BOCA RATON, FLA. (WSVN) - Charges have been dropped against a couple accused of stealing several items from a memorial for the victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies originally charged 37-year-old Michael Kennedy and 40-year-old Kara O’Neil with one count of disfiguring a tomb or monument back in March.
“It’s hard to imagine that somebody would steal a memento of such loss,” said Jeff Schwartz, president of the Parkland Historical Society.
However, the State Attorney’s Office has since decided that they cannot prosecute because of the language used in the charge. The memorial was neither a monument nor a tomb.
“The language in that statute doesn’t, according to the State Attorney’s Office, have an impact on these kinds of memorials,” said Parkland Commissioner Ken Cutler, “and so, as a result of that, they had to drop the charges. It is my intent to move forward in the future and hopefully craft some law to change that.”
The stolen items were taken to Florida Atlantic University where they will be held, catalogued and archived.
7News cameras captured a man in Boca Raton taking out bags filled with the recovered mementos from a car trunk.
“This was in the evidence locker for BSO,” said a man as he held a framed document.
“I’m just glad that we could get them back so that we could protect and preserve them,” said Cutler.
An FAU archivist will begin the process of sorting out the items this summer.
“They’re being cleaned, photographed, digitally archived and put back into the boxes but with tag numbers so we know where each and every item is, where you have access to each and every item,” said Schwartz.
These items, which include pinwheels, stuffed animals and trophies, join hundreds of other bags of items that were transported to the facility in March.
“This is a part of the of the historical record for what has happened. We don’t want anything to slip through the cracks. We want to be able to have all of these items in the same place,” said Todd DeAngelis, a spokesperson for the City of Parkland. “Florida Atlantic University has been so gracious in terms of helping us store the items, processing them, keeping them in the right climate conditions, so we’re very grateful for them as well.”
As for any future plans for these mementos, DeAngelis said the city wants to eventually make them available for public display.
“There will likely be some kind of memorial. What that will be, we simply don’t know now,” he said. “We have talked with people from Sandy Hook, and they have yet to put up a memorial. They’re suggesting that waiting makes a whole lot of sense.”
FAU is storing the items at no cost to the City of Parkland. They are being stored in a climate controlled space on the fifth floor of the library.
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