By Nathan Hardin
ROCKWELL — Katherine Boone knelt beside her daughter’s grave Friday afternoon, wiping tears from her eyes and dust from a small photo on the bronze marker.
A Leyland cypress Christmas tree she planted beside the Brookhill Memorial Gardens grave was taken just before New Year’s, Boone said.
It’s the second tree stolen from her daughter’s gravesite in three years, Boone said. The theft has caused her to relive her daughter’s 2003 death.
“It’s like taking her away from us again,” she said. “It hurts. I’m tired of it.”
Kassidy Mackenzie Paige Carpenter died from the flu Dec. 28, 2003. Boone and her ex-husband had taken their daughter to Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast a day earlier.
The hospital was very busy, she said, and they were given a prescription to treat their daughter’s flu-like symptoms.
Doctors said they would check in with her on Monday. Kassidy Carpenter died Sunday morning.
The missing tree was decorated in blue ornaments, she said, the color of her daughter’s birthstone.
It also had several ornaments from the Christmas before the 4-year-old’s death.
“They just picked the whole thing up and took it,” she said. “Some of those ornaments I’ve had since she died.”
After her daughter’s death, Boone moved out of the home and in with her parents.
The 32-year-old now lives in Richmond County with her three children and boyfriend, Lee Criscoe.
Boone said the live tree was Criscoe’s idea.
“It was actually his idea and then to plant them when we’re done with them,” Boone said. “We’re planting them in a memorial garden for her, because he’s trying to be involved.”
Two years ago, an artificial tree was taken from the grave, she said.
That’s when Criscoe decided that planting them, along with a steel rod that runs about 7 inches into the ground, might deter people from taking them.
“We just started putting live trees on it last year,” Criscoe said.
Boone said she has seen other things disappear from the grave over the last few years.
“About six months after she was buried, it was summertime. Flowers and figurines have been taken,” she said.
The grave sits near the treeline at the back of the cemetery.
Rockwell Police, she said, told her officers would keep an eye on suspicious activity in the graveyard.
She said she later filled out a report at the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
The report was not available Friday afternoon.
June Isaman, who works at the cemetery located at 8625 U.S. 52, said caretakers often find decorations that have been scattered across the grounds by heavy winds. But they always store them in a shed on the property.
The shed had several dozen Christmas trees and other decorations stored inside on Friday.
Neither the artificial tree nor the Leyland cypress taken from Kassidy’s gravesite was in the shelter.
Isaman said employees searched for Boone’s tree around the edge of the grounds, but they didn’t find it. She said there was only one theft reported last year.
“If we found it, we would gladly give it back to the family,” Isaman said.
But Boone is holding out hope that whoever took her daughter’s tree will bring it back.
“It’s all I have left of her,” she said. “I can’t take care of her anymore. It’s our way of saying, ‘I love you. I miss you.’ ”
Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246 or email@example.com.
By Nathan Hardin