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GRAVE ROBBERS GET DEAL IN COURT

The two teens will spend 50 hours each cleaning up Spring Hill Cemetery.

The two Hernando County teens who broke into a crypt and stole a skull one night in June will be spending a lot more time at the cemetery - in the daytime.

Under a plea deal Thursday, Nick Macchione and Seth McCarty will spend at least 50 hours each cleaning up the Spring Hill Cemetery.

They also will have to post warnings on Internet Web sites that discuss the spirits that supposedly haunt the historic African-American cemetery west of Brooksville. Their message: The graveyard is private, and no one should trespass there.

"You're going to tell them that if they go there, they're going to get into trouble," Circuit Judge Jack Springstead told Macchione.

The resolution was what Alyce Walker, the cemetery's caretaker, had agreed to with the State Attorney's Office. "All I want is for the cemetery to get some security and to be treated with respect," she said.

With the deal, Macchione, 17, and McCarty, 19, avoid incarceration. The charge, a second-degree felony, carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Adjudication was withheld for McCarty. Macchione, who has a juvenile criminal history, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor criminal mischief.

"This is a good opportunity for them to keep their records clean," said prosecutor Erin Daly.

The two grave robbers will pay a total of $500 in restitution to have the skull returned to its grave and the broken concrete crypt repaired. Macchione will pay off additional court costs through more community service hours at the graveyard, under Ms. Walker's supervision.

For Ms. Walker, that means she finally will get some help clearing out the thick weeds and underbrush choking the fence line around the 3.8-acre site off Fort Dade Avenue.

Outside the courtroom, Ms. Walker spoke with Macchione's mother and grandmother, who thanked her for helping the teen avoid prison and a felony conviction on his record.

"Thank you for your kindness," Karen Macchione told her. "We hope some good will come out of this."

"Oh, it will," Ms. Walker said.

Greg Hamilton can be reached at hamilton@sptimes.com or at (352) 754-6113.

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