HICKORY, NC (WBTV) - A Hickory couple is in disbelief after their son's grave marker was repossessed by the manufacturer.
The manufacturer says he is owed money, but the family says that's just not true. Now the child's grave marker is gone and the family is hiring an attorney.
"This is my lowest point," mother Crystal Leatherman said. "He doesn't care."
It's been nearly a year since Wayne and Crystal Leatherman buried their 5-year-old son, Jake, after he lost a long battle with leukemia. Crystal Leatherman says she was stunned when she recently went to visit her son's grave and the grave marker was gone.
"He repossessed it, like it was a car," the mother said.
She was talking about the owner of the monument company, who had the stone removed after he says the family didn't pay money owed.
"If you buy something, you've got to pay for it. No matter what it is," JC Shoaf said.
He claims the couple did pay in full for a stone, but then made a number of changes, adding up a larger bill.
"It was my first time in 54 years [that] I've had this problem," Shoaf said.
When asked why he placed the stone without a full payment, Shoaf said he did it out of good will.
"Because they had been through so much emotionally, grieving so hard, I thought we'd just go ahead and do it," he said.
At the same time, the Leathermans say they were never told about any increase in cost.
"If I would have owed him the money I would have paid him," Crystal Leatherman said. "This is not something you argue over."
Shoaf says it's all about paying his workers. But he says he does feel for the family.
"They've been through an awful lot, I know that. And right now, they're thinking emotionally, and having that grave out there unmarked - that's emotional trauma. I lost a child, I know what that is," Shoaf said.
For the Leathermans, it's no longer about the money but the precedent their situation may set for others.
"Most people are just going to do it. If they can do it, they're going to do it. But it doesn't make it right," Crystal Leatherman said.
Shoaf told WBTV Monday that he wants to work things out with the family - but that he wants his money. The Leathermans say they are looking at using another company for a permanent fixture at their son's grave.