Cemetery thieves break the heart of a Fresno mother

FRESNO, Calif.

Ana and Ruvi Escalante died after a fire swept through their Calwa home in February of 2007.

The four year anniversary of the girls' deaths is just two weeks away. Their mother is hoping to have the picture returned before that somber milestone.

Sylvia Escalante said, "I don't know how they even took it off, and I'm just upset and sad they took it."

Escalante can't understand why someone stole the picture of her daughters that was mounted to their headstone at Fresno Memorial Gardens. She says the small piece of tile, had only sentimental value.

Escalante said, "There's nothing of value to anyone else, it's just a picture of my girls."

Nine-year-old Ana and eight-year-old Ruvi were killed by a fire at their Calwa home on February 8th, 2007.

The house had burglar bars that hindered firefighters, and it did not have smoke detectors. After the tragedy, Sylvia went on a mission with Calfire crews to make sure other homes in the community did have the life saving devices. She's also visited her daughter's graves every weekend since their funeral.

"I know they're not here, but to me they are." Escalante said. "And that's my way of having comfort and seeing their picture, and they're smiling at me, and I can feel like they're okay."

But that changed Sunday morning when she discovered the picture had been stolen.

Escalante said, "I just started crying and was like why did someone do this to me? Why would you take my girls' picture? It's just very mean and very cruel."

Vangie Silva agrees. She says vases have been stolen from her son's gravesite, which she was visiting for his birthday. "That's devastating for a mom. I don't care what it is. It's not the object, it's the idea of someone being that thoughtless."

Escalante says the cemetery has agreed to replace the picture, which cost her more than three hundred dollars. But it won't be ready in time for the anniversary of her daughters' deaths, a time that is always incredibly difficult. "Every year, it seems like it gets harder for me instead of getting easier it just gets harder for me."

Escalante says the picture was stolen between Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. She's offering a reward to anyone who can help her get it back. She's also asking whoever took it to just return it to the cemetery, no questions asked.

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