After thousands of likes and shares on Facebook, numerous articles and broadcasts and multiple police departments volunteering to help, the Skylar Neese memorial bench that was taken in September has been found in perfect condition.
“I’m just glad this had a happy ending. That family has already been through so much,” family friend and restorer of the bench Russell LeMaster said.
Neese, 16, of Star City, W.Va., was stabbed to death July 6, 2012, by two friends in a remote wooded area off Morris Run Road in Wayne Township, Greene County. Her body wasn’t found until six months later where the memorial site is now located.
The newly refurbished bench was added to the site Sept. 12 to give Mary and Dave Neese a comfortable place to sit and remember their daughter.
LeMaster had plans to build a concrete slab around the bench Sept. 30 to keep people out of the mud and to also make sure the bench wouldn’t be moved. But when he came to the site that day he was devastated to find that the bench had been stolen.
The family went to social media, television and newspapers in the area pleading with the person responsible to bring the bench back to the site.
“I thought that it would be broken apart and sold in pieces,” LeMaster said. “There would be no evidence.”
But on Oct. 18, the bench was found about a mile from the memorial site, sitting about 20 feet off the road.
The bench was found by a local man who was going into the woods to continue cutting up logs he had been working on for a couple of weeks.
“He saw the bench when he came back Sunday,” LeMaster said. “It hadn’t been there before so someone had to drop it off either Saturday or Sunday.”
The bench had not been damaged. “Whoever took it must have had a change of heart and we are thankful they did,” LeMaster said.
He believes media coverage and support from the community led the person to return the bench.
“It’s nice to know that there are people out there who care about this,” LeMaster said.
The bench will be placed back at the memorial site Sunday with a four-inch concrete base surrounding it.
“That bench will never be moved again,” LeMaster said.