Residents come forward to honor slain girl's memory

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Generosity and support have poured out of Lake Tahoe's south shore and nearby communities to help build a third and improved memorial honoring 9-year-old Krystal Steadman who was murdered in March.

This after someone stole the painted redwood cross placed alongside Highway 50 West on Saturday.

"I'm just kind of overwhelmed," said Krystal's sister Sonya Klempner, 26. "It's such a warm feeling that the community is reaching out especially during the Thanksgiving holiday. (My mother) is very appreciative and thankful that everyone is showing their support."

The cross was placed in concrete on Saturday, but by Monday afternoon employees of the Nevada Department of Transportation discovered the cross had been yanked from the wet cement mix and taken.

Packer, a member of the Reno Chapter of Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club, crafted the cross from donated materials. Now he is organizing the construction of a yet another cross.

Krystal's first memorial was removed in October to make way for snowplows along the mountain road.

"I've got the cross being built with metalwork," Packer said. "A guy in Mound House is doing it out of railroad rails. I'm going to build a wooden cross around that. So it's not going anywhere."

Seven people contacted the Tahoe Daily Tribune and the Nevada Appeal on Wednesday offering free metalwork and construction supplies. Packer decided to team up with John Cobrae to get the project done.

"My daughter's the same age as Krystal. My daughter was in her class. Being a father of a young daughter it struck a very hard chord with me," said Cobrae, a 40-year-old who owns Tamarack Construction. "I saw the stuffed animals and when I read about someone taking the cross it upset me. I'm in the position that I can help and want to help. I can donate the rebar, the forms, I can even donate the concrete."

The two men plan to meet Sunday and begin to map out the new memorial. They hope to construct it on the morning of Dec. 2 with a ceremony to dedicate it around noon.

Packer, who goes by his nickname when involved in club activities, said he also contacted the man who engraved and donated a plaque placed in the center of the stolen cross so another one can be made. At this point, Packer said he needs to raise about $150 to pay for a new plaque.

"It's going to be a different type of thing," he said. "The inscription will be metal inset into concrete. So if someone decided to take the wood and metal cross we'll still have the inscription."

The memorial install Saturday was set in place 15 feet behind the guardrail alongside Highway 50 about two miles west of Carson City in the same area where Krystal's body was found the day after her disappearance. Thomas Soria Jr. admitted dropping her body the after she was murdered.

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 attorneys are seeking the death penalty in the case.

Anyone who wants to donate money for Krystal's new plaque should contact Packer at (775) 883-1903.


To donate money for Krystal's plaque, contact Packer at 883-1903.


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