A memorial dedicated to Khoen Parker, the 15-year-old shot and killed in Billings in January of 2022, recently went missing and it’s left his friends and family devastated.
The memorial was tied to a light post in a parking lot near Castle Rock Park, where Parker was killed, and it was made by friends and family to create a place to pay tribute.
“I come up here almost every night,” longtime friend Unique Hallingholtz said. “I was pretty pissed when it happened. I don’t know. Emotionally, it just threw me for a loop.”
Hallingholtz helped build the original memorial alongside close friends Olivia Coutre and Miracle Ortiz. They said many people, not just themselves, have come to the parking lot to see the memorial and to add to it by writing messages in chalk on the pavement.
“People come here just to say hi and come and pay our respects,” Ortiz said. “But you can’t do that if there’s nothing here.”
Hallingholtz said that when she found out that the memorial was missing she was shocked.
“Our friends were up here the night I didn’t come up, and they were like, ‘It’s gone.'” Hallingholtz said. “I was like, ‘No, you’re joking. Why would it be gone?'”
The group of friends fear that the memorial was stolen, and none of them understand why.
“Honestly, it hurt pretty bad,” Coutre said. “It was pretty devastating to hear about. Just thinking about how somebody had the audacity to take something that is that important to us and his family is wrong. And it’s disgusting, honestly.”
Within three days of the memorial disappearing, this group of friends already rebuilt a replacement. An emotional process, but one Hallingholtz said was worth it.
“It was tough, but I know if it was the other way around, he would’ve done it,” Hallingholtz said.
Coutre said that they are committed to keeping the memorial there.
“I don’t care how many times it is taken, we’re going to continue to put up signs until his justice stays and does not get taken down,” Coutre said.
Five people were charged one year ago today in connection with Parker’s death.
And even though the structure has been rebuilt, the most crucial piece of the memorial is still missing. The cross, which was a part of Parker’s funeral service, has still not been recovered. Coutre said that his mother is desperately hoping to find it.
“If anybody does know where it is or where it could be, she is willing to give out a reward for it back,” Coutre said.
For now, they’ll continue to visit, writing messages on the parking lot where they lost their friend.
“We love him and we miss him,” Ortiz said. “We wish he was still here.”