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Flower shop owner steals plants from graves in cemetery to sell in her store

By Mason White 4:47 PM May 2, 2017
Lynda Wingate
Lynda Wingate
By: William Martin

(Scroll down for video) The owner of a flower shop stole plants from a cemetery and sold them at her store, according to police in New Jersey.

Pequannock Township police said that they have arrested 59-year-old Lynda Wingate, after being accused of stealing numerous plants.

She has been charged with theft.

According to the criminal complaint, over the past several months, the Pequannock Township police department has received multiple reports of flowers, plants and other items that have been stolen from graves at the First Reformed Church Cemetery in Pompton Plains.

Det. Kevin Ricciardi, assisted by other members of the detective bureau, initiated an investigation, which included replacing two of the missing plants and installing surveillance cameras in the area.

Two days later, the property managers of the cemetery contacted detectives to report that the plants were missing.

Detectives viewed the still photos from the surveillance cameras, and were able to observe a woman approach the location in a silver minivan, exit the vehicle and remove the plants.

In discussing the case with members of the Riverdale Police Department, their officers were able to positively identify the suspect from video footage as a former police dispatcher and current flower shop owner from their town.

As a result of the evidence and positive identification, Wingate was arrested.

Area residents were relieved to hear about the arrest.

Arlene Cooper said: “I have had flowers and small items taken from my son’s grave, it has caused many tears.”

Jeff Hoyak said: “I want to thank and congratulate the Pequannock police detectives for their fine work and this arrest. I have had about 30 flowers, mostly potted or hanging basket geraniums and mums, stolen from my parents’ grave in this cemetery over the past several years, including a cone of artificial spring flowers that was swiped on Palm Sunday.

“It is discouraging, frustrating and disappointing to think that someone would commit such an unconscionable act. I hope this arrest serves as a deterrent to possible future thefts. I look forward to putting live flowers at the grave for Mother’s Day, and hopefully this time they’ll stay there.”

Anthony Saul said: “Very happy to hear this! I stopped buying flowers because they would go missing!”

Sue Grzybowski said: “This has been going on in that cemetery for years. If she is the one responsible for all the thefts, she has made tons of cash. I have left beautiful potted flower in that cemetery only to find them gone the next day. I also noticed little notes left by others, asking people not to take their flowers. This has been happening here for at least ten years.”