Roadside cross for Palm Bay teenager might be removed after complaint

Teen's family, neighbor dispute if memorial can stay

By James Sparvero - Reporter

PALM BAY, Fla. - A family is fighting to keep a memorial built to remember a teenager who died in a car accident in place.

Zach Caufield's grandparents stand where the teenager's family placed a roadside cross at the scene of his accident.

On the night of Jan. 1, the 19-year-old drove off Hoffer Avenue crashing into the Melbourne Tillman Canal system.

His family believes the Heritage High School graduate failed to judge the turn in the road due to darkness and poor lighting and signage. 

"He was just an all-around good kid. He had a hug for everybody," Frank Caufield, Zach's grandfather, said. 

Friends and neighbors in Palm Bay also contributed to building the memorial which includes a large cross, photographs and ornaments like a fishing rod and Florida Gators sign.

"It just brings us comfort. You know, talk to Zach and talk to God and do what we need to do," Caufield said about his grandson's memorial.

Now, there's an emotional outpouring from a different side Albert Messenger who lives in the neighborhood calls the memorial an eyesore.

"They can grieve, but you know we have cemeteries for that," Messenger said.

The water control district took Messenger's complaint and now authorities are giving the Caufield's one month to take it down.

More than  500 people have signed petitions in support of keeping the memorial standing.

"Apparently, he hasn't suffered as families have suffered," Caufield said in response to Messenger.

"There's no way to explain the pain families feel with that, none at all."

Messenger said he believes there are also people who feel how he does.

"I could probably get a petition going also. I'm not going to waste my time with it," Messenger said. "I just don't see the need to have something like that there," he said.

The family plans to meet with the canal authorities at a board meeting Tuesday, April 23, to discuss their options.

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