Repeated vandalism of son's grave angers family

VALLEY CENTER, Calif. - A local mother is outraged after the meaningful tribute at her son's gravesite was vandalized multiple times.

It's been almost two years since Ellen Barnes' 21-year-old son, Collin, collapsed and died suddenly while running up Flat Top Mountain.

"I watched him go up the mountain … just kept waving to him," Barnes said.

Barry Stepan, Collin's stepfather, added, "We kept texting him … and calling him … and everything no answer …"

Ellen Barnes said the pain and grief of her son's death seems like it only happened yesterday.

"I wanted to die," she said.

However, recently, she told 10News she's been dealing with something she said is equally as painful. Barnes said thieves have vandalized and stolen personal items placed at her son's headstone at least five times.

"It's wrong on every level," said Barnes.

In the most recent incident on July 4, the custodian at the Valley Center Cemetery found all of the headstone's items thrown into a nearby Dumpster.

"We had several personal items that aren't worth monetary value, but are worth emotional," said Barnes.

Barnes and Stepan want the person responsible for the vandalism caught, and they are asking whoever is committing these acts to allow their son some peace.

"You just wonder, what kind of person does something like that? You can't even comprehend in your mind what the thought process is of someone who would steal from a grave," Barnes said.

The Valley Center Cemetery Board told 10News they agreed to install surveillance cameras at the cemetery.

Anyone with information about the vandalism is urged to call the sheriff's department.

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