Veterans plant memorial cross for 9-year-old Tahoe victim

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Inscription on memorial cross:

"In Loving Memory of my Sister

Krystal Dawn Steadman

August 25, 1990 - March 19, 2000"

A cross in memory of Krystal Steadman was planted Saturday along Highway 50 West, near where the body of the 9-year-old South Lake Tahoe girl was found in March.

The painted redwood cross with its metal plaque replaces an informal memorial of toys and flowers piled around a small cross set up by an Incline Village man. The cross and other items were removed in October because of Nevada Department of Transportation concerns it was a hazard.

Members of the Reno chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club and Legacy Motorcycle Club obtained donated material for the cross, built it and helped place it in cement Saturday several feet behind a highway guardrail.

Krystal's sister, Sonya Klempner, and her boyfriend Tracy Heer were invited to help place the cross.

"Tracy and I were going to replace the memorial ourselves, but it was so distressing and stressful for me to try to do this," Klempner said. "It's much nicer that someone wants to do it for us."

Once the cross was secured with cement, Klempner and Heer tied four pink helium balloons to the cross.

"It's just beautiful. Thank you so much," Klempner told the club members.

Though the cross, two miles west of Highway 395, is not as visible as the first memorial which was about 100 feet to the west, Klempner said she expects people may still bring items to leave in memory of her sister. She said some people recovered some of the items that had fallen down the slope from the first memorial.

"We did this because we understand very well what it's like to lose someone and what it's like to be forgotten by people," said Mud Flap, who uses only his club nickname during club activities. The vests of the veterans' motorcycle club members all bear patches saying that more than 58,000 servicemen and women died in the Vietnam war.

About eight club members with names like Misfire and Sparky stood silent with Klempner and Heer as Mud Flap read a prayer for Krystal.

Packer, a club member from Carson City, said he read about the removal of the first memorial in the newspaper last week and decided the club could help. He called Klempner to let her know the club would create and set up the cross. Then he contacted several Carson City businesses to help with the project.

"Kit at Copeland Lumber donated the redwood. The plaque was made by Joe Briggs at Ponderosa Stamp and Engraving," said Packer. "Then Dave and Rob at Sierra Display Fixtures let me use the facilities to build the cross."

Thomas Soria Sr. is scheduled for trial in January for Krystal's death. He is charged with kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder. In a hearing Monday, Douglas District Judge Dave Gamble will hear arguments on whether a computer file that describes assaulting and killing women can be used in the trial. Soria faces the death penalty.

Soria's son, Thomas Jr., previously pleaded guilty to kidnapping and murder in the case and was sentenced to life in prison. He has agreed to testify against his father.


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