PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — An odd mystery has been solved for a family in Port St. Lucie, grieving the death of a loved one killed in a motorcycle crash.
A roadside memorial marker put up for him had gone missing multiple times, prompting police to put up cameras to see who was repeatedly tearing it down.
Along Gatlin Boulevard near Brighton Street, a roadside memorial honors Blake Juntunen, who was killed in a motorcycle crash in May.
The pictures and mementos here are all custom-picked and sentimental, making it all the more special for his mother, Pam Madison, to drive by.
So imagine Madison's shock when she drove by it over the summer and found the memorial missing.
"I don’t recollect exactly how long it was, but it wasn’t long that I drove by and I noticed it wasn’t there," Madison said. "I kind of thought, like, what on Earth is going on?"
Madison said she also found one of their handmade crosses in a dumpster.
The city replaced the sign, but then hours later, it was gone again. That’s when Madison got police involved.
"This was battering us emotionally, so to speak, and it was completely devastating to my daughter," Madison said.
"That’s why I thought best to put the game cameras out," said Officer Tom Nichols with the Port St. Lucie Police Department.
In the video, police said you can see nearby property owner, Edenir Lopes, placing a black bag over the memorial and all of the personal items, then come back and pull it away with his truck.
Police said the family’s personal items were broken and smashed into pieces.
Lopes told police he didn’t want the sign on what he thought was his property, but police told him this is actually the city's property.
"A reasonable person would have said, I think this is on my property, maybe I should call the city of Port St. Lucie to find out what my rights are. But he chose to take matters into his own hands by tearing them down several times," Nichols said.
WPTV spoke to Lopes on the phone who said he would be willing to pay the family back for items he damaged and said he didn’t know the story behind the sign.
It’s now been replaced a fourth time on the other side of the road, no longer adjacent to Lopes’ lot. He’s been charged with five misdemeanors of criminal mischief.
"I can’t even tell you how assuring it is to know that I'm not going to drive by and see an empty space again," Madison said.