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Somers Point woman wants answers for destruction of son's roadside memorial
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Somers Point woman wants answers for destruction of son's roadside memorial

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A roadside memorial has sat along New Road in Linwood since Nikk Marvel was fatally struck by a drunken driver in 2004.

When Donnah Marvel found out her son’s roadside memorial had been destroyed, she felt something she’d hoped to never experience again.

“I couldn’t believe it,” said Marvel, 61, of Somers Point. “It felt like they killed him all over again.”

In 2004, Marvel’s son, 18-year-old Nikk, was killed by a drunken driver while walking at New Road and Seaview Avenue in Linwood. The memorial has been maintained by Marvel with the support of the community since then.

On Feb. 24, Linwood police received a call that a man exited a car near the site and proceeded to destroy it. Based on statements from a witness, which were corroborated by two off-duty officers who were passing through the area at the time, the suspect was located and identified, police said.

According to police Lt. Steve Cunningham, Stephen Symnoski was charged a day after the incident with criminal mischief. Symnoski is awaiting a court appearance, Cunningham said.

Symnoski and Marvel will appear virtually in municipal court April 7, Marvel said in a March 3 Facebook post.

“Hoping the judge sees him for what he is,” the post read. “Anyone who has issues with a memorial site should probably seek counseling.”

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Marvel found out about the damage to the memorial as she was pulling into her driveway, she said.

She turned around, having never gotten out of her car, and headed straight to the site. The police were already there, and once they finished taking pictures, Marvel stood up the cross that was knocked over.

“It was such a multitude of emotions,” Marvel said. “Like, what the heck is wrong with somebody to do this? What kind of mental problems does somebody have if they can’t handle seeing a memorial site? I thought all of this was years ago.”

Nikk was killed 17 years ago by Paula Cicchinelli, of Somers Point, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the incident. Because the judge allowed the use of potentially prejudicial evidence, Cicchinelli was retried and sentenced to 10 years after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

The site was vandalized then, too. Since so much time has passed, Marvel wants answers as to why it’s happened again.

Though there are clearly some who wish to see the memorial go away, Marvel said, the overwhelming amount of support has far outweighed any negativity over the past couple of weeks.

Richard Albuquerque, an attorney and partner from D’Arcy Johnson Day Lawyers in Egg Harbor Township, donated replacement lights for the cross.

“I’ve known Donnah for several years ... so I reached out to her to see if there was anything we could do to help,” Albuquerque said. “She’s a great person, was in need and deserved our help, whichever way we could do it.”

That support could also be found on social media, Marvel said.

“I probably had 4,000-5,000 wonderful people with words of encouragement, help and offering to do whatever I needed done to rectify the situation (and) to get things back where they were,” Marvel said. “And it wasn’t just lip service. It was people that truly meant what they said.”

Contact Ahmad Austin:

609-272-7404

AAustin@pressofac.com

Twitter @ACPressAustin

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