ONTARIO, Ohio (CNN/WJW) — A hidden camera at a cemetery in Ohio catches a thief stealing toys from a baby’s grave.
The heartbroken family says keepsakes they’ve placed on the grave have been going missing for years.
“We’re usually out at least twice a week,” said Jaclyn Sheridan. “During the holidays and stuff, it’s usually twice a day.”
Sheridan knows heartache.
“He was 14 months old, and he passed away in his crib during naptime,” said Sheridan, of her late infant son. “But he was also a micropremie. He weighed 1 pound 10 ounces at birth, along with his brother and sister. He’s a triplet.”
Hayden, died in 2007. He’s buried at Mansfield Memorial Park.
“About 2009 is when we started noticing things missing,” said Sheridan.
Adding headache to heartbreak, things just kept disappearing.
“His nickname was ‘Tank,’” said Sheridan. “His dad gave him that nickname when we left the NICU, and we put Army tanks down — toys — and his dad put a big one on there. That was taken.”
But the biggest shock came Easter weekend.
“Saturday morning around 9:30, I came and dropped a couple things off for him,” said Sheridan. “And when we came back Sunday morning to lay our cross out, it was gone.”
But unbeknownst to the person who stole the stuffed animal, Ontario police had set up a surveillance camera that caught the suspect in the act.
“She walks up to the gravesite,” said Ontario Police Det. John Sigler. “She immediately reaches down and picks up the yellow stuffed duck, shakes off the dirt, and walks right away — without any hesitation.”
Ontario police set up the camera just 15 feet away from little Hayden’s grave. And over the years, police say the camera captured multiple suspects take various items from the grave but never got a crystal-clear image — until now.
“We watched this little guy fight for 16 weeks to live,” said Sheridan. “And then when we did lose him, it was shock and devastation. But then to have this happen over and over and over again, it’s like peeling the wound deeper. He was very much loved; he meant everything to us.”
And while police try to identify the woman, the Sheridans will still decorate little Hayden’s grave.
“His sister realizes something is going on,” said Sheridan. “She’s 8, and she’s questioning why people are stealing off his grave. They take joy in helping us decorate his grave, so they are stealing from them, too.”
In the meantime, police say the stuffed ducky was recovered and that someone decided to return it by throwing it out a window onto the road near the cemetery.
“Stealing is as low as it gets, in my opinion,” said Sheridan. “But when you come to the graveyard and steal off a baby’s grave. It’s decorated. You know there’s a family that loves this child. I just don’t understand it, don’t understand why.”
According to NBC News, Frieda Kay Shade, 54, of Mansfield, Ohio, plans to plead not guilty to the misdemeanor charge, though she admits to taking the animal left on Hayden’s burial plot for Easter, her lawyer said.
“Our sympathy goes out to the deceased child and the family,” said the attorney, Charles Robinson. “[The video] shows physically what a person does. It does not show what is going on her mind. What we need to know is what did she do and why and that will be determined later.”
Ontario police say Shade told investigators she saw a loose dog at the cemetery and feared it would destroy the duck. However, Det. Jon Sigler says no dog was seen on the video.