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Roadside Memorial Disappears

After the tragic death of thirteen-year-old Ciara Smith at a busy Redondo Beach intersection on the corner of Pacific Coast Highway and Knob Hill, friends and family built a roadside memorial in the girl's honor. It grew over time, filled with mementos including pictures, pineapples, and a ghost bike (a bicycle roadside memorial placed where a cyclist has died). But, last week the memorial disappeared. 

Ciara's stepfather realized the memorial was gone last week when driving by the scene, and noticed a woman closing a gate near some trash cans. She told him that she had removed all of the items and had thrown them away. 

Later that weekend, over 40 people worked together to re-assemble the memorial, including the pineapples, which Ciara loved. Earlier this week, the same woman arrived at the scene and began dismantling the memorial. Police officers along with friends and family of Ciara responded in order to retrieve the items from the trash. 

Police spoke with the woman, identified as Gina DiPietro. According to DiPietro, Ciara's memorial was obstructing the Los Angeles County Vietnam Veterans Memorial that sits on that same corner. DiPietro told police officers there is a state law against setting up roadside memorials. 

DiPietro may have been referring to Streets and Highways Code Section 101.10 (Assembly Bill 965, Statutes of 2001) which only allows roadside memorial signs that meet certain qualifications. The sign must be requested by an immediate family member of a person who was killed by a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The family must pay $1,000 to the local District Office to cover costs, and the sign will only be maintained for seven years. 

It is unclear whether this statute applies to Ciara's memorial, which is on private property and has been sanctioned by the property owners. Police have told DiPietro she is not to throw away any part of the memorial until there is a clear determination that the statute applies. Police have suggested reconstructing the memorial in the meantime, so that it does not cover up the veteran memorial.

DiPietro has stated she has "nothing but love" for Ciara and her family; but, she could not ignore the obstruction of the Vietnam memorial. The memorial will eventually be removed, but according to Ciara's family, there are talks of a permanent commemoration at the site. 

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