An Iraq war veteran's towering SpongeBob SquarePants headstone has been removed from her final resting place because officials at the historic Cincinnati cemetery deemed it inappropriate for their traditional grounds.
The headstone of Kimberly Walker, 28, was made in the likeness of her favorite cartoon character and erected at Spring Grove Cemetery on Oct. 10, almost eight months after she was found slain in a Colorado hotel room. Her boyfriend, an Army sergeant stationed nearby, was arrested and charged with her killing.
Despite getting the cemetery's prior approval of the headstone's design — a smiling SpongeBob in an Army uniform, with Walker's name and rank — her family said Monday that cemetery staff called them the day after it was installed to say it would have to come down.
The 7-foot headstone, along with a near-exact duplicate erected for Walker's living twin sister, will not be allowed back up, cemetery president Gary Freytag said Monday.
"We've decided that they aren't appropriate for our historic cemetery and they can't be displayed here," Freytag said, adding that the employee who approved the headstones made an inexplicable error in judgment.
Freytag said staff members would be meeting with Walker's family today to try to find a solution, which could include a more traditional gravestone bearing a small likeness of the character. He also said Spring Grove is prepared to reimburse the family for each headstone, which cost a combined $26,000, and pay for new ones.
Walker's twin sister, Kara Walker, 29, an information technician for the U.S. Navy stationed in Naples, Italy, said the family is beyond distraught. "We want what we paid for and what I know my sister would have wanted," she said.