Cemetery orders removal of Iraq veteran's SpongeBob SquarePants gravestones despite granting prior approval

The two headstones have been taken out of the historic cemetery in Cincinnati because they do not fit in with the other graves

Two headstones designed to look like the children's cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants have been removed from the grave of an Iraq war veteran by cemetery officials.

The gravestones of Kimberly Walker were taken away by officials at the Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio, who said that the design was inappropriate, despite granting the family prior approval for the tributes.

The family said they cleared the headstones with staff at the Cincinnati cemetery first, while the artist designing the monuments worked closely with officials.

The family have been left devastated by the move which they have described as 'disrespectful'.

Ms Walker's mother Deborah said: "We went through the channels to get these plots and also to get these monuments and then you just turn around and walk away like we're just nothing."

"They had no compassion for what we were going through," she added.

The cemetery has said that the monuments to the deceased solider do not fit in with other gravestones at the site.

In a statement to WLWT-TV, the president of Spring Grove Gary Freytag said: "The monument does not fit within Spring Grove Cemetery guidelines, was not approved by senior management and cannot remain here."

"As an historic cemetery, we must constantly balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past."

Mr Freytag said that the cemetery was working with Ms Walker's family to reach a solution on the matter and provide a suitable memorial for the late soldier.

The two seven foot headstones were made in the likeness of Ms Walker's favourite cartoon character dressed in military uniform. One stone was to mark the grave of the sergeant while another was made to honour Ms Walker's living twin sister Kara, who is in the US Navy. 

Ms Walker was found dead on Valentine's Day this year, her boyfriend has been arrested and charged with her killing.

The family purchased six plots at the historic back in March for the monuments, costing around £8,000 each. They were erected in earlier this month but have since been removed.

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