Youth to be charged in county vandalism spree

Vandals used spray paint to deface this portion of the Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church facility four miles southeast of Hillsboro on Kanza Road, which was discovered Friday morning. At least four youth, age 15 to 19, will  be formally charged for similar incidents in Goessel and Hillsboro, according to Sheriff Robert Craft.Business owners, school officials and a few residents in Goessel, Hillsboro and rural Marion County woke up Friday morning to find vandals went on an over­night spree damaging public and private property.

Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said there seemed to be “no rhyme or reason” to the places targeted, but at least four local individuals, maybe more, ages 15 to 19 years, will be formally charged this week.

“(The vandals) hit Goessel pretty hard,using spray paint on school buildings, the downtown gas station, city hall, a police car and other buildings and vehicles,” he said.

The vandalism didn’t stop in Goessel, cutting a swath north on Kanza Road by French Creek where the county’s road and bridge department had a front-end loader spray painted.

The line of damage continued south to Ag Services, 1830 Kanza Road, and Ebenfeld Mennonite Brethren Church, 1498 Kanza Road.

Marion County Deputy Mike Ottensmeier said the destruction path along Kanza totaled 11 miles from south to north or vice-versa.

Schools take battering

Goessel USD 411 Superintendent John Fast said he made one of the early calls to the sheriff’s office after seeing graffiti spray painted on a grade school vehicle.

“I took pictures of the damage and double-checked with maintenance to check vehicles at the high school,” he said.

Three more vehicles were spray painted, and the word was gradually coming out that the damage took in a wider area, Fast said.

One positive outcome was the reaction by Goessel students, he said.

“Students were appalled by this,” he said. “They wanted to pull out sponges because they didn’t want equipment and cars graffitied up.”

With advances in paint removal, only one car needed to be taken to an auto collision shop.

With about 95 percent of the spray paint removed, Fast said he was “fairly optimistic” the students would clean the cars without further repairs required.

“A number of students were angry because it was an affront on their school and their community,” Fast said. “But a lot of time was spent processing what happened.”

Motive unclear

Fast said the vandals’ motivation was unclear, and Craft and USD 410 Superintendent Max Heinrichs agreed.

“It’s just too soon to know what their motives were,” Craft said Friday.

Heinrichs said that surveillance at the Hillsboro school identified four of the vandals.

After the incident last week, Fast said he plans to look into security cameras for Goessel as well.

“Our students care about their school, and they also know the difference between right and wrong,” he said.

Hillsboro damages

Heinrichs said he believes none of the suspects were in the Marion County school system.

“We had damage to three vehicles at the school, including (HMHS principal) Clint Corby’s truck,” he said. “His house also was hit and we had some writing on the east side of weight room on the brick.

“It was cleaned up fast,” he added. “We had a couple of spray paint artists, but their canvas wasn’t the right canvas. These young people are misguided.”

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said Marion County deputy Michael Ot­tensmeier and Hillsboro police officer Jessey Hiebert focused on the cases the entire weekend.

“We should be able to conclude the investigation this week and deliver it to Marion County attorney Courtney Boehm,” Kinning said.

The Marion Police Department assisted the investigation, he added.

“A great big atta-boy to Jessey and Mike both,” Kinning said. “At least one of the suspects is well-known to the police department.”

Fast said it just shows a lot work still needs to be done as educators, social workers, law enforcement officials and others.

Ottensmeier said he and Hiebert worked all day Friday collecting evidence.

“This crime spree went into two zip codes,” he said. “These people drove Kanza, whether from north to south or south to north, but there’s damage to signs in Marion County north of 260th, which is the north turnoff to the Marion Reservoir.

“Some of these road signs were obliterated with spray paint,” he said.

The suspects remain unidentified as of press time pending the filing of formal charges.

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