Topeka She has most of her son's ashes back, but she is seeking a little bit more justice.
Angela Bickham, of Winchester, testified Wednesday in favor of legislation that would make it a felony to desecrate a grave.
The cremated remains of her 17-year-old son, Justin Manning, who was killed in a vehicle crash, were stolen from a Bonner Springs cemetery in 2006.
"To lose that child twice is beyond words," Bickham told the House Judiciary Committee.
But because the remains and urn were worth less than $1,000, the crime was a misdemeanor, according to state Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R-Ozawkie, who is helping Bickham by pushing for the felony designation.
Tafanelli said home burglary is a felony and it seems reasonable to make theft of someone's remains a felony because of the emotional harm the crime causes survivors.
Bickham said she believed Justin's ashes had been robbed because she had denied requests of his friends to bury various objects, including a hat and CDs, with him. She said the robbers divided his ashes up among several people.
She said three people have been convicted in connection with the theft. One was a juvenile and received probation, while the other two were sentenced to one year in jail each and were incarcerated for 30 days and 33 days, respectively, before they were released on probation.
Bickham said she wants the crime to carry a felony designation because it will stay on a person's record and make it harder for that person find a job, plus disallow owning a firearm and joining the military.
"A felony conviction will follow a perpetrator for life," she said, adding that would be tougher than actual jail time.
The committee took no action but members said they will consider the bill later this session.
Bickham said police have recovered 95 percent of Justin's ashes, and that she plans to rebury him soon in an undisclosed location.