Theft of child’s memorial riles classmates

Memo to whoever stole a $1,400 bronze memorial statue dedicated to a little girl from the very schoolyard where she and her pals once played: Even a fifth-grader can spot a fool.

Some of the 10-year-olds at Alexander II Magnet School who were friends of Tori Heard, a second-grader who died at age 7 in an October 2006 car crash, can’t see why anyone would have ripped off Tori’s statue.

“I mean, the plaque is right there. They must have known that she had passed away or something because of the sign,” Elizabeth O’Dell, who was in Tori’s class the year she died, said Thursday. “If they needed money that bad, they had to be a dropout.”

The statue, about 3 feet tall of a ponytailed girl in a green dress, arms flying and legs stepping as if traipsing through the school’s rock-lined herb garden of mint and rosemary, was likely yanked off its base sometime last weekend.

Besides a metal marker that reads, “In memory of Tori, who loved to play, laugh, talk, and dress up!” all that remains is a sandaled right foot atop a stone mount after the memorial was wrenched loose, snapped off at the ankle.

Schoolchildren raised money to buy the statue, which stood beyond a locked gate in a fenced-in learning garden near a koi pond, just outside the schoolhouse at the corner of College and Oglethorpe streets.

Another girl who’d been a second-grade classmate of Tori’s, Kellie White, said, “It makes me angry and sad at the same time. We did all that fundraising in memory of her, and then somebody comes and takes it. We loved Tori and we wanted to have something as a memory.”

The theft comes within a couple of weeks of the three-year anniversary of Tori’s death.

“It would be bad anytime, but the timing couldn’t be worse,” Tori’s mother, Kelli Heard, said. “We’d just like to have it back, to reattach it. ... It depicted (Tori) so well.”

School officials say a surveillance camera may have captured images of the theft. For now, they are calling scrap yards, asking their proprietors to keep an eye out for someone trying to sell the statue.

Tori’s pal, Elizabeth O’Dell, put it best: “Don’t buy a statue that has one foot missing.”

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.