FLORENCE, Alabama Jan 21 2014- The garden of Brandie Grimes Emerson’s Muscle Shoals home was filled with quaint knickknacks – stone cherubs and bunnies, Auburn and Alabama collectibles, silk flowers and wind chimes.

Inside the home she shares with her husband on Sunset Valley Road, floral arrangements and lanterns decorated tables and countertops.

According to Florence Police Det. Brad Holmes, Emerson, 39, placed the items in her yard and around her home, then took photos so she could sell them from her Facebook page and through two online auction sites. “That’s how she displayed them for sale,” Holmes said.

Following Emerson’s arrest Thursday on a felony charge of stealing items from the grave of a 21-year-old wreck victim in a Florence cemetery, authorities wondered: Did all the items Emerson placed for sale come from area cemeteries?

As of Friday morning, Holmes and investigators were able to connect numerous items to 21 victims in three states and they are still sifting through photos of the 250 items Emerson has sold since September.

In addition to connecting Emerson to items stolen from the grave of Brandy Nicole Murphy, who was a senior at the University of Alabama when she was killed in a car wreck in Atlanta in 2006, Holmes said stolen items were identified by 12 victims in Lauderdale County, six in Colbert County, two from the Corinth, Miss., area, and one from Lincoln County, Tenn. However, cemetery thefts also have been reported in Lawrence and Limestone counties and Holmes said he is hoping to connect some of the items to those thefts and close those cases.

Emerson was charged with felony theft of property and taken to Lauderdale County Detention Center. Additional charges are likely, Holmes said. Emerson was arrested after police received tips from residents linking her to the crimes. Emerson’s husband, who lives in the home, has not been charged, Holmes said.

“Investigators traveled to Grimes-Emerson’s house (Thursday) morning and recovered a number of the items stolen in the theft,” Holmes said.

He declined to describe the home and surroundings because the investigation is ongoing but photos police found on Emerson’s Facebook page show items on a dining room table, on counters, porches and in the yard. Holmes said the photos of potentially stolen goods were taken at the Sunset Valley Road home.

In addition to selling items online, Emerson sold them at flea markets in Lawrence and Limestone counties.

“We know that she had been visiting a number of different flea markets and using these online sites to do this,” Holmes said. “People have been coming to the station and saying, ‘We purchased this. If it’s stolen, we don’t want it on our loved ones’ grave.’”

Stolen items include statues, benches, solar lights, plastic flower arrangements and decorative flags, as well as live flower sprays from recent burials, Holmes said.

Police ask that anyone who thinks he may have unwittingly purchased stolen items involved in this case to photograph the items and email the pictures to
Holmes at bholmes@florenceal.org. Holmes said although he realizes this is an emotional case, police ask that people do not bring items believed to be stolen to the police department. They are dealing with numerous items and multiple cemeteries in at least four police jurisdictions and police need to determine how to proceed with storage of stolen items.

In the meantime, Holmes hopes to be able to use photos for identification of items.

Brandy Nicole Murphy is buried in Tri-Cities Memorial Gardens in Lauderdale County and items were recovered from additional graves there, Holmes said.

Also, items were recovered from Greenview Cemetery in Lauderdale County and Oakwood Cemetery in Tuscumbia.

Many items likely came from rural or church cemeteries, some of which may not have names, he said.

Oakwood Cemetery, with its oldest marker dated 1821, is a historical burial ground in Tuscumbia and has graves from soldiers in every American war, beginning with the American Revolution and including graves of about 100 unknown Confederate soldiers. Historic figures buried there include U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin (1921-2005); Arthur Henley Keller (1836-1896), Helen Keller’s father, Confederate officer; U.S. Rep. Edward Berton Almon (1860-1933); U.S. Rep. Archibald Hill Carmichael (1864-1947); Confederate Brig. Gen. James Deshler (1833-1863), killed by exploding artillery shell, Battle of Chickamauga.

Holmes said investigators will continue to gather evidence to present to a Lauderdale County grand jury during a February session. The grand jury will determine additional charges against Emerson, he said.

“The victims in this case have already had to deal with the emotional ramifications of their loved ones passing away,” he said. “To be revictimized by coming to that grave site and finding items stolen is tragic. It’s an emotionally charged situation for victims.

“While we may not be able to get all the items back, we hope to offer some comfort and closure by allowing them to know what happened to those items and to know the person responsible will have to answer for the thefts in court,” he said.

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