Local grave robber gets 18 months

WARREN – Convicted of desecrating a military veteran’s grave and stealing a statue that he tried to scrap, a 31-year-old Hubbard man told a judge Tuesday that the burial site could have been anybody or any animal. He didn’t mean to disrespect a veteran.

”I made bad decisions, bad choices,” said Richard Couturiaux, who blamed his actions on drugs before he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

”Some cases involve harm, and other cases involve hurt. You caused both harm and hurt in this case,” said Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan, who imposed the sentence consecutive to an eight-month sentence the defendant is already serving for breaking and entering, possession of criminal tools and receiving stolen property for trying to steal scrap iron from a home in Hubbard last year.

In Tuesday’s court appearance, Couturiaux had already pleaded guilty to receiving stolen property, vandalism and two counts of desecration, a misdemeanor.

Couturiaux of North Main Street had remained in Trumbull County Jail since he and another man were arrested after the theft of a brass military statue stolen from an East Side Youngstown cemetery. Prosecutors say the pair intended to scrap the $36,000 statute for about $25.

The statue was broken off at the ankles in March. A Youngstown police officer tracked it down April 5 at a scrap yard in Warren. A prosecutor said Capt. John Norman of Girard Police Department also was instrumental in solving the case.

David Luther, chaplain for the Howland American Legion Post 700, told the court, ”We represent all moms and dads who ever greeted their son or daughter at an airport in a flag-draped casket. We represent the sons and daughters who gave their dad an honorable burial because years ago they served their country with honor. We represent all who ever put on the uniform of our nation.”

Delivering an impact statement to the judge, Luther called Couturiaux’s crime a ”pathetic act.”

”He represents the cancer that is eating away at the very heart and soul of the United States of America, wanting to satisfy his own cravings at the cost of everything we hold sacred,” Luther said. ”He represents those who compromise integrity and decency for a quick buck.”

The co-defendant in the case, Michael A. Cryster, 26, of West Ohio Street, Brookfield, faces the same set of charges.

Cryster failed to appear in court and a capias – or bench warrant – was issued May 22 for his arrest by Judge Peter Kontos. He was only recently picked up and Monday pleaded not guilty and was held in lieu of $150,000 bond pending a court appearance Monday.

The hands, legs, rifle and other parts of the veteran grave marker were cut off the body of the statue when it was recovered. Other parts were found later in a Girard recycling yard.

The damaged 4-foot-tall statue was returned to the Mahoning Valley Memorial Park, where it was on display on Youngstown Hubbard Road.

The statue was close to 40 years old and cemetery officials said plans are to repair the statue rather than buy a new one because that would be cheaper.