GRASS VALLEY (CBS13) — After his tragic death by a drunk driver, a high-school student’s gravesite in Grass Valley was targeted by thieves.
Several special items were taken, but thanks to a deputy who went above and beyond, some of them have now been replaced.
“I never thought I would have to visit my child here,” said Franca Nielsen.
As if burying her 18-year-old son wasn’t devastating enough, Nielsen never thought she’d also find his gravesite stripped of sentimental items.
“I felt like it was empty, like this emptiness inside me. Everything was gone,” she said.
Her son Tyler Nielsen and his friend Justin Gardner, both football players at Nevada Union High School, were killed by a drunk driver in March. Tyler was recently laid to rest at the Greenwood memorial cemetery. On Wednesday, Franca says she noticed some special memories were missing, taken by thieves.
“It’s sacred. It’s not supposed to be touched.”
Among the items were a stuffed gorilla, a potted plant and a football and pair of Vans shoes that Tyler used and wore himself.
“It just makes me angry because they don’t understand the meaning what it meant to us.”
But one man tried to understand what the mother was feeling.
“I tried to put myself in her shoes,” said Nevada County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Cody, “the way she sounded on the phone I couldn’t help but to make her want to feel comforted.”
Cody took the theft report and knew instantly what he had to do.
“I ran over to our local Big 5 and once I got in there I went straight to the football section.”
And then he went to Tyler’s grave. Although he couldn’t find Vans shoes, he did drop off a football and a San Francisco 49ers shirt.
“I wanted to make sure something was being done and it wasn’t just a piece of paper that was going to be submitted for a theft,” said Cody.
It’s a gesture that means a whole lot to this heartbroken mom. Her son’s final resting place is now once again filled with love thanks to the extra effort of a local deputy.
“It made me cry, it just made my day. It showed me that the good outweighed the bad,” said Franca.
She still hopes the stolen items will be returned.