Florida mom pleads for return of headstone stolen from infant daughter’s grave

National News

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — A Florida mother says an angel statue stolen from her infant daughter’s gravesite was more than just a statue — it was a link to her baby girl.

“It gained so much more of a meaning, you know, when you go there and you cry over the statue. I would kiss it goodbye. It just became so much more than just a statue,” said Lauren Carpenter, who lives in Winter Haven.

Carpenter’s daughter Aaliyah died from complications of cystic fibrosis in 2013. She wasn’t yet 4 months old.

“Me and my whole family know that we can talk to her and she’s always with us, but it was just our safe place to go and just be with her. I’d go out there and just sit and talk to her,” she said.

Courtesy Lauren Carpenter

She was shocked to learn the angel statue had been taken from Lakeland Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens.

“First, I thought it was a joke,” she admitted.

But when the facts became clear, she called police.

“I can’t imagine why anyone would take anything from a sacred place such as a gravesite. It’s missing now. We’re hoping that if someone did take it, they will do the right thing and return it,” said Robin Tillett, with the Lakeland Police Department.

It’s believed the 3-foot-tall statue was taken sometime between April 25 and May 1.

“I don’t have any questions, nothing like that. Me and my family just want it returned so we can bring it home and just have that so no one ever can take it from us again,” said Carpenter.

Polk Sheriff Charities is partnering with Lakeland Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens to replace the monument at no cost to the family.

“My family and I are beyond speechless and grateful for the outpouring of love and support we have received throughout the last few days. We have been blown away by the overwhelming amount of support we have received from not only from the Polk County Sheriffs and Lakeland Police Department but the support we have received from our community and beyond,” said Carpenter. “This by far surpasses anything we ever could have imagined, and we will forever be thankful!”

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