ONTARIO, Ohio — Police have charged a woman with stealing items from a baby's gravesite at Mansfield Memorial Park.
Detective Jon Sigler said Frieda Kay Shade, 54, of Mansfield, Ohio, turned herself in Wednesday, and that she explained to authorities that she took a stuffed toy animal from the grave of Hayden "Tank" Cole Sheridan because a dog was running loose in the area and she didn't want it to destroy the toy.
Sigler and Shade's attorney, Charles Robinson, said Shade will plead not guilty to one count of theft, a first-degree misdemeanor. Her court date is May 8 in Ontario.
Sigler said several people came forward and identified Shade as the suspect after a video camera the police had set up near the gravesite that captured a woman taking the toy was shared on social media, where it received several thousand hits.
"The video is there, we're not denying that. But video evidence does not show what a person is thinking. There are mitigating circumstances," Robinson said, without going into detail.
"We all have sympathy for a child who has expired. We know how hard that is, and we sympathize with that."
According to Mansfield Municipal Court records, Shade has made several appearances in court for criminal and civil charges including passing bad checks, unauthorized use of property and evictions. Shade has two open cases in Richland County Common Pleas Court Ohio in reference to state taxes.
"I have no idea yet how I feel about (the arrest). I'm kind of in shock and have had no chance to think about it," said Scott Sheridan, father of Hayden, who died in 2007.
Sheridan and his wife believe the grave has been targeted by thieves over the years; stolen items have included flowers, wreaths and toy tanks. That in turn led the Ontario Police Department to set up a surveillance camera, a kind typically used by hunters, near the gravesite in July 2012.
"They've definitely experienced enough theft over the years to make them feel that way," Sigler said of the Sheridans. "In 2012, they noticed some solar lights were gone when all the graves around had theirs."
Sigler said several people contacted the Ontario Police Department identifying Shade as the woman in the video after it was posted on Facebook.
"I don't know if we would have gotten this case solved without that. The scenario is bizarre. It's really weird," he said. But Sigler also credited the value of surveillance video to his department.
"We recognized its utility long ago and use it whenever possible. It has motion detection, night vision. It really serves a purpose," he said.
Jaclyn Sheridan said her family went to Hayden's grave on Easter and saw the stuffed toy duck was gone.
"We should be able to decorate his resting spot and leave things on his grave during the time we're allowed," she said.
Jaclyn said the video footage has shown people showing their respect at his grave, too. She said she decorates for holidays at his grave. Her son was 14 months old when he died.
Scott Sheridan said the family will continue leaving items on his son's grave.
"Oh, yeah," he said. "That way we feel we're including him even though he's passed away. We feel this is the one spot where we can do that."