updated 3/22/2004 3:02:57 PM ET 2004-03-22T20:02:57

More than $20,000 in jewelry was taken from a corpse in a mausoleum, and five people were arrested on theft charges, police said.

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The five were arrested Friday night, less than a day after a police officer found the coffin of Peggy Pierson Cornett, who died of cancer in 1999 at age 64, had been broken into at Shepherd’s Cemetery in Booneville.

As a last request, Cornett had asked that she be wearing her jewelry when she was interred, said Wade Rasner, an attorney for the family.

“Everybody pretty much knew she always wore a lot of jewelry,” Owsley County Sheriff Kelly Shouse said.

Police arrested Bob Terry, 31; his wife, Jacqueline Smith, 26; David Reed, 45; Clarence Terry, 42; and Ena Faye Merrill, 48. All are relatives except Reed, Shouse said.

It appears some of the suspects had heard about Cornett’s jewelry at another funeral, the sheriff said.

Among the items taken were a Rolex watch, earrings and a bracelet. There was an attempt to pawn the jewelry in Clark County, Rasner said.

Merrill was charged with receiving stolen property, the other four with abuse of a corpse. All five also face theft charges. Each charge carries a prison sentence ranging from one to 10 years in prison.

The five all remained in custody Monday.

Cornett’s family members, including her husband, are coping as best they can, Rasner said, adding that they are pleased arrests were made so quickly.

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