of soldiers ripped from pedestals at the Rockdale County Walk of Heroes Veterans Memorial have been recovered after the vandalism in the early morning hours of Dec. 15, but half of an 800-pound globe is still under water, said Yolande Lovingood-Moore, public information officer for the Rockdale County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators have yet to establish the relationships between the accused, who apparently thought they could scrap the metal.
"All of it was not bronze, which I think they quickly found out," Lovingood-Moore said. "They were trying to dump it after they realized we were on to them."
A tip led to the first break in the case when Wendall Heath Tolbert, 51, of Taylorsville in Coweta County was arrested Dec. 29.
He also admitted to stealing a copper frog from outside the Nancy Guinn Memorial Library, the Rockdale Citizen reported.
On Jan. 3, Keshia Martin Black ,of Coweta County, was taken into custody and Bryan Sears was arrested Monday with the help of Union City police.
Authorities have issued a warrant for the fourth person accused of stealing the statues and plaques from the memorial on Black Shoals Road.
"They may all have been connected by drugs, it appears," Lovingood-Moore said of the suspects.
None of them are from Rockdale County, she said.
The public was outraged after two of five statues were stolen along with the globe they were holding.
A $5,000 reward was offered by Billy Corey of U.S. Enterprises Inc. for information leading to an arrest.
Sheriff Eric J. Levett condemned the vandalism.
"This is a dishonorable and disheartening act for what we stand for in America," Levett stated in a news release. "Someone trying to tarnish and destroy the place where you recognize our country's heroes will not be tolerated. We will find you."
Investigators have traveled to Union City, Coweta County and Meriweather County in trying to catch those responsible.
Levett has a message for the remaining suspect.
"This was a terrible crime. This was disrespectful to many men and women who sacrifice their lives each day. ... We're coming after you and we will find you," Levett stated in a news release.
According to the Walk of Heroes website, the thieves might have been able to reap about $3,000 for the metal, but the damage will cost more than $200,000 to repair or replace.
Donations can be made through the website www.walkofheroes.org.
Lovingood-Moore said they have gotten a huge response from the public after the vandalism and arrests.
"People are just happy (suspects were caught) but livid at the same time," she said.