A roadside memorial recognizing a young woman is stolen, seemingly for no reason.
That memorial is back but in pieces. The family still has questions including who would take it..and why.
A cross. Teddy bears. One candle.
That’s all that’s left of a memorial for Tayla Hill, Hill was killed in a car accident at the corner of Bay Pines road and Laurel Bay road in 2018.
Six months after it was put up, just last week, someone pulled the cross from the ground and stole the items that were under it. Taking the honor and the memories of Tayla.
It took a week and public outcry to get it back. Thursday her family went to the site to replace what they could, as they try to heal the wounds left behind by an insensitive thief and vandal.
“Disappointed, disrespected, frustrated.”
That’s how Ericka Rivers describes her feelings after seeing that someone stole her daughter’s memorial.
“I can’t even process it my mind,” said Ericka. “It means everything to me. It represents my daughter, and just how important is it to have something to come back and remember.”
More than a week ago someone pulled the cross from the ground, from the cement it was in, and took it.
“It was just ugly. And I don’t understand why they would go to that magnitude to take it,” said Ericka. “What are you going to do with it. and why? What did it mean to do you take it down?”
After a public outcry, it was brought back but in pieces.
“The wood at the crossing was broken from them tugging at it,” details Ericka. “And they threw all the items that people bought and added on it into a bag and most of it was broken.”
Ericka, her husband Harold and her friends and family came back to put whatever they could back. Fixing what was broken. Including their own hearts.
“It kind of reopened an unhealed wound,” said Ericka. “So it took us all the time to recollect our thoughts and get all of our cries and hurt out before we could say we are going to do another one, and we are going to do it better this time.”
Now the memorial is the same, but different. The handprints of Tayla’s own family and friends remain on that cross, as do the thoughts of a thief, a vandal putting his hands on what they feel is a sacred spot.
“I knew we had to do something even is it wasn’t as big we were going to put something back here,” said Ericka.
“You weren’t going to let them get to you?”
“No. And I wasn’t going to let my daughter not be recognized and remembered.”
Someone caught a glimpse of the perpetrator, but investigators didn’t have enough to go on. The Rivers’ hope that someone else could step up to help.
“I feel like if anyone knows who that person was, let somebody know. Call the police, Facebook me, Facebook my friends.anything. We just want justice and I just want to know why so I can have peace and closure.”
As for that person who broke memories and Ericka’s heart, she only has one thing to say.
“Take a thought before you do something, and how that affects other people and not just yourself.”
Ericka and Harold say they aren’t looking for justice or jail time but would like an apology from whoever is responsible.
They also hope their daughter’s memorial to remain tall and strong for years to come.