Family angered by removal of memorial |

Family angered by removal of memorial

Lack of communication was the problem.

The Steadman family wanted to keep the mound of stuffed animals, figurines and other symbols of love that formed a memorial to Krystal, a 9-year-old South Shore girl murdered in March. But at the end of October each item was collected and taken to a dump.

The memorial, located a few feet from a guardrail on U. S. Highway 50 two miles west of U. S. Highway 395, is near the embankment where 19-year-old Thomas Soria Jr. admitted dropping Krystal’s body the night she was murdered.

“I was going to move (the memorial) myself,” said Sony Klempner, the 26-year-old sister of Krystal. “I took photos of the memorial so I could prepare a safe area where a snowplow wouldn’t disturb it. I drove to the airport to pick up a girlfriend and the entire thing was gone. I’ve been so emotional and upset about it because it was such a good deed in the beginning.”

The communication problem developed early on when Christopher Stevens, the head clerk at Raley’s in Incline Village, erected a cross for Krystal and maintained the memorial as it grew with time. But Stevens and the Steadmans never talked about the shrine dedicated to the 9-year-old and he never realized that the family wanted to save everything there.

Stevens said it took three nights to load all of the items into bags, a process he began after Nevada Department of Transportation contacted him and told him to move the shrine because it was a hazard and would become more of one during the winter.

“It wasn’t my stuff, but I felt obligated to do it,” Stevens said. “I didn’t have a phone number, no way of getting hold of the family. I didn’t think it was my place to bring it up. I really didn’t feel like I wanted to bring up a bad subject and make them upset. I didn’t know they had any interest. It didn’t hit me until a district attorney called here at work and said Sonya was upset.”

Klempner was upset because the shrine had become a positive place for her to visit, unlike the cemetery which is a very difficult place to go.

“I went there quite a bit,” she said. “I know teachers who used to take their whole classes out there. Now it’s gone and it’s literally been thrown away.

“She (Krystal’s mother) was pretty shocked because nobody had notified us, because we are listed. I feel responsible that it’s not there now.”

Klempner said she plans to put a new cross near the old shrine, but this time plans to put it 50 feet behind the guardrail. Stevens said he would do anything he could to help out with a new memorial because he as well as others miss the shrine.

“It was more temporary than something permanent,” Stevens said. “Maybe we can have a fund-raiser and set up something permanent … but really the ultimate decision is NDOT’s (Nevada Department of Transportation).”

Scott Magruder, spokesman for NDOT, said nothing is allowed in the right of way in the state, but the cross Klempner plans to put up a good deal off the road will probably be OK.

“We probably won’t disturb it as long as it’s off the road and away from the cars and plows,” he said. “If there really isn’t a safety issue we don’t have a problem.”

The original shrine was tolerated until snow started to fall.

“The plows come through there and that’s a place for people to pull off,” he said. “The last thing you want is for someone to hit a cross and have it become a projectile. This (shrine) was unique though. It was one of the largest ones I had ever seen.”

Krystal was kidnapped, raped and murdered March 19. Soria Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced in July to life in prison without parole for playing a key role in her murder. His father, Thomas Soria Sr., will be tried for Krystal’s murder in January. Douglas County district attorneys are seeking the death penalty in the case.

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