Thieves Vandalize Towering Tomb of President James A. Garfield

Thieves Vandalize Towering Tomb of President James A. Garfield

Cleveland Heights, Ohio, police have reported that vandals broke into the tomb of assassinated President James A. Garfield, damaged windows, stole antique items on display there, and left trash, litter – and perhaps DNA evidence – behind.

The break-in occurred sometime early Wednesday, May 7, authorities say.

The thieves broke into the towering tomb located in Lakeview Cemetery apparently by breaking windows to get in. Along with the general vandalism, the thieves also stole commemorative spoons that were on display inside.

“Police collected cigarette butts, a T-shirt and an empty bottle of Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey outside the building, reports say. Police also found a fingerprint on the glass case,” reported.

Investigators also found fingerprints inside the tomb and plan to try to get DNA samples.

Garfield’s casket is the only presidential casket on full display and open to the public. It is housed in a towering Romanesque, Gothic, and Byzantine-styled building that is open to the public from April to November each year.

The 20th President, a former congressman from Ohio, and Civil War general, Garfield was assassinated in New Jersey by a jilted office-seeker named Charles Guiteau who stalked the President for weeks before shooting him with a .44 Webley Bulldog revolver. Garfield died on September 19, 1881.

Guiteau’s trial became a nationwide spectacle, with the accused exhibiting bizarre behavior in the courtroom. As a defense, Guiteau tried to make the claim that he was legally insane, but prosecutors refused to go along with the claim insisting that he was just trying to avoid the death penalty.

The President died as much from medical malpractice as from the shooting. This became so well known that the assassin tried to use the fact in his defense, saying, “The doctors killed Garfield, I just shot him.”

Guiteau was ultimately convicted and executed on June 30, 1882, almost a year after the shooting.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at