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Memorial will honor murdered children

by F.T. Norton

A memorial to children murdered in Nevada could find a place on the Supreme Court grounds if it’s approved by the state Buildings and Grounds Division.

The memorial, suggested by Carson City resident Tonja Brown, would be a tree, with a bench and a plaque.

Brown said the recent controversy over a memorial cross to a slain South Lake Tahoe girl prompted her to contact Gov. Kenny Guinn’s office in November. She then went to the Buildings and Grounds Department, which maintains the grounds surrounding the Legislature and Supreme Court.

“I see this tree as a viable solution to roadway crosses as in the case of Krystal Steadman. These children should be remembered,” Brown said.

Krystal was 9 years old when she was abducted from the Lake Park Apartments on Kahle Drive in Stateline.

The following morning her body was found down an embankment on Highway 50 West near Spooner Summit. Her throat had been slashed and she had been sexually assaulted by a father and son who lived at the apartment complex.

The son, Thomas Soria Jr. pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life in prison. The father, Thomas Soria Sr., committed suicide one day into his death-penalty trial.

A cross on the side of the road marked the nearby spot where Krystal’s body was discovered. After repeated vandalism, volunteers constructed an “indestructible” 8-foot steel cross.

In September, through an attorney, an unnamed Reno man threatened to sue the Department of Transportation, which maintains the state right-of-way, saying the cross violated the separation of church and state and was a distraction to motorists.

It was taken down in December by the state and is being kept by a caretaker until the department drafts a policy on roadside memorials.

Brown said she has presented Buildings and Grounds with an inscription she hopes to have engraved on a bronze plaque and a description of a bench she would like to have placed around the tree.

On Monday, she and a groundskeeper found a spot near the Supreme Court and decided on purchasing a red maple tree.

Brown said she has contacted the Secretary of State’s Office for help in setting up a nonprofit account into which she hopes the community will donate the estimated $8,000 needed for the memorial.

“I’m sure there would be hundreds, if not thousands, of Nevada residents who would be willing to sponsor this very worthy cause,” she said.

Cindy Edwards, property manager for the Buildings and Grounds Division, said last week Brown’s proposal is being considered but no plans have been finalized.

Brown said she hopes to have the memorial in place by spring.

YOU CAN HELP

To donate money to the memorial tree or for information, Tonja Brown may be contacted at e-mail address nvmemorialfund@aol.com

Contact F.T. Norton at ftnorton@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1213.