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Sign is gone, publicity stays

Stacey Kelley didn't have to take down her "Support Our Troops" sign. Instead, someone stole it.

By STEPHANIE HAYES
Published April 29, 2006


TAMPA - Stacey Kelley isn't sure what to do anymore about the "Support Our Troops" sign that has brought an endless flow of news cameras to her door.

That's because the sign is gone.

"I guess someone didn't like it," Kelley said.

The sign was apparently stolen out of Kelley's yard in northwest Hillsborough's Westchase subdivision. The ribbon-shaped sign violated the community's deed restrictions. In February, Westchase officials told Kelley to take it down, but she refused.

Kelley said the sign was up on April 21, when she and her husband, David, an Army private who is home on leave from Iraq, left to spend the day at Busch Gardens. When they came home that night, it was gone.

"Whoever took it, I'm not mad at them," Kelley said. "If they didn't like it, they could have just come to me. They didn't have to steal it out of the yard."

Kelley, who lives in a small, gated neighborhood of villas inside Westchase, hasn't decided whether to replace the sign. She said she's talking to her lawyer about it.

Daryl Manning, Westchase's community association president, said he was dismayed by the theft.

"I'm saddened to hear the news that the sign that meant so much to her was removed," Manning said. "The entire community does not condone the taking of anyone else's property. If there is a violation, we have procedures set in place to deal with those issues and I would request that whoever removed the sign return it immediately."

The sign has been a hot button issue locally and nationally. The story has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN, AOL and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Westchase's neighborhood association said that it supports the troops but that allowing Kelley's sign to stay could open the floodgates for other signs that are banned in the community.

Kelley's mother, Gloria Nelson, owns the house. Nelson backs her daughter and had agreed to keep the sign up, despite a potential fine of $1,000 per month.

Manning said Nelson was not fined because Kelley had said she would take the sign down when her husband came home on leave. Kelley changed her mind about that offer after a board meeting March 9, when she was told once again to remove the sign.

Kelley said her husband has no plans to meet with Westchase officials about the sign. David Kelley arrived in Tampa on April 19 and is expected to return to Iraq next week.

[Last modified April 29, 2006, 01:17:17]


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