Mom mourns stolen memento of deceased son

Kent County

SPARTA, Mich. (WOOD) — The mother of a young man killed in a bicycle accident says she had an important memento of her son stolen from her porch.

Jennifer Chertos’ son Doug Kenney died after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle 12 years ago. Chertos has been dealing with the grief ever since.

“I can’t say that things have gotten better,” Chertos said. “But on most days, I could manage.”

Shortly after her son’s death, Chertos bought an artificial Christmas tree to place at his gravesite. She decorated the tree with solar-powered lights, but they never illuminated while the tree was in the cemetery.

After the holidays, Chertos brought it to her home on Bobs Parkway in Sparta and placed it on her porch. The lights illuminated the first night.

“It just brought me a lot of comfort,” Chertos said. “I felt like it was a sign from him telling me he was home. … It sat on my porch for 10 years and it lit up every single day.”

Doug Kenney
Left: An undated courtesy photo of Doug Kenney. Right: A Christmas tree his mother kept in memory of him.

Over the holiday weekend, the tree disappeared. Chertos said she later learned from her friends that a neighbor apparently took it. She said the friends had text message evidence linking the neighbor to the theft.

After sharing her story on social media, Chertos said neighbors began showing up with Christmas decorations. She appreciates the gestures but says none of it will replace the sentimental value of her missing tree.

“I feel like they killed my son all over again and took him away from me,” Chertos said as she wept.

Chertos reported the case to Sparta police. Officers told 24 Hour News 8 they were aware of the theft and looking into the allegations.

The neighbors in question spoke briefly when approached by reporters Tuesday afternoon.

“No, I didn’t take a Christmas tree off their front porch,” said the woman who Chertos said was blamed for the theft.

Chertos said she wants charges filed against the thief but says she doesn’t expect she’ll ever feel justice is served.

“They took something from me I can’t get back,” she said.

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