PEA RIDGE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A 78-year-old Bentonville man was arrested on Monday for defacing objects of public respect — a Class B felony — after allegedly placing multiple dead animals on a man’s grave in Pea Ridge.
An arrest warrant was issued for Joseph A. Stroud after police say he did more than $2500 in damages to a former neighbor’s headstone by staining it with the blood of dead animals.
According to a probable cause report filed in the Circuit Court of Benton County, a woman named Shannon Nobles contacted police in late July after she and her family began finding dead animals on the grave of her grandfather, Fred Allen McKinney, two months prior.
“At first, they thought it was just a coincidence and thought maybe the animals were consuming the fake floral and dying. When they began finding more dead animals, they realized it wasn’t just a coincidence, someone was placing the dead animals there purposefully,” the report states.
Nobles said they removed approximately 16 dead animals from the grave since the incidents began. One animal, which had been draped over the monument to their grandfather, stained the headstone brown.
With permission of cemetery management, the family set up game cameras and captured several images of a subject “walking up to the headstone with a dead animal in hand, place the dead animal on the headstone, and walk back to his vehicle.”
The vehicle identified in the video was a “gray, newer model” Dodge Journey.
Pea Ridge police say the subject in the images appeared to be elderly white male wearing denim overalls and blue, slip-on shoes with a white sole. He also appeared to be attempting to disguise himself by wearing a teal and white woman’s windbreaker jacket, sunglasses, and a woman’s wig.
As Nobles drove by the cemetery one day, she noticed a grey Dodge Journey leaving the graveyard and decided to follow it until the vehicle pulled in to a Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot.
When the driver got out, she immediately recognized him as 78-year-old Stroud, a former acquaintance of her grandparents.
“Joseph Stroud and Fred McKinney had farms next to each other with a shared boundary for several years,” according to the report.
Nobles told police that her grandfather and Stroud “never got along with each other and there was even a lawsuit between them she thought Joseph [Stroud] had lost.”
She said Stroud’s wife was buried not far from her grandfather in the same line of headstones.
According to the report, one day while Nobles was running, she witnessed Stroud leaving the cemetery in his Dodge Journey.
Nobles immediately went over to check her grandfather’s grave and discovered a dead possum lying on top of it, along with eight live babies inside a flower vase attached to the headstone.
Nobles called police to report the incident, and responding officers reviewed surveillance footage from Pea Ridge Middle School, which has a camera pointed toward the cemetery.
After cross-referencing surveillance footage from the school, the family’s game camera, and photos taken of Stroud in the Walmart Neighborhood Market parking lot, police determined the subject pictured placing the dead animals on the grave was wearing several of the same items of clothing as Stroud.
Police subsequently responded to Stroud’s address at 14479 Mariano Road and spotted a grey 2018 Dodge Journey while walking up to the house. According to the report, an officer looked into the back window of the Journey and spotted a bath towel spread out with red stains “which appeared to be blood.”
Officers knocked on the door and told Stroud they were investigating a case in which he was named and asked if he could come to the police department for questioning.
“I have found through experience that most people would want to know and asked what this was about, which he did not. Joseph said ok, I can head that way right now,” the Pea Ridge officer’s report states.
Stroud denied any involvement.
“No I’m not going to tell you it was me because it wasn’t,” he allegedly told police.
The family was asked to receive an estimate for damages so police could determine the appropriate charges. The charge for ‘Defacing Objects of Public Respect’ is a Class A misdemeanor if the cost of repairing or replacing does not exceed $500. The charge becomes a felony if the costs exceed $500.
After the family consulted with a local funeral home director, they determined that it “would not be effective” to clean the headstone since the bloodstain had gone in beyond the surface.
A total headstone replacement, estimated at $2,529.45, was recommended.
Stroud was arrested and booked into the Benton County Jail on a Class B felony.
He has since been released.