UINTAH — A miscommunication between a grieving family and Mayor Sue Bybee has resulted in a roadside memorial to an area teen being taken down because it was deemed a distraction to motorists.
Jayden Rathbone, 13, was struck by a car Oct. 31, 2011, while walking along 6600 South in Uintah. The 71-year-old driver of the vehicle that hit Jayden didn’t see him. Jayden died nearly a month later from injuries he sustained in the incident.
To remember Jayden and to make drivers aware of the dangers of the road, Rathbone and Conover-Paulsen family members on Halloween erected a roadside memorial to the teen near where the accident occurred.
“(The memorial) was a couple of crosses with a picture of Jayden on a baseball,” said Roy resident Jay Watkins, Jayden’s uncle. The memorial also included plastic pumpkins and glow sticks.
“It was a roadside memorial,” Watkins said. The family assembled it as close as they could to where Jayden was struck by the car.
“It was put on 6600 South. Where (his body) landed there is an island there now,” Watkins said.
But without notice being given to the family, the memorial was taken down Thursday under Bybee’s order.
“Her quote to a city worker was, ‘To tear (the memorial) down and dispose of it,’ ” Watkins said.
The mayor’s request wasn’t to put it away and contact a family member to have them come and pick it up, he said.
Had the city worker not opted instead to take the materials to the city offices, they would have been disposed of, he said.
Watkins said that, as a result, Jayden’s mother, Crystal Conover-Paulsen, is “livid” over the mayor’s decision, and she deserves an explanation.
“She’s quite hurt about it," Watkins said. The purpose of the memorial was to raise awareness and have people slow down along 6600 South. “It was to keep other kids safe.”
But Bybee said she is willing to work with the family, and that she never requested the memorial be disposed of.
“They came and picked it up," she said. “We had complaints because it was distractive where it was.
“They just put this thing up. They never asked. There is a more appropriate place that they could have put that," Bybee said.
The city would have liked Jayden’s memorial closer to where a city-sponsored trick-or-treat was being held, Bybee said. But the family didn’t want it there because that is not where he died, she said.
Conover-Paulsen has expressed a desire to put up a roadside cross in her son’s honor, Bybee said, and she will contact the city council and the city attorney to see if it can be done.
“I don’t know what the rules are," Bybee said, stating that roadside crosses dedicated to Utah Highway Patrol troopers killed on duty have come under fire and have been removed in some instances.
“It breaks my heart the whole thing happened in the first place," she said. “I just wish the whole thing would have happened a different way. We have always felt bad about that poor little boy.”
And despite the complaints she received regarding the memorial on Halloween night, Bybee said, the city left it up overnight.
Watkins said if roadside crosses for animals hit by vehicles can be erected in the area, their family should be allowed to put a wooden cross up for Jayden.
In the meantime, the family has relatives in Uintah who have agreed to place Jayden’s memorial in their yard, Watkins said.