It’s been about a month since was killed on Feb. 13, just a few blocks from her home, and even though the memorial has been taken down, people still remember.
A few weeks ago, the Steves family reportedly cleared away all of the memorial candles, balloons, signs, cards, flowers and other mementos left at the entrance of the Rancho Niguel neighborhood where the Steves family lives.
a 6-foot Chinese orchid tree left by Orange County Fire Authority firefighters from Fire Station No. 39 has been planted, and the iron letters bearing the name of the neighborhood knocked down by one of the vehicles that crashed and hit the wall have also been replaced.
However, there are still bits of plastic car parts scattered in blades of grass from the collision, and there are remnants of candle wax staining the beige stucco wall. But the memorial is gone.
Although the city does not have any written policy about the length of time memorials can stay, they can only remain for a short period of time. If they are on private property, such as in front of a housing tract, they can remain for up to a week or perhaps a little longer. According to Tim Casey, city manager of Laguna Niguel, “There really is no set policy that states when a memorial has to come down. If it is on private property, it’s usually up to the homeowners association to decide.”
If the memorial site is on public property, such as a sidewalk, items cannot be left for more than a week either.
“We will ask the family if they want to remove the items, or we will offer to do so for them,” Casey said. “Most come by and remove the items themselves and keep what they want to hold onto.”
In the Steves case, the city let the memorial site to stay up for more than a week due to the public outcry and love for Steves.
Casey said there are places in the city where stuffed animals, crosses and other markings still sit planted, marking where a loved one was killed.
“Typically, these memorials start to deteriorate after a while, and they can be a visual distraction to drivers, and that’s the last thing we want to see happen,” he said. "We don't want someone to get distracted while driving because they were looking off to the side of the road.”
Casey said there has been a “perpetual” memorial on Niguel Road where a 14-year-old girl was killed a few years ago by a single driver.
“I see it all the time whenever I am driving down Niguel,” he said.
He said it looks as if someone might be replenishing the memorial to keep it from looking outdated.
“We are not totally insensitive to these memorials, and we are tolerant for a time period,” he said. “We can appreciate that these are moving tributes of bereavement, but we do have to remove them at some point.”
The Steves investigation is ongoing, according to O.C. Sheriff’s Department officials.