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A slain Iraq war veteran's "SpongeBob SquarePants" headstone has been removed from an Ohio cemetery, which called the monument's installation an "error in judgment."
The late Army Sgt. Kimberly Walker's tombstone, which stood 7 feet tall and resembled the cartoon character SpongeBob in Walker's Army uniform, was deemed by Spring Grove Cemetery to be out of place and "inappropriate" for the "historic" cemetery, Cincinnati's WLWT-TV reports. The cemetery also removed a second SpongeBob headstone, which was meant for Walker's twin sister.
What rights do Walker's family have to remember her, a veteran and true "SpongeBob" fan, as she lived?
Family Distraught Over Removal
The AP reports that Walker served two tours in Iraq in 2006 and 2010. In February 2013, the 28-year-old veteran was found "strangled and beaten to death" in a Colorado Springs hotel room, allegedly by her Army sergeant boyfriend.
In life, Kimberly Walker loved SpongeBob, a wise-cracking cartoon sponge. Her twin sister Kara told the AP that the $13,000 gravestones were chosen to match that love.
Now that the cemetery is changing its mind about the bigger-than-life SpongeBob monuments, the family can either fight to bury Walker in a family plot or fight the cemetery in court.
Cemetery Allowed Headstone Then Reneged
In a statement, Spring Grove Cemetery President Gary Freytag explained that the SpongeBob headstones were approved by an employee who made "a serious error in judgment."
The burial agreement with the cemetery -- including the headstones -- was likely part of a larger contract between the Walkers and Spring Grove; the cemetery could potentially be held liable for reneging on the employee's approval.
As Spring Grove may have breached the Walkers' contract to have SpongeBob mark Kimberly's grave, they may be able to seek compensatory damages for the cost of the unusable headstones.
If the contract indeed calls for such a specific service and product -- i.e., placing a highly customized headstone on the grave of the Walkers' loved one -- a court could possibly order the cemetery to specifically perform as they agreed prior to installing the headstone.
The Walkers met with the cemetery's owners Tuesday, hoping to reach some sort of compromise. But even if they don't, we offer this clip as a tribute to the fallen vet.
Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.