The day before Easter of this year, an Ohio woman was caught on camera stealing a stuffed yellow duck from a grave. She casually looked around and bent down to swipe the plush animal, ignoring the possibility of being seen. As she walked away from the baby’s grave clutching her treasure, her conscience did nothing to stop her actions as she seemed unaware of being caught on a hidden camera. A quiet cemetery in rural Ohio was invaded in broad daylight.
Over the years since little Hayden “Tank” Cole Sheridan was laid to rest, his parents have regularly visited his grave with decorations and loving tributes. The 14 month old passed away in 2007 and was buried in the Mansfield Memorial Park Cemetery in Ohio. Over the same amount of time, items have disappeared from his gravesite, leaving his parents and police looking for answers. Toys, flowers and solar night lights have been stolen from his final resting place with disrespect and greediness. The small village of Ontario, about 65 miles north of Columbus, had a local bandit or several on their hands until they set up hidden cameras.
Holidays and birthdays are never the same especially after losing a child, so Scott and Jaclyn Sheridan routinely brought decorations and toys to the gravesite to remember their little son. They started noticing items disappearing a few years ago in the cemetery and contacted the local police department.
The Ontario police set up cameras to try and capture the unwelcome intruders, but none were caught until recently. According to surveillance footage placed at the cemetery, shortly after the Sheridans placed an Easter toy on Hayden’s grave, a woman wearing sunglasses was caught on camera in the middle of a cemetery theft. She took the yellow stuffed duck and simply walked away.
The police department promptly placed the video on their Facebook page and asked citizens to help identify the woman. Immediately tips came pouring in with some likely suspects. Since the area is small and made up of mostly people who know each other, the woman’s identity was not hard to figure out.
In the meantime, the culprit must have seen the police video that was taken at the cemetery and posted on social media. She may have realized she was being watched and her crime was no longer a secret.
Who knows what the woman’s motives for taking the yellow stuffed duck animal from the grave were. Maybe she planned to give it to someone or sell it, but to disrespect a baby’s grave was cold and heartless. It is reported that the toy was found later near the cemetery, as if the thief wanted to discard the telltale evidence. It also is not known if she has been the same person stealing from the grave all along.
Sadly, many others have reported thefts, not just in Mansfield Memorial Park Cemetery, but in other cemeteries across the country. Some people just help themselves to items that are left by cemetery visitors in memoriam to loved ones. The Sheridans and many like them only want someone to be held accountable their wrong doings and for the thefts to stop.
After a few days of social media and news coverage, 54 year old Frieda Kay Shade turned herself in. She claims she was only taking the stuffed animal so a loose dog in the cemetery would not destroy it. She was charged with petty theft by the local police department, but will forever have the label and stigma of the cemetery thief. For something she could have purchased at a thrift store or local department store, she chose to steal from a baby’s grave. Luckily she was caught on camera and will most likely not repeat her crime in a cemetery, or anywhere else.
By: Roanne FitzGibbon
Mansfield News Journal