A surveillance video set up at Mansfield Memorial Park Cemetery in Ontario, Ohio depicts a woman removing a large stuffed yellow toy duck placed at the headstone of a child’s grave. After seeing the video on the Ontario Police Department’s Facebook page, several people identified 54-year-old Frieda Kay Shade from Mansfield, Ohio as the woman stealing the toy from the grave of Hayden "Tank" Cole Sheridan over this past Easter weekend.
USA Today reported on April 25 that Shade turned herself in to authorities, saying that she took the toy duck to protect it from a dog running loose at the cemetery. Police in Ontario charged Shade with one count of misdemeanor theft, a charge to which she intends to plead not guilty, according to her attorney. Shade is scheduled to appear in an Ontario courtroom to face that theft charge on May 8.
Shade’s lawyer is not denying the visual evidence depicted on the surveillance video, but contends that there are “mitigating circumstances,” as to why Shade took the stuffed duck from the grave of the child who died back in 2007 when he was only 14 months old. Charles Robinson, Shade’s attorney, said that "We all have sympathy for a child who has expired. We know how hard that is, and we sympathize with that."
Shade is no stranger to the Ohio court system and currently has two active cases in Richland County Common Pleas Court “in reference to state taxes.” Shade has also been in court for passing bad checks and for “unauthorized use of property and evictions.”
Scott Sheridan, the father of the child buried at Mansfield Memorial, said that many mementos, including solar lights, flowers, wreaths and other toys, have been stolen from his son’s grave over the years, prompting police in Ontario to set up their surveillance video system. Police felt that Hayden’s grave was specifically targeted by thieves - as other graves in the immediate area have been left undisturbed.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Shade’s charge of petty theft carries a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if she’s found guilty. Police can’t tie Shade to any of the previous thefts from Hayden’s grave.
Hayden’s parents said that they plan continuing to leave memorials at their son’s grave. The dad said that it’s “only right.”
"We should be able to decorate his resting spot."
You can see the video from the Ontario Police Department, here. And for more on the story, see the video accompanying this article.