NewsTreasure CoastRegion St Lucie County


2 memorials vandalized in St. Lucie County in less than a week

In one of the cases, Port St. Lucie police say person urinated all over memorial for 3 young people killed in crash
Posted at 6:26 PM, Mar 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-22 19:49:58-04

ST. LUCIE COUNTY, Fla. — Law enforcement in St. Lucie County is looking into two memorials that were vandalized this week.

Port St. Lucie police arrested Nicholas Pense, 27, of Port St. Lucie. Officers said he vandalized a memorial on Veterans Memorial Parkway paying tribute to three young people, Leah Herman, 20, Draiden Frank, 16, and Jimmy Brown, 18, who were all killed in a car wreck this past weekend.

"I'm distraught. It's honestly disgusting and inhumane for a person to do that," Mike Sweeting, Draiden's brother-in-law, said.

According to the police report, Pense damaged a cross and flowers and kicked over candles, the broken shard of which still cover the sidewalk.

"He urinated and stomped on all the memorial sightings of everything that was out here," Sweeting said.

Mike Sweeting St Lucie County brother in law memorial vandalized 03222024
Mike Sweeting shares how he felt when he learned his brother-in-law's memorial was vandalized.

Police said Pense admitted to driving out to the display with the intention of vandalizing it but didn't give police a reason why. He told officers he "couldn't sleep" and kept "thinking about the memorial."

Police also said he came with a bottle full of his urine, and said they found wax on his shoe and pant leg that matched the candles broken.

"And I just want justice served," Sweeting said.

On the other side of the county, Susan Morris-Dowdy stood on the side of her son's memorial on Midway Road in Fort Pierce.

"There's a couple of Hess trucks, a replica of Blake's bike," Morris-Dowdy said. "Some of his favorite things."

Nicholas Pense of Port St Lucie 03222024
Nicholas Pense, 27 of Port St Lucie, arrested for vandalizing memorial in St. Lucie County.

Her son, Blake Morris-Dowdy, was killed at the age of 21 when a car hit him on his motorcycle. It happened eight months ago, just half a mile from his home.

"It just destroyed our family," Morris-Dowdy said. "He was definitely my angel, the best kid, the most gentle, kind person."

Yet days away from Blake's birthday, the first she and her daughter would have to celebrate without him, Morris-Dowdy noticed the helmet signed by each one of his friends that stood at the center of his tribute was missing.

“Very difficult for a mother," Morris-Dowdy said. "I was really shocked and sad. I just couldn’t believe somebody would take something so meaningful."

Morris-Dowdy filed a police report with the St Lucie County Sheriff's Office.

At this time, there's no known connection between the two cases, but both families said they feel the same pain.

Susan Morris-Dowdy son memorial vandalized 03222024
Susan Morris-Dowdy is in disbelief someone took a helmet signed by friends from her son's memorial.

"Tremendously, words can't even describe it," Sweeting said.

"It really hurts," Morris-Dowdy added. "You've lost your son and this is just another blow that, may seem insignificant to other people, is so important to my family and to Blake's friends."

Pense is charged with destroying or demolishing a memorial, a second-degree felony.

WPTV reached out to Pense but did not receive a response.

Morris-Dowdy is now offering a $500 reward to anyone who returns the helmet, no questions asked.

Family and friends of Draiden Frank have since launched a fundraiser page to help with funeral expenses.