GREENUP COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) - What was expected to be a touching tribute this holiday weekend to a little girl who lost her life too soon took a drastic emotional turn.
3-year-old Elena Jenkins’ family discovered her resting place, along with the rest of their family cemetery, had been desecrated.
“It’s inhuman,” Loris Bradley, Elena’s grandmother, said.
“What went to a little bit of peace on the 4th of July ended up being a nightmare,” Elena’s mother, Rachel Jenkins, told WSAZ.
Elena died after falling off a bed at her grandma’s house on Easter.
“She was jumping on the bed with her two cousins,” Jenkins said. “Elena fell off and hit her head, and it caused instant brain death. It rocked our world.”
Saturday night, the night before Independence Day, relatives went to the Campbell Family Cemetery off Route 784 in Greenup County, where Elena was buried three months earlier, to light sparklers as a tribute to her.
They discovered someone had crashed through the cemetery gate and knocked over headstones.
“It’s barely been three months,” Jenkins said. “To come up and see everything gone is devastating.”
The truck that did the damage was still there. Its front left tire was sunk in the ground on Elena’s grave.
“We thought losing her was the hardest thing we’d ever dealt with, but no,” Jenkins said. “Having a truck sunk on top of your daughter is by far the worst thing to witness.”
“My granddaughter was supposed to be safe here, and they took that from her,” Bradley said.
A note was left on the truck saying “Out of gas, be right back.”
“We were all together trying to celebrate family and enjoying it and found this,” Elena’s great-aunt, Danielle Valandingham, said. “It just took away joy like that, trying to recover from losing the baby and grieving and trying to just heal as a family, and then to have any kind of peace just stripped away from you.”
“They do need to be punished,” Bradley said.
The truck was towed from the cemetery.
The family says a deputy from the Greenup County Sheriff’s Department told them the truck was reported stolen about an hour after the family found it.
Relatives say funeral homes will be assessing the damage before the headstones will be cleaned and replaced, but they’ve been told it’s likely thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Elena’s mother says her organs were donated after her death and helped save 5 people.
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