CRESTVIEW — A Northwest Florida family is still shocked by what happened to their loved one's gravesite Christmas week.
Tyler Peaden said the recent theft of Christmas decorations from his daughter, Alana's, gravesite on a private area near Old Bethel Cemetery stirs up emotions of losing Alana all over again.
Alana died in June from complications with Type 2 diabetes. She left behind her fiancée, Dakota Danio, and their 1-year-old son, Noah, in addition to numerous loved ones.
"She died just 10 days after she turned 20 years old; that was a hard pill to swallow in itself," Tyler said.
Friends and family members set up two solar-powered Christmas trees and other holiday items, including a shepherd's hook with a family necklace, at Alana's gravesite.
The crime occurred on Christmas Eve, Tyler said, adding he filed a report with the Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office after taking Noah to see Alana's gravesite on Christmas Day.
"The bad thing about it is that Christmas is her favorite time of year," he said.
Personalized ornaments from loved ones adorned one stolen artificial Christmas tree. Thieves left the original funeral floral arrangements behind, only taking the Christmas trees and other holiday decorations.
Sharon Peaden, Alana's grandmother, said the thefts compounded their grief.
"It was going to be comforting for us, in knowing that (Alana) was going to be with us during Christmas and (Noah) could see his mommy ... on Christmas morning," she said. "I just hope that this doesn't happen to anyone else."
Although this year's Christmas display for Alana was ruined, the family plans to celebrate Christmas the same way next year.
And now, the Peadens are prepared.
Responding lawmen ensured there would be additional patrolling in the area, and Tyler plans to install a hunting camera to curb future theft.
The Peadens are determined to spend Christmas with Alana next year.
'We definitely won't let Noah forget his mother," Sharon said.