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story.lead_photo.caption A Eureka Springs cemetery where Confederate flags have been disappearing is shown in this photo provided by Mark Christ.

Confederate flags were disappearing from graves in Eureka Springs Cemetery.

About 50 rebel flags vanished in October, said Koltin Massie, 19, who has been decorating veterans' graves in Carroll County cemeteries for the past two years.

Wooden poles holding the 18-by-24-inch flags were broken off at the metal base, Massie said. Some of the flags were found in a trash can. Others were just gone.

"This is the first time I've had anybody steal them," said Massie, who is a member of Arkansas Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Massie said he spends about $3 for each flag.

On Oct. 22, Massie stopped by the cemetery after taking a chemistry test at North Arkansas College in Harrison, where he is a student.

"I watched a lady get out of her vehicle ... and break the flag off," Massie said.

He got out of his vehicle to talk to the woman.

The cemetery sexton, Gloria Stevens, called the police.

Gallery: Confederate flags removed from Arkansas cemetery

An officer arrived and "advised" Julie Ann Norrell, then 64, of Eureka Springs, not to remove flags from plots other than her own, according to an incident report. She wasn't arrested or charged with a crime.

In an email, Norrell said she owns a plot in the cemetery.

"I find the presence of Confederate flags troubling," she said.

Norrell said she assumed the rebel flags were put out to make a statement, not to honor Civil War soldiers.

"I take no issue with those who want to recognize fallen soldiers," she said in an email. "Of course, I'm not going to remove any more flags."

Eureka Springs Police Chief Brian Young said officers weren't in a position to make an arrest because they didn't have a victim. He said Massie "donated" the flags by placing them on graves.

"It's a gift," Young said. "Once you give that away, the other person becomes the owner. ... Really the victim is the family. The person who is in the grave can't file the charges."

Neither can the cemetery sexton because she doesn't own the property, Young said.

Stevens said the cemetery has about 79 Confederate graves and more than 200 graves of Union soldiers. The cemetery didn't exist at the time of the Civil War.

That was Norrell's argument, Young said.

"Her argument was they didn't die in the war; they died after the war," he said.

Either way, Stevens said she thought it was wrong for anyone to remove flags from a veteran's grave.

"My family fought for the Union, but it's still wrong what she did," Stevens said.

Massie said he cleans and decorates all veteran graves in the cemetery, regardless of what war they fought in or which side they fought on. He puts U.S. flags on many graves, including those of Union soldiers. Confederate soldiers get rebel flags.

Massie said he also decorates veterans' graves at Walden Cemetery, Beaver Cemetery, Rockhouse Cemetery and a few cemeteries in the Berryville area.

Massie said the flags usually last six months to a year before they need to be replaced. He plans to replace the flags that were taken.

"I will continue to honor those soldiers and others for as long as I'm living because they made the ultimate sacrifice that should not be forgotten," Massie wrote on his Facebook page.

With more than 3,000 burials, Eureka Springs Cemetery is the final resting place of several well-known Eurekans, including U.S. Rep. Claude Albert Fuller, evangelist William Evander Penn, muralist H. Louis Freund and lawyer Festus Orestes Butt.

Metro on 11/01/2018

Print Headline: Mystery of missing rebel flags in Arkansas graveyard solved

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