Most people agree there's nothing worse for parents than the loss of a child, no matter how old.
But the grief endured by Chris and Sandy Kinkelaar, of rural Effingham, has been compounded by the theft of memorial items at the site where their son, Jesse, was involved in a fatal ATV wreck this past summer.
The Kinkelaars believe somebody removed the items early Saturday morning. An Effingham County sheriff's deputy reported seeing the memorial intact at about 1 a.m. that day.
But by the time a nearby resident passed the memorial site on 2000th Avenue northwest of Effingham, everything was gone.
"It was picked clean," said Chris. "We have our suspicions, but we can't say."
Chris said the culprit might have been someone upset with one of the surviving family members. But he said that's no excuse.
"If somebody's mad at us, take it out on us," he said.
"What makes it worse is that the holidays are coming up," mom Sandy added. "It's so disrespectful. It's no different than somebody going to the cemetery and defacing his headstone."
The memorial was centered around a wooden cross with Jesse's name and his dates of birth and death. Other items stolen from the site include a solar light, name plaque, concrete deer, pumpkin, candles, flower arrangements and two American flags.
The Kinkelaars are offering a $700 reward for information leading to the return of the stolen items. Chris said the family first offered a $250 reward, using Facebook to get out the word. Pledges from social media users, however, have enabled the family to increase the reward.
The Kinkelaars have been looking for the items themselves.
"We've been driving around looking in ditches and over the edge of bridges," Sandy said.
Chris believes the items may still turn up.
"I believe this is all going to be found on a dirt road somewhere," he said. "It's out there somewhere."
Older sister Jennifer said the incident has been upsetting, to say the least.
"I have been really hurt by it," she said. "It's very disrespectful to friends and family. I'm really still in shock, because I can't believe someone would do that."
The family has already put up another cross topped with bright-colored balloons to make the memorial site more visible.
Those with information on the stolen items are encouraged to call the Kinkelaars at 217-254-5389.
- Local News
Area prosecutors not enforcing gun law
Area state's attorneys say they tend not to prosecute people who violate the state's concealed carry law — if they aren't otherwise breaking the law. "We normally have not prosecuted concealed carry cases as long as the person is not acting like a je
- Race to raise money for victims to come through area Local runners have the opportunity to participate in a nationwide fundraiser this weekend as One Run for Boston races through Effingham County and surrounding communities. The nonstop transcontinental relay is raising money for the victims of the Bos
- Unit 50 Community raises enough to reinstate sports TEUTOPOLIS — A number of Teutopolis Unit 50 athletes on both the high school and junior high levels will get a chance after all to compete in sport programs that had been cut this spring. Superintendent Bill Fritcher said at Monday's Unit 50 board me
- Board holds off on radio issue Effingham County Board members would like a little more time to discuss a massive purchase of radio equipment for the sheriff's department — a purchase that would reportedly solve the department's lingering interoperability issues. The board voted un
Judge not to reappoint longtime public defender
Longtime Effingham County Public Defender Lupita Thompson has been told she will lose her job after 16 years.
- Teen to attend Air Force Academy Jeff Keitel knew during his early teen years what he wanted to do with his life. "Not many kids start thinking about college in the seventh grade," said the recent Effingham High School graduate. But Keitel, the son of Kal and Renee Keitel, didn't wa
- Effingham County Official looking to expand Drug Court program Now that Effingham County Drug Court has been operating for several years, Effingham County probation officials are seeking to expand the program to include mentally ill and military veteran offenders. Chief Probation Officer Cheryl Meyers told an Ef
- Old Western star to appear in Effingham A television star from days of yore will appear in Effingham next month. Effingham County Sheriff John Monnet told a County Board committee Thursday that James Drury, who starred in "The Virginian," will appear at a July 13 shooting event at the Spor
- Work progresses on museum Effingham County Cultural Center & Museum Association volunteers have been working hard on the inside of the museum, which formerly housed the Effingham County Courthouse. While there's still plenty of work to be done inside the museum, ECCCMA Presid
- Memories of Mason MASON — The little town of Mason has changed a lot since Jerry Eident was a little boy in the late 1950s. It's changed even more since Hubert Irey Gibson was growing up 100 years ago. Eident, writing as J.D. Eident, used an essay by "Grandpa Gibson"
- More Local News Headlines
- Area prosecutors not enforcing gun law