For the second time in less than two years, a memorial for a slain South Lake Tahoe girl has been targeted by vandals.
The memorial for 9-year-old Krystal Steadman, killed in March 2000, sits near the shoulder of the eastbound lane on Highway 50 three miles west of Carson City where her body was found.
Someone recently tried to chop down the 5-foot cross encased in concrete, apparently using a chain saw.
"I don't know what kind of person would do that. He'd have to be the lowest," said Gary, who helped build the memorial. He asked his last name not be used.
Gary, a Carson City resident, repaired the damaged memorial on Sunday accompanied by his wife, Jody.
He learned of the vandalism Saturday from Steve and Mary Boettcher. Steve Boettcher is pastor of Mountain View Church of God.
"I'd sure like to have the chance to educate in manners whoever did this," Gary said.
After an impromptu memorial on the highway's shoulder was removed by the Nevada Department of Transportation, Gary became involved and helped to place a second memorial.
That one, a wooden cross with a plaque, was stolen in November 2000. On the third try, Gary said, he went to great efforts to prevent anyone from taking it.
The third memorial is made of two welded train rails secured in more than a cubic yard of cement. A five-foot cross is attached to the outside of the rails and covered with about 10 layers of weather-resistant paint.
"I know they had to break their chain," he said, chuckling at the thought of the vandal hitting the rails with a saw. "I would love to have seen their faces when they hit that."
Gary said as long as he is able, it's his mission to maintain the site, now covered with stuffed animals, holiday decorations and cards.
"I'll do it out of respect for her memory and her father," he said.
He and Krystal's father, John Steadman, have stayed in touch since Steadman contacted him to thank him for creating the memorial.
"This is a desecration of this little girl's memory and of the cross of Jesus Christ and what it represents," said Steve Boettcher, who said he and his wife had stopped to visit the memorial on Saturday when he noticed the damage. "It's just a sad thing."
Thomas Soria Sr. and and his son, Thomas Jr., were charged with Krystal's murder. Soria Jr. entered a plea of guilty and is serving a life sentence without parole. His father committed suicide while in the Douglas County Jail, one day into his murder trial.