Pennsylvania man accused of stealing, burning wreaths from Maryland cemetery to 'save the earth'

Witnesses called 911 after seeing the suspect standing by a fire near the cemetery

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Maryland authorities on Friday arrested a Pennsylvania man accused of stealing and burning wreaths at a Hagerstown cemetery.

Witnesses called 911 after seeing Peter J. Custer, 43, standing by a fire as they drove by Cedar Hill Memorial Park just after 1 a.m., according to the Maryland State Fire Marshal.

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The Washington County Sheriff's Office and State Fire Marshal say Custer "referenced that he was trying to save the earth and that plastic wreaths were non-biodegradable."

Wreaths Across America at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery Volunteers placed nearly 30,000 wreaths today throughout the cemetery. (Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Wreaths Across America at Indiantown Gap National Cemetery Volunteers placed nearly 30,000 wreaths today throughout the cemetery. (Photo By MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images)

Custer is accused of taking the wreaths from several burial plots, placing them on an access road and setting them on fire, authorities said.

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"This desecration at Cedar Lawn Memorial Park is morally wrong. Disturbing final resting places is contemptible, criminal and will not be tolerated," State Fire Marshal Brian S. Geraci said in a Friday statement.

The 43-year-old was charged with malicious burning, malicious destruction of property and trespassing. He was taken into custody but later released "on his own recognizance after appearing before a District Court Commissioner," according to the fire marshal.