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Homeowners ordered memorial to dead teen removed, family says

June 20, 2013|By Bradley Zint
  • Relatives of a 19-year-old Costa Mesa man construct a memorial where his car hit a tree Sunday morning. The memorial was later removed after a neighbor complained.
Relatives of a 19-year-old Costa Mesa man construct a memorial where his… (Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot )

The mother of a Costa Mesa teenager killed in a car crash this week said a resident near the site ordered her to take down the makeshift memorial she and others built in his memory.

Monica Soto, whose son, Luis Adrian Torres, 19, died in a wreck early Sunday morning, said a woman from the neighborhood homeowners association demanded Tuesday that the memorial be removed. Soto said the woman told her that the crash site, a street median, belongs to the association and is private property.

"She wanted it taken away or she was going to call the police or have someone throw everything away," Soto said.

Soto said a Costa Mesa police officer later arrived at the scene and politely asked relatives and friends to remove the items from the base of the tree on Susan Street near Sunflower Avenue that was struck by Torres. A spokesman for the Costa Mesa Police Department was unaware of residents' request to involve a police officer.

The family members complied with the directive but say the site was the right place for them to express their grief.

"I haven't seen my boy, and that was the only place I felt like I was close to him," Soto said. "And when they did that, I said, 'How can people be so heartless? Haven't they ever lost a loved one?' "

"This is where loved ones gather to say goodbye," family friend Mary Sanders Thomas said. "It has not even been 48 hours since this took place. How can one ask a mother to do this when she just lost her child? This was not trash on the street."

Torres' relatives said they put everything they could manage into their car and have since reassembled a new memorial in their garage. They are keeping it private.

In the two days after Torres' death, family and friends had gathered at the crash site, slowly amassing a collection of flowers, candles and other mementos around the tree struck by Torres' 1990 Jaguar XJ-6.

The memorial was on property in Providence Park, a residential neighborhood of town homes and detached single-family houses.

Marshall Krupp, a former city council candidate who lives in Providence Park, said that when he saw Wednesday morning that the memorial had been taken down, he contacted his neighborhood's Irvine-based management company, Keystone Pacific Property Management.

Krupp said he was told that neither the homeowners association board nor Keystone had directed that the memorial be removed.

"I don't know anyone else in the association who would've done it," Krupp said.

Krupp said that, having seeing the aftermath of the crash first-hand, it was "very disrespectful for anyone to have required the removal of that memorial."

"I'm very disappointed, and there's a part of me that's angry .... At a minimum, it should have been left up for at least 30 days. I would've supported that as a past president of the board."

He added that there may have been a safety concern with the burning candles at the memorial site, which is near shrubbery.


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