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Burglars break into Wareham tomb

By The Mercury

Burglars over the weekend broke into the largest mausoleum in Manhattan, disturbing the coffin of a member of one of the city’s most prominent families, but leaving authorities and family members baffled about what they were up to. It was the second break-in at that mausoleum in a little over a year.

Somebody cut the handles off the doors on the west side of the Wareham family mausoleum in the middle of Sunset Cemetery and then got into the crypt of William Wareham, who died in 1923. Riley County police say the burglary occurred between 10:50 p.m. Friday and 1 p.m. Sunday. Jim Wareham, the grandson of William Wareham; and Don Younkin — who looks after the mausoleum for the Wareham family — said they believe it occurred Saturday night.

The burglars pried off the marble facing of the crypt of William Wareham and damaged the copper casing around the casket itself, police spokesman Matt Droge said. The wooden casket handles were broken, and it appeared that the burglars tried to move and open the copper casket. They were not able to do so.

Droge put the damage estimate at $10,000.

Jim Wareham said initially that he suspected the motive was theft of copper inside the crypt, but the burglars left copper lying on the floor of the mausoleum. He also speculated that they could have wanted to get at jewelry that may have been buried with the body. But that was a guess, and he and Younkin remain unsure what the burglars were really after.

This is the second burglary at the mausoleum in a little over a year. The previous one happened April 28-29, 2012; in that incident, burglars got inside but evidently didn’t steal anything, and damages were estimated at $4,000. Younkin and Jim Wareham thought it appeared that the burglars in that incident realized that they didn’t have the tools they needed to steal whatever it was they were after.

Jim Wareham, who now lives in Overland Park, said the body of his grandfather was not disturbed, a fact he termed “a relief.”

The mausoleum was built in the 1920s, according to Manhattan cemetery sexton Mike Mohler. It’s the largest one in town, he said. The main entrance road to the cemetery is diverted around the mausoleum.

William Wareham was the older brother of H.P. Wareham, long regarded as the greatest entrepreneur in the city’s history; H.P. is also buried in the mausoleum. According to a 2005 story in the Mercury by Lowell Jack, “Throughout his many business ventures Harry P. Wareham’s brother William stayed mainly in the background and was credited with being the glue that held it all together. He served as the Wareham ventures accountant. Maybe he wasn’t in the background all the time because one news item said that William Wareham gave a skating exhibition at the roller skating rink that was ‘superior to anything anyone has ever witnessed.’”

The Wareham family remains in business in Manhattan, predominantly through real estate holdings, including the prominent Wareham Hotel building downtown.

The break-in was not the only trouble at the mausoleum; bushes and grass were burned on the property surrounding it on Friday night. Younkin said he found a rocket-type firework lying on the property Saturday morning, and he assumed that was the cause of the fire. He and Jim Wareham said they believe the fire to be unrelated to the burglary. Younkin said he noticed the damage to the door when he was checking on the property on Sunday.

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