Vandals Destroy Child's Memorial Bench, Damage Library

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As Library Director Terry Morris drove up to the Payson library Monday morning her heart sank to see that vandals had smashed the stone-cut memorial bench placed in honor of little Ashley Allen, a Payson girl who died of cancer March 17, 2001.

"How could anyone do this -- stand there with a rock and look at that plaque in memory of a little girl who died -- and then destroy it?" Morris said. "It absolutely makes me sick."

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Library Director Terry Morris is visibly upset as she picks up the pieces of a memorial bench destroyed in a vandalism spree outside the Payson library over the weekend. The bench was a memorial for Ashley Allen, a Payson girl who died of cancer two years ago. A combined reward of $400 is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the vandals.

But the vandals didn't stop at that. According to a police report, a sign was cut off the front door of the library and used to scoop up dog feces that were then placed inside the book return slot. Decorative rock was torn from the building and there is evidence that suggests the vandals urinated on the front wall of the library.

"Generally, the Roundup doesn't give vandals the satisfaction of acknowledging their destruction in the newspaper," editor Jerry Thebado said. "The maliciousness of this crime makes this a case where we'll make an exception. We sincerely hope that information from the public, and the offer of a reward, will help police bring these criminals to justice."

Officer Allen Dyer of the Payson Police Department believes the vandals are young people who are likely to strike again.

"There are a significant number of households in Payson where, unfortunately, the parents have their own issues -- so these kids aren't taught any other way." Dyer said. "Maybe I'm just too old, but I just don't get this -- destroying things and tearing stuff up."

Since its grand opening in January 2002, the library has experienced three incidents of significant vandalism. The Library Friends of Payson have been exploring the purchase of a surveillance system and, ironically, the item had already been placed on the agenda for Monday night's board meeting.

"We are putting a surveillance system in. We discussed two proposals and will have another one Saturday," said Mary Nolan, president of the Library Friends. "We want to get a system in place as soon as possible."

The damage to the building and memorial bench occurred sometime between Saturday evening and Monday morning. Anyone with information about the vandalism is asked to call Officer Dyer at 928-474-5177. A combined reward of $400 is being offer by the Roundup, Payson Police, Library Friends and a library patron for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

The Ashley Allen memorial bench featured stone-cut images of flowers and hummingbirds.

"The bench is something Ashley's mom wanted to do. It was purchased with funds donated from the public in Ashley's name when she died," Morris said. "It makes me want to cry."

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