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Theft of daughter's ashes pains mother

April 13, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

Most of the time, Joyce Rhodes' daughter stayed in the living room.

When her birthday came, Rhodes would light a candle and place it upon the coffee table beside her. Sometimes, Rhodes took her daughter to another room, but only when she needed company.

Tina Hawn Cafferio is dead, but Rhodes kept her memory alive. Looking upon a marble urn that held her daughter's cremated remains "was like having her with me," Rhodes said Tuesday, as her eyes filled with tears.

On April 5, someone stole the urn, a laptop that contained pictures of Cafferio's four children and some keys from Rhodes' apartment in the 200 block of Summit Avenue.

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While preparing to leave her apartment for work at Berwick Offray LLC, the 58-year-old woman noticed a small manila envelope on the floor of her living room. The envelope, which was kept with the urn, contained Cafferio's cremation record.

Rhodes immediately looked at the coffee table, where the marble urn engraved with her daughter's name, birthdate of June 16, 1967, and death date of May 21, 2003, was usually kept.

"I thought, 'Oh my God,' and I seen where she was gone," Rhodes said, beginning to cry.

Her friend and neighbor, Shirley Morgan, said she can't stand to see Rhodes this way. Morgan said Rhodes is distant and emotional.

"To me, it's like grave robbing," Morgan said.

Rhodes said until the urn was stolen, she had moved past her daughter's death, but only with the help of the urn, which she looked upon as a reminder.

"I'm more upset now that she's been gone," she said.

Cafferio, Rhodes' only daughter, died from an accidental overdose of medication while living in Florida, her mother said. She was a "little, petite girl, skinny, real skinny," Rhodes said. "She had blond hair, was real pretty."

Cafferio went to South Hagerstown High School, but only finished 10th grade. She got her GED in Texas.

Rhodes said Cafferio's brother, Alan Hawn, has had custody of Cafferio's four children, who range in age from 7 to 19, since his sister's death.

The black Compaq laptop that was stolen from Rhodes' house contained pictures of those children, she said. It was inside a black cloth briefcase.

The small urn was gray and white marble in the shape of a vase with a sealed top, she said.

The Hagerstown Police Department is investigating the case, Sgt. Paul Kifer said.

Rhodes asked anyone with information about who might have stolen the urn, the laptop or the keys to call police at 301-790-3700, ext. 234.

"What I really want back the most is the urn," Rhodes said.

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