Woman tied to ‘Gravesite Grinch' case claims innocence

Deputies: Jenni Hudkins stole Christmas decorations from cemetery graves

By Corley Peel - Reporter
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Bradford County: Mugshots of Jenni Hudkins (left) and Janice Crawford (right)

BRADFORD COUNTY, Fla. - Two arrests have been made in connection with a series of thefts from cemeteries, officials with the Bradford County Sheriff’s Office said Monday night.

Deputies captured 34-year-old Jenni Hudkins, the woman they referred to as the “Gravesite Grinch,” on Christmas morning. Hudkins is accused of stealing hundreds of dollars’ worth of Christmas decorations and memorabilia from gravesites.

Deputies also arrested Janice Crawford on Saturday on a charge of dealing in stolen property.

As members of the Wheeler family put their son Connor’s grave back together, they’re relieved to know that the woman accused of being the "Gravesite Grinch" is now behind bars.

“If she’s from this town, she should have known better, because she messed with the wrong people, she messed with the wrong town, the wrong law enforcement office -- stupid girl,” Kim Wheeler said.

The "Gravesite Grinch" thefts have been the talk of the town for the past week. One affected relative said learning of the arrests is the best news she’s heard this Christmas.

Crawford, who is related to the Wheeler family, was accused of buying the stolen property from Hudkins for her thrift store. But she said she had no idea the items were stolen.

Deputies said Hudkins stole hundreds of dollars in Christmas decorations and memorabilia from three different gravesites this month. Investigators found Hudkins hiding in a wooded area in Lawtey.

“I said, ‘Jenni, where did this stuff come from?’” Crawford said. “She never told me it came from the graveyard.”

When asked where exactly she said the items originated, Crawford answered: “She said it was hers and her mom’s and she had some of it in storage.”

Still, deputies said, Crawford failed to call authorities after learning the items were stolen.

Detectives claim a source told them Crawford had been hiding the stolen items at her house.

But Crawford told News4Jax that’s not true. 

“I was scared,” Crawford said. “I was literally scared out of my mind."

She said she feels terrible for what happened.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry,” Crawford said. “I wish I could undo that little bit of buying that I had done."

Although the Wheelers are glad to know their son’s grave is safe, they want to make sure the so-called “Gravesite Grinch” pays the price for stealing from the dead.

Hudkins’ first appearance in court will be Tuesday.

The Wheeler family said they plan on attending.

Hudkins is accused of stealing from gravesites in Crosby Lake, Conner and Brown's cemeteries, investigators said. A warrant had been issued for her arrest late last week.

"This is all you have left of them and you want to decorate it and all you have is this -- for people to come see and people rob you," Wheeler said. "You feel like you just lose them again. It tears you up."

Hudkins' bond has been set at $100,000 while Crawford's was set at $25,000.

Crawford bailed out of the Bradford County Jail.

At last check, detectives said some of the stolen items have been returned to their owners, but they added that they don't believe Hudkins was working alone, and more arrests could be made.

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