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Ventura County

Father's Memorial Vigil Cut Short

Camarillo: Man says he'll comply with the county's order to remove roadside shrine to his teen daughter, who was killed when hit by a car.

April 16, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A Camarillo man who kept a daily vigil at the Santa Rosa Road site where his daughter died four months ago was ordered Monday to remove the growing collection of candles, fading flowers and photographs.

Although he does not agree with the decision delivered by mail last week and in person Monday, Paul Bonds said he would comply with the order from Butch Britt, Ventura County's deputy director of public works.

"I guess they are bigger and stronger than we are," said Bonds, who has spent nearly every afternoon at the site along the busy two-lane county road since December. "I'm still grieving, but I'm grieving for the next child to be killed."

Joined by his 26-year-old son, Paul Jr., and several neighbors, Bonds spent Monday afternoon loading up the items left in his daughter's memory by her friends and hauling them to his house a few blocks away. But a small cross left in the soft dirt will remain.

"The white cross is going to stay," said Bonds, 53. "They are going to have to take it down and make a statement. If the community puts it back up, they will put it back up. What can I say?"

The software programmer's 14-year-old daughter, Jennifer, was killed in December when she was struck by a car while the two jogged along a section of Santa Rosa Road near their home. The driver was not at fault in the accident, police said at the time.

Jennifer Bonds was a popular student at Camarillo High School and a member of the cross-country team. Stunned family members and friends began the memorial with a few flower displays and some lit candles.

Four months later, the display has grown to include dozens of photographs, poems and laminated newspaper clippings. Classmates of the student athlete are regular visitors to the site, which sits on a patch of dirt and grass about 16 feet from the busy roadway.

The site has also served as a rallying point for Bonds and others who say that cars speed down the two-lane county road well above the posted 55-mph limit.

Bonds is on a panel of Santa Rosa Valley residents studying ways to improve safety on the road. The panel's recommendations are expected in six months.

Britt sent a letter to Bonds last week warning him to take the display down or risk having "the encroachment removed by county forces." He also could have faced a misdemeanor fine of $1,000 and six months in jail, a county lawyer said.

Authorities have received complaints that people gathered at the accident site have come dangerously close to getting hit by cars themselves, Britt said.

Monday, the nine-year veteran of the county's public works department said it was the first time in his 35-year career that he had to send out an order to remove a roadside memorial. "This is a pretty emotional issue, and I can understand that," Britt said.

Britt remains open to putting up a permanent memorial at the site that is set back from the road.

Bonds also could buy a permanent sign that would include his daughter's name, Britt said. Currently, there are two such signs in the county. One honoring Oxnard Police Officer James O'Brien stands on Victoria Avenue near where he was shot to death in 1993 after a pursuit. Another was recently placed on a section of Lewis Road in Camarillo where 54-year-old Menashi Khazoom was struck and killed as he pedaled his bicycle in January.

Britt said a decision on the appropriateness of a permanent cross at the site had not been made but it may be illegal because of the constitutional separation of church and state.

"We're not in the memorial business, we're in the road business," Britt said. "I'm not insensitive, but I have got to enforce whatever the rules and regulations are."

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