Police in Ontario, Ohio, had tried for nearly two years to capture a clear image of someone who was taking mementos from the boy's grave. They finally got that image on Saturday and posted it to the police Facebook page.
Thousands of comments came in on the video showing a woman leaving the gravesite with a stuffed duck that had been placed there just hours before by the toddler's parents. Some of the posts identified the woman as Frieda Kay Shade, 54, Ontario police Detective Jon Sigler said.
The theft of toys and solar-cell lights from Hayden "Tank" Cole Sheridan's grave started in 2007, soon after he died and was buried at a cemetery in Mansfield, a town next to Ontario, Sigler said. Mementos left at other graves nearby remained undisturbed, making the family feel targeted, he said.
"When the family came to me, you could see the pain on their faces. It is such a sad story," Sigler said in a telephone interview. "It hit us the same way it hit everyone else, that this is crazy."
After several people identified the woman from the video, Sigler said he went to Shade's Facebook page and saw images of her wearing the same clothes as seen in cemetery surveillance tapes.
Shade turned herself in Wednesday and told police she saw an "aggressive dog" digging up flowers at the cemetery and placed the toy on top of a garbage can to keep it safe.
Police do not believe that Shade and the boy's family have a connection.
Shade is scheduled to appear in court next month on the misdemeanor charge.