Memorial to slain girl stolen
Placed in concrete, odds were pretty good that the four-foot wooden cross would stand for some time.
But Monday afternoon, two days after it was erected in memory of Krystal Steadman, the memorial was ripped out of the ground and taken.
“I’m shocked,” Sonya Klempner, the 26-year-old sister of Krystal. “I don’t know what’s going on anymore. Life is just crazy.”
The painted redwood cross was set in place Saturday about 15 feet behind a guard rail alongside U. S. Highway 50. The same area where Thomas Soria Jr. admitted to dropping the body of the 9-year-old the night she was murdered.
An older memorial, a cross surrounded by a mound of stuffed animals, was removed at the end of October because it was at the edge of a highway turn out where snowplows barrel through in winter.
After reading in the newspaper about the Steadman’s loss of the memorial, a member of the Reno Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club, Packer, who goes by his nickname when involved in club activities, decided to craft a new memorial. With wood and an engraved plaque donated by local businessmen, Packer spent five hours building the cross.
“I learned of it when a plow operator called up one of my buddies. I’m thoroughly upset,” he said. “It looks like someone just lifted it out before the cement set.”
Packer now plans to pour about a yard of concrete in the same spot to secure a cross cut from metal.
“It’s personal now, the cross is going to be there,” he said. “Not only is this a slap to little Krystal, but it’s a slap in the face to all of us.”
Packer spoke with a television news station and other media Tuesday and said he is looking for someone to donate the metal work necessary for the third memorial.
Scott Magruder, spokesman for Nevada Department of Transportation, called the Tahoe Daily Tribune Tuesday morning to report that the new cross was missing.
“We did not remove that cross,” he said. “We’re not sure what happened to it. A couple of maintenance crews that patrol on Highway 50 told me the cross that was installed for the little girl Krystal is no longer there. It was in a perfect location behind the guard rail.”
Carson City police investigating the incident are in the process of identifying who owns the property where the cross had been placed, Klempner said.
“I would hope that if someone in the community has some sort of an issue they they contact me and work it out instead of just taking the cross out again,” Klempner said. “It was such a relief to have it put back up and for it to be gone in 24 hours is just amazing.”
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. As part of his plea, Soria Jr. agreed to testify against his father, Thomas Soria Sr., who will be tried for Krystal’s murder in January. Douglas County district attorney’s are seeking the death penalty in the case.
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After a period of dry, warm weather, winter returns this week to Lake Tahoe.