SONOMA, Calif. (KTVU) - A memorial to a teenage murder victim has been vandalized repeatedly, to the distress of his grieving parents.
18 year old Kirk Kimberly was found stabbed to death in November, and his killer has yet to be caught.
"No one could think of anybody who would hurt him because he's such a likable kid," his father Kelly Kimberly told KTVU, visiting the sidewalk memorial near the Kimberly home.
Flowers, candles, balloons, and a photo of Kirk make up the vigil on West Sierra Avenue. Jennifer Kimberly has added a note asking people to respect the memorial, and calling both the vandal, and Kirk's killer, "cowards."
Kirk was the couple's only child, and the family was close. As far as they knew, their son didn't have any trouble with anyone.
"I don't know, maybe there was a confrontation that he didn't let us in on, or any of his other friends in on," mused Kimberly.
On October 17, 2016 Kirk rode away from home on his bicycle, to see a friend, he said. But he didn't return that night, or text his parents, and when they tried to reach him, his phone was off.
"It's sad to say but I already knew at that point, he was dead," said Kimberly sadly, "because of his phone being off. He would just never go anywhere without his phone."
Still, two excruciating weeks passed before Kirk's body was discovered in a shallow grave in open space next to a Sonoma State University parking lot.
Kirk was a happy young man, his dad says, with no worries and a week away from starting his first full-time job.
"He was in a good place, so I just don't know," said Kelly Kimberly. "And I told him in the morning, be careful. And he said I will dad, I love ya. And that's the last thing he said to me."
Sheriff's investigators believe something occurred in the rural area between Sonoma State and Rancho Cotate High School, where Kirk graduated last year.
"It's a known party-place out there near Sonoma State," Sonoma County Sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum told KTVU.
The overgrown creek bed between the two properties is a popular place to congregate.
"It's where the teenagers would go and drink beer and smoke marijuana on occasion," explained Sgt. Crum.
"We think there was an argument that led up to this and we do think multiple people know about this."
A reward is now up to $14,000, trying to shake loose information.
Jennifer Kimberly's written message reads in part, "friends would have saved him"...."tell the truth".... your evil deeds will catch up with you".
And her anguish has been made even worse by the destruction of her son's memorial.
"She's come by here twice now and found the stuff gone," noted Sgt. Crum, "which is something no one has the right to do."
The vandal, claiming to be from a motorcycle safety group, even left a letter of explanation behind.
"It said we're removing this because it's a hazard, and it's dangerous, and it's against the law," noted Kelly Kimberly.
Searching the neighborhood, candles, photos, cards and flowers were found in a nearby dumpster. Other items were simply stolen.
Now the mementos that remain are secured to the fence with bike locks. And the couple has heard from other families, that the same vandal has trashed other roadside memorials as well.
"There's a lot of people who are very vulnerable like us, and are crushed by such a heinous act, taking down something that was built with love," observed Kelly.
More important than the vandalism, though, finding Kirk's killer, and finding answers.
Sheriff's detectives are working active leads, and encouraging tips.
A YouCaring account continues to collect donations, pushing the reward higher.
"I just don't want them to do this to anyone else," said a grim Kelly Kimberly softly, "but it's not going to bring Kirk back."