3 charged with damaging Civil War grave in Southampton

By Linda McNatt
The Virginian-Pilot
© December 3, 2008


Three men have been arrested in the desecration last summer of a Civil War soldier’s grave , a county sheriff said Wednesday.

Kyle Sinclair Burks, 21, of Drewryville, Aaron Richard Howard, 20, of Courtland, and Justin Thomas Rainey, 23, of Franklin, have been charged with attempted grand larceny and violation of a sepulcher, both felonies, said Robert Morris, spokesman for the Southampton County Sheriff’s Department.

The grave, on the edge of Franklin, is maintained by the Urquhart-Gillette Camp, Sons of Confederate Veterans. The damage was discovered by one of the members on an early morning last June.

Vandals had dug a 4 by 3 foot hole that was four feet deep into the earth near the head of the grave, law enforcement officials said. A brick barrier built around the casket prevented vandals from entering the space where Civil War Maj. Joseph Ezra Gillette was entombed in November 1863.

Locals said then they believe vandals may have been searching for Civil War artifacts, known to bring high prices on antiques markets.

There was a $2,000 reward for solving the crime, including $1,000 from the Sons of Confederate Veterans . But Morris said that the arrests were made because of “tips and good investigating.” None of the reward was handed out, he said.

Gillette, a Southampton native, was a regimental commander in the 13th Virginia Cavalry. When he was injured in a battle near Culpeper in 1863 and doctors recommended amputating his legs, Gillette got on his horse and rode home.

He died there and was buried in the Franklin cemetery.

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