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A Kauai mother visited her son’s grave, and made a heartbreaking discovery

Published: Jun. 17, 2021 at 8:44 PM HST|Updated: Jun. 17, 2021 at 8:59 PM HST
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KEKAHA, KAUAI (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Kauai mother is reeling from the pain of a heartbreaking find.

During a recent trip to her son’s grave at the Kekaha Public Cemetery, she found an act of vandalism that left her speechless.

She says someone not only knocked down a rock border surrounding the grave, but also dug up and took dirt from beneath a black tarp.

“I didn’t cry, I was just in shock,” Amber Alimboyoguen said. “I sat there and contemplated like, ‘Who would do this?’”

She described the scene she discovered this past Sunday evening.

“The 11 buckets of dirt and half of the rocks on my son’s grave were missing, and all of the belongings on the grave were tossed around,” she said.

Her son, Shawn Laniakea Schoenhardt, was born prematurely at just 21 weeks in 2015. He dealt with complications from a rare brain condition and died three years later.

His mom remembers his fighting spirit.

“They said he wasn’t going to make it, and he’s not going to breathe on his own, and I’ve watched him and it was like a little kitten. He had blue eyes and red hair like his father,” Alimboyoguen said.

“He would giggle all the time, especially when he knew his brother was walking through the door.”

She thinks the desecration might’ve happened sometime in late May or early June. Kauai police said they did receive a report of property damage at the cemetery in May and are investigating a person of interest.

Alimboyoguen is part of a voyaging canoe hui, and Shawn was with her every step of the way. Friends and hui members helped bury Shawn with traditional Hawaiian practices in mind.

“We had the maile lei, the black fern, laua’e fern, which comes from Wailua and Hanalei, so my son’s sleeping on a bed of that,” Alimboyoguen said.

Family, friends and hui members are working to restore the grave to what it once was.

“It’s a sensitive situation. The baby’s casket was made by our kupuna — one of our navigators of Kauai who is one of the original members of the Hokulea, uncle John Cruz. It made with wood that was gathered from the forest and sacred places,” said hui member and family friend, Kaimi Hermosura.

“The way we were taught is we’re going to correct this thing and ask everyone to be a part of the correction — by just doing your good deed and due diligence of malama aina and malama iwi,” Hermosura added.

As heartbreaking as it was, Alimboyoguen wants whoever is responsible to know: she’s already found forgiveness.

“If I don’t forgive this person, I will feel this hurt in my heart for the rest of my life,” she said.

“Even if I’m mad at that person, I just have to try to find peace and find that resolution and help the rest of my family.”

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