Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Murder of Krystal Dawn Steadman


During March of 2001, 17 counties in Western Nevada and Eastern California adopted the "Krystal Child Abduction Alert Program" to use the Emergency Alert System to inform the public about abducted children. The Washoe County Sheriff's Office, the Douglas County Sheriff's Office and the Nevada State Emergency Communications Committee developed the program. It was named for Krystal Steadman and dedicated to her memory. Some of the major law enforcement agencies in southern Nevada were not interested in following this "AMBER Alert" approach and Las Vegas broadcasters did not push the issue because the Emergency Alert System needed rebuilding. Then Nevada Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa contacted the Nevada Broadcasters Association. Her office began working with the NBA and they were eventually able to establish a statewide AMBER Alert Plan.

Krystal Steadman
Krystal Steadman

On March 19, 2002, due to reoccurring vandalism against Krystal's memorial, an eight-foot, half-inch thick, steel cross, weighing approximately 2,000 pounds, was built to replace the previous memorial. Gary James, a friend of Krystal's father, organized the effort. Blue Mountain Steel donated the materials and Shaw construction donated the crane that moved the two-ton cross into position. T&H Auto Paints provided the paint and Craig Maxwell of Blue Mountain Steel crafted a heart shaped plaque bearing Krystal's initials.

The memorial remained untouched for over a year and six months, but then on October 2, 2003, vandals struck again and defaced the cross with flat-black spray paint. Regardless, the vandalism would prove to be of little consequence. In a Sept. 30, 2003 letter to NDOT, Reno attorney Robert Angres detailed an unnamed client's opposition to the cross: "it is an establishment of religion, it is on the roadside without a permit, it is distracting to motorists and its presence decreases the scenic value of the area. It is important that such a monument be relocated and not stand as an irritant to persons who will constantly be concerned that the vital precepts under which this country was founded and has progressed, are being disregarded out of well-intentioned, but nonetheless inappropriate motives," Angres wrote. He expressed displeasure that the cross still remained and said the next step would be to take legal action.

Scott Magruder, state transportation spokesman, told the Las Vegas Sun his department had no choice but to remove the memorial. "NDOT has been sensitive to the issues of crosses and memorials in the right-of-way. Because of the sheer size of this cross, we've heard from a number of individuals that did not want it in our right-of-way, and since nothing should be in our right-of-way, we have no other choice," he said.

One person who voiced public opposition to the memorial was John Messina of Silver Springs. In an interview with the Nevada Appeal, Messina said, "It sets a bad precedent. It's distracting. To me it's negative. I like to go by to see the beauty of the scenery, not be reminded to the death of a kid," he said. Messina also said he was opposed to the fact that the memorial was a cross. "It's bad enough that they have a memorial there, but it's a slight to all of the other religions too."

As chairman of the Board of Transportation, Governor Kenny Guinn also supported the removal of a roadside memorial. "The Nevada Department of Transportation has allowed the memorial to be there for a considerable amount of time," said Greg Bortolin, Guinn's press secretary. "The governor does support what's being done here. (The memorial) is not proper, it's a First Amendment issue. It's not safe, it can't be where it's at."

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