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CBS2 Exclusive: Flower Shop Owner Charged In Connection With Cemetery Thefts Speaks Out

POMPTON PLAINS, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- Pictures from a cemetery in Morris County show what police say is a local florist stealing flowers.

CBS2's Dave Carlin spoke exclusively to the woman Friday.

Flowers, plants and keepsakes left by loved ones in the light of day at First Reformed Church Cemetery in Pompton Plains were disappearing overnight. That prompted Pequonnock police to set up a trap with cameras that caught photos of a woman taking fresh flowers and other items and loading them into a van.

Bronx cemetery thefts caught on video
Bronx cemetery thefts caught on video (Riverdale PD)

Investigators say that woman is 59-year-old Lynda Wingate, who owns a nearby flower shop.

"You're innocent until proven guilty," Wingate told Carlin outside the police station.

Wingate is charged with theft of movable property.

"My entire life doing the right thing, doing nothing but charity work," she said.

She insisted she is not guilty.

"That's as much as I want to say at this point," Wingate said.

Police Capt. Christopher DePuyt said he just wants the thefts to stop.

"It's not the crime of the century by any stretch, but it is preying on people who have suffered a loss," he said.

And investigators say the plot thickens, that Wingate used to work at the Riverdale Police Department, one town over, as a dispatcher. Police there were able to help identify her quickly, DePuyt said.

"Three officers in fact recognized her right away," DePuyt said.

Residents say taking things from gravesites is low down.

"It's just kind of bizarre," said Colette Lutter, of Bloomfield. "What's the mindset behind that?"

Wingate said things often disappear from cemeteries.

"I go through this at my mom's grave all the time," she said. "Anything we put on, they're gone."

Wingate will face a judge in the coming weeks.

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