EXCLUSIVE: Grave markers stolen from Graceland Cemetery

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Five grave markers were stolen from Graceland Cemetery in Milwaukee -- the thief reportedly wanting to scrap them for cash. However, friends he sought out for help refused to take part in robbing the dead, and reached out to FOX6 News to get the markers returned.

Three of the grave markers stolen from the cemetery belonged to veterans. Janis Johnson died in 2009, Carl May was a World War II veteran, Wondrus Earnest was an Air Force veteran, Eugene Fisher was an Army veteran and Pamelier Brown passed away in 2002.

All five once had solid bronze grave markers at Graceland Cemetery -- until they ended up at a Milwaukee man's home.

As far as the man knows, a friend stole them from the cemetery to make some quick cash. However, the man told FOX6 News he felt stealing from the dead was going too far -- so he decided to keep the grave markers and call police. When they couldn't help, the man reached out to FOX6 News -- and the grave markers were returned to their home.

Graceland Cemetery Manager Bill Hoffmann said all five bronze plates came from their property. However, they weren't taken from any graves. Each marker had been replaced within the last five years.

"Somebody obviously saw them and stole them. That's the case with all the names you gave us," Hoffmann told FOX6 News.

While the new nameplates were on display, the old ones simply sat outside a work building on the cemetery grounds. Staff had only recently begun to inventory all the old markers. They didn't even have the chance to notice these five were missing.

"He had them all stacked near the building over there and he thought they were still there.  After I talked to you I said 'Todd go out and check' and they're gone," Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann said he will be notifying the police.

It's still hard to say what the thief could have gotten for scraping the plates, but given they all still had names on them, it would have been difficult if not impossible to do.