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Controversy over placement and size of roadside memorial in Elkhart

ELKHART, Ind. – In August, 26-year-old Jacob Callahan was found in the middle of County Road 4 with serious injuries caused by a hit and run driver -- Injuries that eventually took his life. His family believes he was beaten and then intentionally run over. Now a memorial stands as a reminder of what happened there.

However, Jacob’s roadside memorial has been placed illegally. The family said they asked for permission before putting up the memorial and were told by the county it was okay as long as it was maintained.

The problem is that Jacob’s memorial is larger than your average memorial, standing 10 feet high. The family says that’s the point of the memorial, so whoever is responsible for their son’s death is reminded daily of what they did.

“So we understand for some people, it’s part of the grieving process,” Elkhart County Commissioner Mike Yoder said. “Just the black and white letter of the law is that these are not legally placed.”

According to Indiana Code 9-21-4-6 it’s illegal to put any kind of sign in the county right of way. That goes for garage sale signs, political signs, and more sensitive signs like memorials.

“It’s not specifically Jacob’s,” said Yoder. “We’ve actually talked about this and we have a number of memorials across the county – not quite this large – it’s not a huge issue but it’s a little bit of an issue when it comes to maintaining the county road signs.”

Jacob’s family however wants the memorial to stay, in the hopes that it will bring Justice for Jacob.

“We believe the people involved are around this area so it’s a constant daily reminder as they pass by to remind them of what happened here,” Sandy Callahan, Jacob’s stepmother, said.

The worry is that the memorial’s size and the lights illuminating it may be a distraction to drivers.

“We wouldn’t have this memorial here – maybe a little sign – we would be at the graveyard you know because it was an accident but it was a murder – he killed my boy,” Ronald Callahan, Jacob’s father, said.

Commissioner Yoder said he doesn’t know when, if anything, will happen to the roadside memorial. Ideally, if anything happens, he wants to compromise with the family.

Usually signs placed illegally in the county’s right of way are overlooked, according to Yoder, but Jacob’s memorial is hard to miss.

Elkhart police are still asking anyone with information about what happened to Jacob Callahan to call the sheriff’s department at (574) 891-2345.

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