WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — In May 2017 a painted horse named “Forever” was placed in front of McNiel Middle School in memory of murdered student Lauren Landavazo and her friend Makayla Smith, who were shot on their way home.
The horse has their favorite colors on it, purple and blue and animals, a cat and dog.
“It was right before school let out and they did a whole unveiling ceremony where Makayla got up and spoke and her father Rodney is a pastor so he blessed the horse,” family friend Bethany Tolley said.
But sometime early Thursday morning the statue was stolen.
Wichita Falls Independent School District Chief of Police Lahoma Vaughn said with surveillance video and help from the community, Forever’s captives can be brought to justice.
“We do have video, we do know what time this happened. It happened around 4:24 a.m. We know that we have at least three suspects,” Vaughn said.
Vern Landavazo, Lauren’s father who walks by the statue frequently, received the news this morning that the memorial to his slain daughter was gone.
“For them to put so much of their time into a touching tribute to our daughter and Makayla for their love spirit and compassion and empathy… For someone to damage that, to steal that… It’s disturbing. it’s heartbreaking,” Landavazo said.
Vaughn said there have been security concerns for the horse in the past.
In April 2019, video was shared on social media of several teens climbing over the horse and cursing.
But even that doesn’t compare to this, Vaughn said.
“Its a felony offense for what happened here and I feel someone is going to know something and report,” Vaughn said. “I feel we will get this resolved pretty quickly.”
Even though Landavazo’s father is upset and heartbroken, he is keeping forgiveness in his heart
“Try to keep forgiveness in your hearts and try to understand, even if people do things that don’t seem to make sense, I know I’ll be searching my heart trying to spread that and try to prevent from spreading that kind of behavior,” Landavazo said.
The Landavazo family said they are thankful as they always have been for the community support.
According to a WFPD spokesperson, the department received a tip that a black pickup truck was seen with the horse statue in the back of it at around 4:45 a.m. Thursday morning.
The vehicle was last seen taking the 281 exit onto Henry S. Grace Freeway heading toward Jacksboro from Central Freeway East.
An unidentified white male was in the bed of the truck holding the statue.
If you have any more information about this crime, call Crime Stoppers at 940-322-9888, or if you are calling long distance, call 1-800-322-9888.
You never have to give your name, and if your information leads to the arrest and board approval, you could earn up to $1,000.
Plus, since the Wichita Falls Police Department launched its Fresh 48 initiative with this case if any information is received in the first 48 hours that leads to an arrest of a suspect or suspects, whoever provided that anonymous tip will receive an additional $500.