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Sellwood bus driver accused of grave robbing

Neighbors on the block where Christopher Kelley used to live in Sellwood said they didn’t know that the man had unusual taste in garden decorating – reportedly, using stolen gravestones.

“That’s just creepy!” exclaimed a neighbor who wished not be identified.

Allegedly, Kelley stole four gravestones from the Rebekah Community Cemetery in Wasco County, near the eastern Oregon town of Dufur.

by: MCDC BOOKING PHOTO - 54-year-old Christopher Kelley is charged with allegedly removing four gravestones from an Eastern Oregon graveyard, later used as decorations in his Sellwood back yard. After Portland Police arrested the 54-year-old Kelley, he was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) system late last year, according to Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Lt Steve Alexander.

“The charges were Theft I by Receiving, a Class C Felony, and ‘Abuse Memorial Dead’, a Class A Misdemeanor,” Alexander told THE BEE.

Kelley’s combined bail was set at $7,500; in Multnomah County, posting 10% bails out suspects. Apparently, he came up with $750 and was free to go back to his job as a bus driver that evening.

Shortly after the case became public, Kelley moved out of the Sellwood house at which officials presented a search warrant and located the grave markers.

Oddly, the alleged crime came to light late last fall, when Kelley invited a long-time friend over to the house, and proudly showed off the garden – highlighted by pilfered gravestones. Surprised that Kelley seemed proud of this, the friend called police and reported the alleged memorial theft.

Wasco County Sheriff Deputy Tim Hall used an online service to locate the cemetery from which the gravestones were taken. In an affidavit, Hall stated that several grave sites at the Rebekah Community Cemetery were missing their headstones.

An indictment followed, filed on November 15, which asserted that Kelley “unlawfully and knowingly” stole the gravestones between July 1 and July 31, 2013.

Trying a case involving the theft of headstones is a “first” in his career, admitted Wasco County District Attorney Eric Nisley, to reporters. “I don’t know what Mr. Kelley’s purpose was for taking them.”

If found guilty, Nisley added, each of the four counts carries a potential $50,000 fine, plus restitution.

Kelley’s next court date was scheduled for January 27.