Would you want a makeshift memorial in the planting strip in front of your house? That's the question a Charlotte woman is asking, and the reason she said she removed a memorial.
"I do not want it in front of my house" said Devondia Peterson. "Every time I open my door, I come out here and it looks like a funeral parlor - like a funeral home. Do you want it in front of your house?"
Elaine Elston didn't think there would be a problem.
Elston said she placed the memorial on Allegheny Street, near the corner of Pebblebrook Drive last week. In February, Elston's fiance, Carrington 'Jake' Ware, was killed by a hit and run driver near that intersection.
Police are still looking for the driver.
"The fact that he's gone this long and no one has attempted to turn themselves in or say anything" said Elston. "I wanted to put the memorial up to remind people of him and to also say we're not going to rest."
Elston said, as a courtesy, she and her friend informed the homeowner who lives closest to the spot where they wanted to put the makeshift memorial. And, she said she thought the piece of land - between the sidewalk and the road - was city property.
They placed a white cross with blue flowers, two jars with candles, and pots of flowers.
Elston said Tuesday morning when she opened her front door - the memorial was in a bag in front of her door.
"It was like desecrating a grave to me. It was like desecrating a memorial - like saying he's not worth all this attention or he doesn't matter" said Elston.
But Devondia Peterson, the same homeowner with whom Elston said she and a friend had a conversation, sees it differently.
"I am responsible for this" Peterson told Elston, in front of WBTV cameras. "And I pay taxes for this out here."
Peterson said " I take care of this property. I keep it up. The city does not come out here and cut the grass. I keep it up. The city doesn't keep it up. Now if the city wants to come out and keep it up and they want to make memorials in neighborhoods - I don't see any memorials in any neighborhoods in front of anybody houses."
WBTV checked with Charlotte's Department of Transportation.
A spokesperson said "usually the planting strip is part of the right-of-way, owned and maintained by City or State. The City is sensitive to public displays such as makeshift memorials and usually doesn't disturb them. Of course, if a safety hazard occurred, the City would take the appropriate action to clear the right of way."
Peterson believes her property line extends to the edge of the road.
Wednesday morning, Ware's sister contacted WBTV to say "on behalf of the family we are in support of the neighbor's request not to have a make shift memorial outside of her front yard. We do understand and appreciate the efforts made on behalf of our brother by Elaine Elston but feel that this is something that would cause disputes among neighbors."
Dawn Hines said "Jake was a peaceful person and I can say this is not what he would want. Please believe that we have not and will never forget this tragedy. We choose to remember him in our hearts and through family stories. Though no one has come forward, we believe and trust that justice will prevail. We again thank Elaine for her efforts of keeping everyone aware of Jake's wrongful death. We also understand that Ms. Peterson has every right to not want to see this constant reminder of grief outside of her home."
Peterson said she was not happy with the fact that Elston wants the makeshift memorial to remain in front of the house indefinitely.
"Then she had the audacity to say she wants to leave it out here until they find out who killed him. I'm sorry that could take 6 months. It could take a year. It could take 2 years. It's not going to be out here."
Peterson said she will take the matter to city officials.
"Now if we have to go to the city - she and I - that's what we'll do."
Elston said she already checked, and a worker from the city's Department of Transportation told her the piece of land was city property.
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