There’s been a disturbing development in the Seminole Heights neighborhood where four murders took place recently.
Relatives say several of the victims' memorials are being vandalized.
Casamir Naiboa, the father of Seminole Heights murder victim Anthony Naiboa, says in some ways it feels like his family is being victimized again. This time by the heartless vandals who, on an almost daily basis he says, deface Anthony’s roadside marker.
Casamir Naiboa says they come to visit his son's memorial and find plants and candles stolen, figurines crushed, and balloons shredded.
The Naiboa memorial itself sits just outside the home belonging to relatives of Benjamin Mitchell, another Seminole Heights murder victim.
“It’s a grieving process for anybody,” said Mitchell's cousin Cydne Steele.
Steele says she’s only seen Naiboa's memorial vandalized, but that someone actually stole a pair of headphones they'd left on her cousin's Benjamin's memorial. There’s now a new pair wrapped around the 15th Street bust stop signpost where he was killed.
“The headphones were a significant piece, because he loved music. He was into music,” said Steele. “That was all he did. He had headphones on – blasting at all times. So, it did mess us up in a way, because that was just something that made us kind of feel like that's him.”
Relatives say it's possible now that an arrest has been made, some might want to move forward and don’t care to see the markers in their neighborhood anymore.
But neighbors say that’s not the way they feel at all. That's also not how people we spoke with feel.
“Why would anybody want to do anything like that. I just don't understand it,” asked Raymon Maldonado.
“I think that it keeps us together,” added Lasharne Conyers.
And neighbor Leila Baynes even shamed whoever is vandalizing the markers.
“Are you just that depraved that you don't care?” Baynes asked, “That you're not just hurting somebody's family, but that you are hurting us as a community.
Neighbors say they'd also like to see that mural at Osborne Avenue and Nebraska with all four victims' images preserved. There’s been no decision made yet on what will become of it.
While the vandalism is despicable and clearly hurtful, cops may only be able to do so much about the objects being left on public sidewalks.
Markers on private property and murals on people’s walls could be another matter. Regardless, police encourage anyone who witnesses such vandalism to call them.
“If we saw somebody doing anything that was inappropriate, we would certainly step in,” said Tampa Police Spokesman Steve Hegarty.
And to anyone who thinks it’s so hard to look at the memorials every day, relatives of the victims say try to imagine how they feel. And leave them alone.
“Even if you are tired of seeing it, just go by it like it doesn't exist,” said Steele. “There's no point in messing it up.”
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