Sunday, August 8, 2004

Mother says man desecrated son's memorial



The (Louisville) Courier-Journal

LOUISVILLE - A woman has filed a criminal complaint accusing a man of desecrating the roadside memorial at the site where her son died in a motorcycle crash.

The complaint, filed Thursday by Teresa Muniz, accuses Charles McMullen of felony theft, misdemeanor theft and desecrating an object.

Muniz was burying her 18-year-old son, Nick, in Colorado when she got a call that the mementos and flowers placed at the Louisville intersection were gone.

"It broke my heart. I felt like someone was desecrating my son's memorial, like they were dishonoring him," Muniz said Friday.

In an interview with The Courier-Journal, McMullen acknowledged taking the items and throwing them in the trash. But he said it wasn't wrong, and that a roadside isn't a proper place for a memorial.

After family and friends moved the memorial farther back in a yard, he didn't touch anything, he said.

"The roadside is the public right-of-way; it's not for personal use," said McMullen, who lives nearby.

"Of course it's a memorial to her, but do you want a bunch of graveyard flowers left in front of your house? That's what I'm asking."

Nick Muniz was pronounced dead at the intersection June 25. Later that night, his friends began taking teddy bears, notes, balloons and flowers to the crash scene.

Teresa Muniz said family and friends had permission from the homeowner to place the items outside the house.

When she filed the complaint, she told authorities someone had seen McMullen take items from her son's memorial, and that they took down his license plate number. Friends found some of the items in a trash bin.

The criminal complaint accuses McMullen of taking more than $300 of personal property from the memorial on July 2. It also accuses him of taking more items, including teddy bears, Beanie Babies, flowers and candles, eight days later.

She said she did not call police.

The city has a policy on roadside memorials, said Jim Adkins, public works director.

"We try to be as respectful as we can and understand people need to grieve the way they need to grieve," he said. "But if it took the form of something obstructing the right-of-way and causes difficulty in some way, we would have to address the issue."

In most cases, he said, that's not a problem.

McMullen, however, said the display can be a hazard.

"What happens to everybody who drives there and the stuff catches your eye watching it and you're not watching the roadway?" McMullen said. "Here someone else will have an accident, and what are we going to have, three more memorials?"




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