Fallen CHP Officer's Tombstone Stolen From Cemetery

A thief made off with John Pedro's grave marker during the weekend.

The headstone of a California Highway Patrol officer killed during a high-speed pursuit 10 years ago in Watsonville was stolen from the Santa Cruz cemetery where he was laid to rest, the Sheriff's Office reported.

John Pedro's grave marker was taken from Santa Cruz Memorial Oakwood Chapel on Paul Sweet Road, behind Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, between 8 pm. Saturday and 8 a.m. Sunday, according to sheriff's deputy April Skalland.

A mourner visiting an adjacent grave discovered the 150- to 200-pound tombstone missing Sunday morning, Skalland said. No other graves were damaged.

"It's disgusting," CHP officer Sarah Jackson said. "I can't believe anyone would do that."

The headstone is valued at $800, according to Skalland.

Jackson was incredulous about why the marker would be stolen.

"It's not something that's going to enrich someone," she said, speculating that the thief was "sick" or had a problem with law enforcement, the CHP or Pedro himself.

Pedro's widow, former CHP officer Colleen Gilmartin, is offering a reward from her her own funds to find the person who stole her husband's headstone, Jackson said.

Pedro, a Watsonville High graduate, was 36 when he lost control of his CHP cruiser while trying to overtake a vehicle and broadsided a tree on off-ramp of Highway 1 at Highway 129. He had been a CHP officer for 12 years.

After his death, a section of Highway 1 in South County was dedicated to Pedro.

The weekend theft of his grave marker was not the first time memorials to Pedro have been the target of thieves or vandals. A 6-foot-tall redwood cross built near the site of Pedro's fatal crash was stolen in 2005 and the highway sign was repeatedly damaged by vandals in 2005 and 2006, just months after it was installed.

At the time, there was speculation that the highway sign was the target of vandals because of a pop culture connection. The 2004 movie Napoleon Dynamite inspired "Vote for Pedro" and "Pedro for President" stickers and T-shirts.

Pedro is one of three Santa Cruz County CHP officers killed in the line of duty. Donald Hoover died in 1934 and Lt. Mike Walker was killed on Highway 17 in 2005. Since its inception in 1929, the CHP has lost more than 220 uniformed members in line-of-duty deaths.

The CHP also is collecting donations to replace the marker, either by leaving money at the Aptos CHP office in care of Richard Valdez or by making a donation to the "Officer Pedro Memorial Fund" at any branch of Bay Federal Credit Union.

Jennifer Squires October 11, 2012 at 12:33 AM
You can make a donation at the CHP office on Freedom Blvd.
David Housings October 18, 2012 at 04:24 PM
I've another question. I've been to that cemetery, and it covers acres. In all of that expanse, how did these lowlife turds know where to go to find Officer Pedro's grave? There had to be a lot of preparation before they snuck in, in the dark of night and did their disgusting and unforgiveable deed.
Gordon October 22, 2012 at 03:00 PM
They could have asked at the mortuary office on the pretense of wanting to honor the officer. I imagine that is one of the many questions asked by the CHP and the Sheriff, and if they were that foolish, they're one step closer to paying.
Gordon October 22, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I understand the cemetery is replacing at no charge to the family. They're decent folks, as decent as the lowlifes are disgusting.
Gordon October 22, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Turds like that don't need a reason. Maybe gang initiation? Maybe "for fun." But from what I understand, the headstone was cleanly removed, that is no signs of hesitation or shoveling or other parts of the area messed up. That shows planning on the part of someone(s). Turds don't operate with their brains, so, it comes back to your question: Why?


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