MUSKEGON, Mich. -- LaJoy Frierson and her husband have gone through a Mother's Day and a Father's Day without their oldest child. Now, a theft at her daughter's gravesite has opened old wounds, Frierson says.
She's hoping someone returns the vase. The Friersons often take time to visit their oldest daughter's gravesite at Muskegon's Oakwood Cemetery.
"My daughter is Asia Frierson. She passed away 15 months ago," Frierson said. She was eight- and-a-half."
Asia fought rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of tissue cancer. She died in December 2013 after a six-and-a-half-year battle. Asia left behind a younger brother and sister for whom the loss is still very hard.
The grieving parents were faced with the daunting task of burying a child and spent time picking out the perfect heart-shaped monument. It included an attached vase.
Frierson said her husband discovered it was gone last week.
“I just broke into tears,” she said.
“Her siblings come and would leave things in the vase for her," Frierson said. "Little things that she liked: fingernail polish, candy."
The family searched the cemetery but couldn't find the vase, which lead them to believe someone took it. The city-owned cemetery is not gated; people pass through it freely.
“For somebody to take that, it’s more than just a vase," Frierson said. "Of course, we could purchase another one, but it’s the fact that I feel like this is Asia’s vase. It belongs to her."
Frierson posted about the theft on Facebook and heard from other people with similar experiences.
Muskegon's Public Works Director Mohammed Alshatel said vandalism has affected the cemetery before, but it hasn't been a major issue lately.
“First of all, if I may begin by expressing my sincere condolences and apology for the parent of that child," Alshatel said. "It’s difficult as is to lose a child, much less to have idiots vandalize such a sanctuary."
Alshatel said his department has requested that police increase patrols in the past. Security cameras are not an option, Alshatel said, as trees and acreage would pose a problem. “You're talking about acres and acres of land, and for us to institute camera system, it would take a massive undertaking and would be quite a bit costly."
Even if a fence were constructed, he said people with ill-intent will still find a way to do wrong.
Alshatel pleaded, "Please, please, please respect the sanctity of those grave sites.”
Frierson described the daughter she lost as "resilient."
"Through all her sickness she kept a smile, ya know, and she was just such a positive person.”
It's that positivity Frierson and her family are holding onto, and they're hoping someone knows something and comes forward with her daughter's vase. They only want the vase returned to the gravesite.
If you know anything about this, call 231-72-CRIME. You can remain anonymous.