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Purse, ashes stolen during woman's daily visit to graves of husband, son

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 3:40 p.m. MDT

Sharon Armijo describes her feelings Monday, March 18, 2013, while visiting the graves of her husband and son. A thief took her purse from her car while she was at the graves.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

WEST VALLEY CITY — To Sharon Armijo, the Valley View Memorial Park provides her with a place of sanctuary.

Every day for the past 10 months, she has gone to the cemetery, 4335 W. 4100 South, to bless her 16-year-old son and her husband, kiss the pictures on their headstones, and tell them she loves and misses them.

Their headstones are just 35 yards away from the main road that runs through the cemetery. And sometimes her visits are only five to 10 minutes long.

The last thing Armijo ever expected was somebody stealing the purse out of her car while she was praying at the gravesites of her loved ones.

But that's what happened just before 7 p.m. on Saturday.

It's not the cash or the credit cards Armijo is worried about. Inside her purse, she also carried the obituaries of her son and husband, rare rosary beads — and a small vial that contained the ashes of her son's best friend who was killed in the same crash that took her son's life.

"There's things in there I can't replace. My son's ID cards, his driver's license, my husband's Army pictures. I had rosaries in there that came from places that I'll never see. There was my son's friend's ashes in there. His mother gave me a little vial of ashes and I always just kept them in my purse, and now they're all gone and I can't get anything back," Armijo said while wiping back tears Monday.

"These are things that I can never replace. And I'm just sick. I just can't believe somebody would do that. Honestly."

In 2005, Armijo's husband, Porfirio Armijo, passed away after suffering a heart attack. For two years, she visited his gravesite every day. Then last May, tragedy struck the Armijo family again.

Jacob Porfirio Armijo and his best friend, Avery Bock, both 16, were killed in a crash near the intersection of 4100 South and 5600 West on May 9, 2012, moments after leaving Hunter High School for lunch.

"It's the hardest thing. I was just barely getting over losing my husband, starting to get back into the swing of things. My son was starting to be happy again. To lose him, you never think you're going to lose a child. It's too young," Sharon Armijo said.

Ever since his funeral, Jacob's mother has been making daily visits to his grave. Jacob is buried next to his father and Sharon Armijo's father-in-law. She makes sure there are always flowers, that the lights set up around them are working, and that the weeds and debris are cleaned up around their headstones. Armijo has visited so many times that even in the winter, she can plow a perfect path with a shovel to the gravesite without disturbing any of the other headstones.

Of all the days that she has been to the cemetery, Saturday was the one time Armijo said she forgot to lock her car door. Now, she feels embarrassed both about leaving her door unlocked with her purse in it, and for carrying those special items around with her.

But to her, those mementos from her loved ones give her comfort.

"It makes me feel, I guess, closer to them. I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't keep them in my purse. But now I've learned a lesson that I'm not ever going to forget 'cause I can't get those things back," she said. "These are things that mean a lot to me. I guess until you lose somebody that's so close to you, you're not going to know what I'm going through. But to lose both your spouse and now your son … this makes me feel comfortable to come over here and just stop by to say, 'Hello, I love you.'

"It's the only thing I can do for them any more," Armijo continued. "I know people tell me, 'You really shouldn't come,' ya know. But it makes me feel good. I want to let them know I haven't forgot them. … I try so hard to be strong. … Honestly, I don't bother anybody. I don't know why someone would do something like this."

Armijo said having her purse stolen was like someone breaking into her house and stealing everything. She knew every single item in her purse and in exactly what pocket each item was in.

Now, Armijo is hoping the person responsible will just drop the purse off somewhere or that someone will find it discarded somewhere near the cemetery.

The credit cards have all been canceled, but not before the alleged thief bought nearly $1,000 worth of items using her credit card at various stores including La Pico Market in Kearns, 5404 S. 4220 West; nearly $600 at three different Wal-Mart locations; and $175 at a smoke shop, Armijo said.

She said she doesn't care if the cash and credit cards are gone. She just wants to get back that items that belonged to her son and husband that she can't replace.

The purse is black, medium-sized, has two handles and five pockets, she said. Anyone with information on the stolen purse can call police at 801-840-4000.

E-mail: preavy@deseretnews.com, Twitter: DNewsCrimeTeam

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