• Mom: Church tossed son's memorial in dumpster

    By: Carl Willis


    CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. - A local mother says her son's memory was disrespected by a local church when his memorial was removed.

    Sandy Harden says her son Nicholas Harden, 22, died in a motorcycle accident in March. A memorial was placed at the scene in front of Rock Baptist Church in Rex.

    The memorial was cleared and Harden says it was tossed in a dumpster without warning.

    "I'm outraged," she said. "It's a lot of emotions that I didn't know I had because my son's picture was in the dumpster."

    All that is left of the memorial is displayed in Harden's carport at her home.

    Channel 2's Carl Willis called and visited the pastor's home but didn't get an answer. However, church leaders say they were receiving complaints about the growing memorial.

    They say it had been in place for nearly two months and that people would leave packs of cigarettes and alcohol at the growing memorial.

    "Nothing there interfered with coming in or out of the church," said Harden. 

    Church leaders also say the display along Georgia Highway 42 was against the law.

    State and federal law provides only for a simple white marker that costs $100 and can remain in place only for a year.

    Harden told Willis that she thought the memorial would stay in place forever.

    She says her son was baptized at the church and he lost his life just yards from the front door.

    She says if her memorial was out of place, there was a better way to have it cleared out.

    "If it was against the law, ask me to remove it and I could have done it in a better way," she said.

    Church members say the memorial was boxed up and placed behind the church, not thrown away.

    Some of the items were returned to Harden the following morning. 

    Members of the church say they have received threats from the victim's family. 

    Harden disputes that claim.

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