RAHWAY — The caretaker of a historic New Jersey cemetery was accused of dumping trash into open grave sites.

Rahway police said they were tipped off that Eric Rickes, 78, was discarding the garbage into at least one recently dug grave after being told to clean up the Rahway Cemetery. Rickes was charged with desecration of a place of burial. Police are checking other recent sites.

"I am absolutely outraged by the possibility that these activities may have taken place," Rahway Mayor Raymond Giacobbe said in a statement on the police department's Facebook page. "When we entrust the remains of our loved ones to a cemetery, there is an expectation that they will be treated with respect in perpetuity. If that has not happened here, it is completely unacceptable.

"I fully support law enforcement’s efforts to pursue these charges, see that appropriate penalties are meted out, and ensure that nothing along these lines ever happens again.”

The cemetery on St. George's Avenue  was created in 1724 and is on the property of the First Presbyterian Church.

It is the final resting spot for Abraham Clark, one of the five New Jersey representatives who signed the Declaration of Independence. Civil War soldiers, including members of the U.S. Colored Troops, also buried at Rahway.

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