UPDATE: Neighbor Drops Complaint Over Murder Vicitim's Memorial
Jonathan Kwiatkowski's family planted a memorial garden in his name, but a neighbor has complained to the village that it's a nuisance. The neighbor says the memorial reminds him of his and his roommate's own personal tragedy. Now he's dropping the compla
UPDATE: The neighbor who filed a complaint saying his neighbor's memorial to his son was a nuisance has dropped the complaint, according to a story in the Journal Times.
In his letter to Village President Bill Bensman dated Tuesday, the retired educator said he (McNulty) was withdrawing the complaint “based on the thoughtful rearrangement of the memoriam.”
Here's the original story:
WIND POINT, WI -- One month after a local man was fatally stabbed at his family's home in April 2011, family members planted a memorial garden in the front yard as a Mother's Day present for the victim's mom.
Jonathan Kwiatkowski's brothers, Kyle and Corey, and his sister-in-law Cassie, planted the garden around a tree in front of the family's Wind Point home. There are flowers, lawn ornaments and a small cross, as well as Jonathan's name on the tree. But the garden, which for the Kwiatkowski family is a comforting remembrance of a loved one, means something very different to a neighbor, who has filed a complaint calling the garden a public nuisance and asking for its removal.
John McNulty and his roommate Carolyn Zirbes live across the street from where Kwiatkowski was stabbed by another neighbor, and where the memorial garden now stands. McNulty says the memorial has rekindled memories of another tragedy for them, and one they very much did not want to remember.
Carolyn’s daughter, Sara Zirbes, was sexually assaulted and murdered in 1986, when she was 30. Sara lived in her home in Portland, OR, which was burned down just after the murder and Leon Lamont Phillips was convicted in 2006. And that’s the reason why McNulty says he filed a complaint against the Kwiatkowski family for having their memorial garden.
“We have already suffered a tragedy… and there’s no reason to suffer through it every (expletive) day,” McNulty said. “They think they are the only ones to suffer through a tragedy and that is (expletive).”
McNulty refused to comment any further on the complaint, but he did say there was more to the story. However, he was suffering from a bad cold when he was contacted.
But Tim Kwiatkowski, Jonathan’s father, said he would have preferred to have a face-to-face discussion with McNulty about the situation rather than him going to the Village Board.
“It’s unfortunate that he took this route to deal with what I’m sure is a painful situation for him and his partner,” Tim said.
Even before Tim learned about the reasons behind McNulty’s objections, he and Jonathan's mother, Lori Kwiatkowski, worked on the garden.
“We did take down Jon’s name on the tree and took the candles down,” Tim said. “We spruced things up and put the religious artifacts in the back of the tree. Hopefully, this will defuse the situation.”
McNulty filed the complaint on Sept. 13 at the Village Board meeting and told officials he wants the memorial removed. The complaint argues that the memorial is in the village’s right of way, and is a public nuisance. He also expresses a concern that the memorial has “a decidedly Christian view in the shrine.”
According to the complaint, the memorial begins eight feet away from the road in the village’s right of way where memorials aren’t allowed with permission from the village.
McNulty said the memorial is a public nuisance and he points to parts of the village ordinance he believes apply to the memorial, including being substantially annoying to the comfort of the public; greatly offending a person’s morals; accumulating trash or any type of material; and containing weeds.
The complaint also points out the religious tone to the garden:
“I also wonder about the other religious faiths represented in our village, whose existence is guaranteed by our federal constitution. There appears to be a decidedly Christian view in the shrine.
In the complaint, McNulty states that he tried to talk to the Village Administrator Barbara Grant about the issue. However, no one returned his call.
Village President Bill Bensman said the issue hasn't formally been put on the agenda.
"But if someone cares to come and discuss it, we will certainly provide the forum to have that discussed," he said. "We’re currently still in the process of evaluating the issue. I really can’t tell you what comes next until that happens."