2017-07-14 18:09:05 UTC
For more than two months, the roadside memorial to Ciara Smith
filled with pictures, a ghost bike and other mementos marked
the Redondo Beach intersection where the 13-year-old died in a
Until someone decided to dismantle it.
Ciaras stepfather, Jon Rumble, said he drove by the memorial at
Knob Hill Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway last Thursday and
discovered the ghost bike and pictures of Ciara had been trashed.
I also noticed that someone was closing a gate to the trash
containers at the far end of the parking lot, Rumble wrote on
the Nextdoor website. I asked this young (person) if she knew
anything about the bike and pictures and she indicated that she
had removed all of these items.
She didnt tell me why she threw everything away and refused to
talk to me, probably because I was very upset.
So on Sunday morning, more than 40 friends and family gathered
to re-create the memorial, complete with heartfelt messages and
filled with all things pineapple a tribute to the girl her
mother called a pineapple princess.
Rose Smith said her daughter who was a student at Parras
Middle School in Redondo Beach lived according to a saying she
called be a pineapple.
It says stand tall, wear a crown and be sweet on the inside,
Smith said. Ciara was real tiny. She was petite compared to
her friends tiny and mighty like a pineapple. She really was a
But then on Monday, the same woman identified by police as
Gina DiPietro showed up and once again began throwing away
items from the memorial.
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Almost instantly, several police officers along with more
friends of Ciara responded and once again replaced the
memorial. This time, however, they were able to retrieve items
from the trash bins.
Capt. Joe Hoffman, who spoke with the woman after the second
incident, said DiPietro was upset that Ciaras memorial was
obstructing a Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Highway sign on the same corner. She suggested there was a
California law against setting up memorials at crash sites.
Id never heard of that, and I looked it up and couldnt find
anything, Hoffman said. So based upon that, I told her she
could be creating a criminal situation for herself because that
memorial is on private property and has been sanctioned by the
property owners, in this case the school district.
A state law apparently does exist that prohibits roadside
memorials, but it is unclear whether it applies to private
RELATED: Police ID bicyclist killed in Redondo Beach bus
In trying to reach a compromise, Hoffman suggested the memorial
could be reconstructed in a way that does not cover up the
Vietnam vets memorial sign.
ADMONISHED BY POLICE
I told her not to go down and remove any property until there
can be a clear determination of the legal statutes that apply to
that, Hoffman said. She did seem receptive to that and agreed
not to do it again.
Reached for comment, DiPietro said she had nothing but love for
Ciara and her family. I am so sad about the accident that took
place, she wrote over Facebook Messenger. But she also said she
couldnt turn her back on the 58,220 American troops who did not
return from Vietnam. I will always love and respect their
sacrifice, she said.
Asked whether she understood how hurtful it was for Ciaras
classmates to see their memorial thrown in the trash, DiPietro
declined to comment.
BRINGS BACK EMOTIONS
The whole incident has re-ignited emotions for some. At least
one person was crying at the site on Monday.
Rose Smith said she has been overwhelmed by support since the
May 5 accident, when the bicycle her daughter was riding veered
into traffic and a bus heading southbound on Pacific Coast
Highway struck and killed her. When more than 40 people showed
up on Sunday to rebuild the memorial, Smith said she was even
I thought we were going there to meet 15 girls, and it turned
out to be more than 40 people, she said. It was really
amazing. Im blown away by her friends, whove been so mature
and strong through the whole thing.
TOUCHED BY SUPPORT
In the two months following the accident, Smith said its felt
like shes been living in a bubble. But she said shes doing
much better now. Smith and her former husband, Barry, moved back
to the South Bay three years ago from the San Fernando Valley.
At first, the day I found out (about the accident), I thought,
Why did I ever move here? she said. But now, with all this
support, I can never leave. We live in such a wonderful place
with so many caring people.
At some point, the memorial indeed will be removed, but Smith
said proposals are in the works for a permanent commemoration at
the site. The Redondo Beach Unified School District already has
contacted her with preliminary plans, while she said the city
also might erect something in the young girls memory.