When the family of a North Carolina boy who died of cancer last year visited the child’s grave site, they found only a plywood slab and mud.
The grave marker of Jake Leatherman, 5, who passed away after succumbing to leukemia, was repossessed, WCNC-TV reported. It now sits at the Southeastern Monument Company warehouse.
“Hindsight says that was the wrong thing to have done,” said Reverend J.C. Shoaf, the owner of the monument company.
Shoaf said that he and the family have been embroiled in a financial battle for months.
Amanda Foster WBTV spoke with both the parents of the 5-year-old and the company who made the marker. Hear from both of them, on WBTV News at 11pm.
According to the Charlotte Observer, citing Shoaf’s company, the boy’s marker has since been restored at no expense to the family.
But Shoaf said that the family first ordered a smaller marker, but the next day, they wanted an upgrade. According to WCNC, which saw the invoice, the family still owes Shoaf more than $900 for the upgrade.
The balance was never paid, he said, adding that he’s sent several messages, made phone calls, and sent mail to them.
“You’ve got to pay your bills, and a company can’t keep on giving away markers, giving away markers, and pay your bills and stay in business,” he said.
Shoaf added that he wished he never took the marker away now because the story has since sparked national headlines.
“It’s been torment,” Shoaf told the broadcaster. “We’ve been threatened on the telephone, harassing phone calls.”
“I lost a child too, I know what it is to lose a child,” he added.
— Molly Grantham WBTV (@MollyGrantham) November 10, 2016
Last year, Jake made national headlines when NASCAR drivers—including Joey Logano, Matt DiBenedetto, and Ryan Ellis—went to his funeral. The boy reportedly was a fan of the sport.
“He repossessed it, like it was a car,” his mom Crystal Leatherman said Monday, Oct. 16 of the missing grave marker. “This is my lowest point.”
“Disbelief? Anger? I don’t know how to put this into words,” Wayne Leatherman added. “I had a hard time going to the grave anyway, but now there’s a hole there. It’s just wrong.”
Regarding the grave marker upgrade, Wayne Leatherman added that his family was never told about any additional costs by the firm.
Shoaf issued a statement to WBTV about restoring the marker.
“We waive all expenses from the Leatherman family,” he told WBTV. “If there are charges to be paid to the cemetery to have this reinstalled, we will pay all expenses for doing that. … In hindsight, it was a big mistake to have the cemetery remove it, we see it now, but we do offer the family our condolence and forgiveness … we hope they forgive us. It has hurt everybody involved, and we hope they have it in their heart to forgive us for it. Our prayers are with the family, and we hope we can be friends down the road.”