Wednesday, November 25, 2015 • 04:20

Grave vandalism at Valley Center Cemetery

Collin Barnes' grave one year ago. photo by Contributed images.
August 27, 2014
Ellen Barnes and Barry Stepan are distraught that their son Collin's grave has been vandalized at the Valley Center Cemetery located off Miller Road.

According to Barnes, this is the third or fourth incident in which her son's grave has had items removed, displaced, or stolen. More recently on July 4, items were stolen from graves close to the location of Collin's grave. Two rows in particular in the new section of the cemetery appear to be the targeted area.

On Memorial Day, the cemetery groundskeeper found items belonging on several graves thrown in a nearby dumpster. Some of the articles were stolen or removed from Collin's grave and put on surrounding graves in the cemetery.

"Some things were moved around and other items were put in the dumpster," Barnes said. "We found some of Collins' things and put them back on his grave." The articles are mementos or valuables that hold a particular sentiment for the loved ones in remembrance of their lost son. A redwood planter box held some of the cherished keepsakes that were stolen. A particularly meaningful belonging had one of Collin's favorite sayings inscribed on it that read: "In Jesus' name for Jesus' fame" which was a favorite way he ended prayers. Other missing items included a bracelet made for him and birch crosses that Stepan carved especially for his son's grave.

Ellen and Barry lost their son September 13, 2012 when at the age of 21 he collapsed from fatal heat exhaustion after hiking up Flat Top Mountain. Collin was well recognized in the community and an active member of Valley Center Ridgeview Church where he served as a youth pastor. He was an avid baseball player at Valley Center High School and after graduating he attended Palomar Community College while working as a preschool teacher at Ridgeview Church.

Collin was a respected role model and made a remarkable impact on everyone he met. Loved by his family, friends, and peers, Collin made a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to have been acquainted with him.

"Collin was a forgiving person, but it's so hard for us who are left here on earth to deal with our loved ones' graves being vandalized and special personal items being taken," said Barnes. "It's another wound we try to mend."

Last month, Barnes appeared before the VC Cemetery Board expressing her concern with the repeated incidences. The proposal to install cameras at the cemetery was voted on and approved. Presently, there are signs stating the cemetery is in the process of installing cameras for security purposes.

"Maybe we can find out who is doing this," Barnes said. "People at the graveyard have a clue of who it could be."

Although there is a suspect, no one has been definitely identified as the person causing the destruction. Even though the case has been assigned to a detective, there have been no findings or information on who is responsible for the acts of vandalism. Because the vandal hasn't been caught, Barnes encourages anyone who has any information about the vandalism to contact her at or by calling (760) 201-7401.

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