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Company repossesses 5-year-old's gravestone

Monument company's owner later apologizes

The grave marker for 5-year-old Jake Leatherman that was repossessed in a payment dispute with Southeastern Monuments. (WBTV, Wayne and Crystal Leatherman via CNN)

HICKORY, N.C. – Wayne and Crystal Leatherman said they went to visit the grave of their son, Jake, on Oct. 9 to find his grave marker was gone, WBTV reports.

Jake Leatherman died in the fall of 2016, after a battle with leukemia, WCNC TV reports.

"He repossessed it, like it was a car," Jake's mother said of Southeastern Monument's owner J.C. Shoaf in an interview with WBTV on Monday.

Shoaf told WBTV, "If you buy something, you've got to pay for it. No matter what it is."

Shoaf said Wayne and Crystal paid for the stone in full, but the couple made changes, adding up to a larger bill. Shoaf told WCNC the family owes $918 for the gravestone.

The Leathermans disagree and said they were never told about any cost increase.

"If I would have owed him the money, I would have paid him," Crystal Leatherman said in a WBTV report. "This is not something you argue over."

On Tuesday, Shoaf said he wishes he had never taken back the maker. His company has been receiving mostly negative feedback.

"It's been torment," Shoaf told WCNC. "We've been threatened on the telephone, harassing phone calls."

Shoaf said the decision was business, not personal. He also offered an apology to the Leatherman family and said the marker would be returned.

"We waive all expenses from the Leatherman family," he told WBTV. "In hindsight, it was a big mistake to have the cemetery remove it. We do offer the family our condolence and forgiveness ... we hope they forgive us."