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Part of a memorial for three Yorktown teens who died in a vehicle crash last October has gone missing.
And though it’s disheartening and morally improper for someone to take objects from a memorial site — according to police, it isn’t a crime.
Police haven’t received any official reports about the theft but York-Poquoson Sheriff J.D. Danny Diggs said even if they did, it’d be difficult to pursue charges for the alleged vandal as “technically, [roadside memorials] are not allowed,” he said.
“It’s on a right of way and many of those [roadside memorials] VDOT removes,” he said.
Wooden crosses stand erect at the site on Yorktown Road memorializing the three 16-year-old Tabb High students who crashed after the driver lost control of the vehicle, ran off the roadway, and struck a tree, causing the vehicle to overturn on its roof, according to the Virginia State Police.
The Tabb community went into mourning creating #TabbStrong symbols around the community and hundreds attended a candlelight vigil in the days following the crash.
Michael Arndt of TrueNorth Woodworking created the white crosses for the vehicle’s passengers, Conner Guido and Logan Koontz, but for the driver who’s family is Muslim, Arndt made a crescent moon for Naile Tairov, to stand beside them.
The woodwork were placed at the memorial site Sunday, and according to a social media post, Tairov’s crescent was gone by Monday.
“This is so disrespectful to the family and the man that worked very hard to make these. Our community should pray instead of doing mean things because you’re hurting,” Betty Smith said Monday in a social media post.
VDOT considers it unsafe to stop at the side of a roadway to setup, visit, or maintain a memorial, a spokeswoman for VDOT said in a previous interview. It’s also illegal to stop by the roadside in Virginia other than for emergencies or vehicle breakdowns.
“In the end, while we are sensitive to the needs of those wanting to honor the memory of their loved ones, this policy was put in place to keep our roadways safer for those they left behind and other motorists,” the spokeswoman said. “All in the hopes of avoiding any further tragedy at that location and reducing the need for the memorials in the first place.”
Additionally, when items are placed at a roadside memorial by unknown residents and in this case students, Diggs said there’s no “complaining witness as such or victim” to press charges on behalf of and no way of knowing what items are placed there.
“We don’t know what was there so therefore we don’t know what was taken,” he said. “And I would expect that those who had put stuff there are troubled by it being gone, they would put stuff there again.”
Arndt said he wouldn’t let whoever did this stop him from wanting to bring peace.
“Four or five hours spent to make a new one for the family is worth the effort if it helps them and the community to start healing,” he said.
WYDaily multimedia reporter Alexa Doiron contributed to this report.