Skip to comments.Judge confirms death penalty [Wichita Massacre]
Posted on 11/16/2002 5:15:22 AM PST by KS Flyover
WICHITA -- Even though a jury sentenced Reginald and Jonathan Carr to die for shooting four friends in the back of the head two years ago, it is a punishment that pales in comparison to the crimes they committed, the sole survivor of the slayings told a court on Friday.
Jonathan and Reginald Carr
The Associated Press
"The sentence imposed on them will be a much kinder sentence than they imposed on me, my friends and all our families," she said.
Her words came on the same day Sedgwick County District Judge Paul Clark followed a jury's recommendation and sentenced Reginald Carr, 25, and his brother Jonathan, 22, to death by injection for killing three men and a woman on Dec. 15, 2000, as they knelt side-by-side in a snow-covered soccer field.
The Carrs were convicted last week of capital murder in the deaths of Aaron Sander, 29, Brad Heyka, 27, Jason Befort, 26, and Heather Muller, 25.
Befort's girlfriend, then a 25-year-old teacher, survived and ran through the snow naked to seek help. She was among the key witnesses at the trial, which began more than two months ago.
The five friends were at a Wichita home when two armed intruders forced them to engage in sex with each other, then made them withdraw money from automated teller machines. The two women were raped repeatedly before the five were taken to the soccer field and shot.
"I had no choice in what Reginald and Jonathan Carr did that night. I wasn't given a choice to save Brad or Aaron or Heather or Jason," the survivor said. "I had a choice to lie there and die or get up and live. I choose to live. And I still chose to live."
Clark also sentenced both brothers to life in prison, with no possibility of parole for 20 years, in the death of Ann Walenta, 55, a cellist with the Wichita Symphony. She was shot four days before the quadruple killings.
Reginald Carr was also sentenced to an additional 47 years in prison for his conviction on other crimes, and Jonathan Carr was sentenced to an additional 41 years on other convictions. The sentences are to run consecutively.
The brothers showed no visible emotion when the judge pronounced the sentences Friday on the 93 crimes the brothers were convicted of committing during the nine-day crime spree. Jonathan Carr looked down as the victims' families gave impact statements to the court, while his brother stared ahead.
Neither man spoke on their own behalf before they were sentenced.
At times struggling to hold back sobs, the survivor of the quadruple killing told a packed courtroom she still paces at night when she hears noises. She said she is careful to blow-dry her hair to cover the spot where the bullet hit her skull, now a bald spot that no longer grows hair. She says whenever she sees the carpet burns that still scar her knees she is reminded of the rapes.
The diamond engagement ring Befort had planned to give her for Christmas that year was found in the pocket of Jonathan Carr on the day he was arrested.
She said she can't tell the court the impact the crimes had on her life -- that would take hours.
"My grief is immeasurable, because my happiness was immense," she said.
Larry Heyka, the father of Brad Heyka, said his only son was his best friend.
"No parent should have to bury a child under such circumstances," Heyka said. "I would freely give my life and all my belongings if Brad was alive today."
He said the Carr brothers have shown no remorse the families can see.
"Some part of us has been taken away, and our hearts will be shallow for the rest of our lives," Heyka said.
Elisabeth Daily, Brad Heyka's mother, told the court people who don't believe the devil walks the earth haven't seen the evidence in this case.
Lois Muller, the mother of Heather Muller, said whenever she looks into the eyes of the Carr brothers she sees a hardness and hollowness. Muller said the trial has been so difficult sometimes she felt like her heart would burst from the pain.
"How much more can I hear, how much more can I take," she said. "I know Heather is in heaven, but I wasn't ready for it to be so soon."
Andy Schreiber was abducted on Dec. 7 and forced to withdraw money from ATM machines before he was left unharmed beside a road, the tire on his car shot out. The shell casing found at that robbery was linked to the single homicide and the quadruple killing days later. Reginald Carr was convicted in that crime, while his brother Jonathan was found innocent of it.
Schreiber told the court even though he didn't know the other victims, he has feelings of guilt because he lived and they didn't.
"It is not vengeance I seek -- it is justice," he told the court.
Bill Sander, the father of Aaron Sander, told reporters after the sentencing the four victims of the quadruple killing all thought Wichita was a good place to live.
"Wichita has got to get over the fear the Carr brothers instilled," Sander said.
In a news conference after the sentencing, several family members said they believed in the death penalty. Mark Befort, the brother of Jason Befort, said he spent the night the jury returned the death penalty verdicts looking up Bible verses dealing with punishment.
" 'An eye for an eye' tells you when you kill another human being, you pay," he said.
When the jury delivered its verdict Thursday, Befort sarcastically wished Reginald Carr a "happy birthday" followed by an expletive. As he was being led away, Carr's response was laced with profanity. Thursday was Reginald Carr's 25th birthday.
Befort told reporters the next day that it was difficult for him to sit quietly when throughout the trial while the Carr brothers would often turn around -- winking and smirking at his mother and sister.
"I bit my lip for 23 months and I had to have one sentence in one day -- I don't think that is too despicable an act," he said.
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Scott McConnell: "Unfit to Print" - 01/10/2001
THE WICHITA HORROR - 01/13/2001
DA, Public Interest Clash Over Records (Wichita multiple murder) - 01/13/2001
Court seals case files in Wichita quadruple homicides - 01/14/2001
Lawyer asks to close pretrial proceedings (Update on The Wichita Horror) - 01/17/2001
Lawyers brawl over records (Wichita Horror/Quadruple Homicide) - 01/27/2001
BLOODY KANSAS: HATE CRIMES IN WICHITA? - 02/12/2001
Hate Crimes: A One-Way Street? - 03/05/2001
Carrs (Wichita Horror) to have joint preliminary hearing - 04/14/2001
The Wichita Massacre - 07/16/2002 - [Details about the murders]
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WICHITA MASSACRE TRIAL UNDERWAY Day 1 - 10/08/02
Legal wrangling opens Carr trial [Wichita Murders] Day 1 - 10/08/02
Carr trial: Survivor describes sexual attacks by armed intruders [Wichita Massacre] Day 2 - 10/09/02
Witchita Case of Black Racist Crime Survivor's testimony horrifies courtroom Day 2 - 10/10/02
Woman testifies that Carrs killed her friends in a soccer field [Wichita Massacre Day 3] - 10/10/02
Prosecutors Downplay Racial Element in Kansas Murder Trial - 10/11/02
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Testimony on cellist slaying fills Carr trial [Wichita Massacre Day 8] - 10/17/02
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Wichita Massacre Ping
Maybe, if they're like Mumia, they can get their own TV or radio show. You know, a light-hearted variety hour or morality play.
Only band they're gonna have is the one around them when they are strapped on the table.
That says it all.
The Feds seemed to get the job done with McVeigh very quickly. Why is it they could execute McVeigh in a couple of years but the state ones seem to drag on for decades?
Strange, isn't it?
McVeigh attacked the Feds.
Jonathan and Reginald Carr just sat there.
The two brothers had their chance to publicly ask for forgiveness Friday, to apologize or show remorse. But they didn't say a word.
The condemned killers didn't even turn around from the defense table, where they had sat silently for 10 weeks of jury selection and trial, as a woman who survived a shooting, rapes and torture called them "two soulless monsters."
The Carrs showed no emotion as Judge Paul Clark approved the harshest sentences allowed under the law: Four consecutive death sentences for each of the brothers, followed by more than 40 more years in prison for crimes ranging from rape to cruelty to animals, and 20-to-life for the fatal shooting of a Wichita cellist.
Following Friday's proceedings, both brothers were taken to the state's El Dorado Correctional Facility.
Even if the state never carries out the executions, Friday's sentencing assured that neither of the brothers will ever again see life outside prison walls or even see a parole board.
In court, Clark told them of their rights under the law to allocution, a legal term meaning they could address the court to ask for mercy or apologize. Both had been advised by their lawyers not to speak.
Jonathan Carr, 22, shook his head and whispered his answer. Reginald Carr, 25, sat without saying a word.
But the woman who survived the Dec 15, 2000, shooting in a soccer field near K- 96 and Greenwich Road and the families of her four friends killed there had plenty to say.
They had remained silent for nearly two years. They had sat in the courtroom, fighting tears and listening to details of the crimes that made their stomachs churn.
Now, they could speak.
"I wake up in sweats from my nightmares. I pace at night because of noises that I think are somebody breaking into my house," said the woman who survived. "There is the fear that evil will once again come into my life and take away the things that are precious to me."
Mark Befort, whose brother Jason planned to propose to the surviving woman before he was shot to death, said the family had lost more than a brother or son. His father died before he could see the men convicted of killing Jason Befort brought to justice.
"This took the life out of him," Mark Befort said, as his family stood beside him. "He died 10 days before his 58th birthday, and he died with a broken heart."
Sadness filled the courtroom. Tears fell from prosecutors, jurors who attended Friday's sentencing and other families.
Detective Rick Craig, described by a defense lawyer as "solid as a rock" earlier in the trial, put his head in his hands and wept.
After the hearing, Wichita Police Chief Norman Williams expressed relief to see the endofthe case -- one of two quadruple homicides that occurred in Wichita in December 2000. The other occurred Dec 7, 2000, when four teenagers were shot to death inside a home at 1144 N. Erie Ave.
"Our hearts go out to the families and friends of the victims of both the quadruple homicides," he said. "Our thoughts are with them, and we will keep them in our prayers."
Police traced the Erie Avenue killings to Cornelius Oliver, who killed his girlfriend and three of her friends. Oliver was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
But the Carr case horrified Wichitans because of its random nature: A home invasion and robbery that turned into a terrible night of torture, rape and robbery.
Family members still find it difficult to comprehend that lives were taken in a robbery that netted $1,800 and a pickup load of televisions, clothes, watches and jewelry.
"I would freely give my life and all my belongings if Brad were alive today," Larry Heyka said of his son.
Elizabeth Daily, Brad Heyka's mother, said, "People who don't believe that the devil walked the earth have not seen the evidence and the facts that were presented in this courtroom."
Bill Sander, Aaron Sander's father, talked of the toll his family felt the past 23 months during the slow process of a capital murder trial.
"They've taken not only our son, but they've taken our lives, particularly the last two years," Bill Sander said of the Carr brothers.
Lois Muller, whose daughter Heather was killed in the soccer field, compared the vibrant life left dead on that cold December morning to those of the men now condemned for those crimes.
"Heather's eyes were filled with light and love" Lois Muller said. "Reginald and Jonathan Carr's eyes, they have a hollow, empty look, the look of pure evil and hatred, and I know this because I have looked into their eyes."
Callie Lyons, Reginald Carr's sister-in-law, said from her home in Ohio that her family would not dispute the jury's guilty verdict. But she said that she had hoped for sentences of life in prison for the brothers.
Like the families of those who died, Lyons talked of her family's strong Christian faith.
"We have a strong belief that as long as people are alive, they're not above saving," Lyons said. "And that's how we feel about Jon and Reggie."
The Carr brothers' crime spree began Dec 7, 2000, when Andrew Schreiber was carjacked and forced to withdraw money from ATMs. Ann Walenta, a cellist with the Wichita Symphony, was shot four days later during an attempted carjacking. She would later die of her wounds.
Four days after that, Muller, Sander, Heyka and Befort all died kneeling in the soccer field, shot in the back of the head.
"I have to feel that I have done everything in my power to ensure that these two men that sit here today are sentenced to the fullest extent," Schreiber said. "It is not vengeance that I seek, it is just justice."
On Friday, Schreiber got what he and the others sought, as Clark gave the Carrs the maximum sentence under the law.
The Carrs just sat there.
Contributing: Hurst Laviana
Jonathan Carr listens in court Friday, Nov. 15, 2002, as Judge Paul Clark sentenced him to death at the Sedgwick County Courthouse in Wichita, Kan. Jonathan and his brother, Reginald, were sentenced following the deaths of four friends in December 2000. Sititng next to Carr is his attorney, Ron Evans. DAVE WILLIAMS, The Wichita Eagle
Reginald Carr is escorted from the courtroom after being sentenced to death by Judge Paul Clark at the Sedgwick County Courthouse Friday. DAVE WILLIAMS, The Wichita Eagle
They were strangers before. Now they are forever tied by tragedy, united by love.
They are the relatives and friends of Jason Befort, Aaron Sander, Heather Muller, Brad Heyka and Ann Walenta, the five people Reginald and Jonathan Carr murdered in a nine-day crime spree in December 2000.
For 23 months, the families and friends have had to endure hearing about the Carr brothers day in and day out -- along with the unimaginable acts of brutality the victims experienced.
But for all that the survivors have lost, "When we walk out of this courtroom today... we've gained a family, all here today," said Megan DeJohn, Heyka's sister.
On Friday, family members finally got their say -- 21 of them, arrayed behind a table in the very courtroom where less than an hour before the Carrs were formally sentenced to die by lethal injection.
There were tears over the crimes. But there were also smiles when family members remembered earlier days, when their loved ones were helping other people and building apparently bright futures.
Shortly before his death, Sander quit a good job with Koch Industries while he contemplated a calling to the Catholic priesthood. The night before the attacks, he and Muller toured a seminary.
"He really cared about people," said his father, Bill Sander. "That's why he was leaving a very good career and searching for what he hoped would provide his purpose in life."
Selfless love was the hallmark of Muller, said her brother, Jamie Muller.
"She had the biggest heart," he said. "She put others before herself, especially children with special needs."
Heyka played golf and won friends. Before embarking on his career with Koch, he was a standout high school and collegiate golfer.
His father, Larry Heyka, said that a memorial tournament last fall drew many more than the 175 golfers the course would allow.
"I think we had people represented from 20 states," he said.
DeJohn said she never realized just what a special relationship she and her brother had.
"I relied on him for advice for everything in my life," she said. "I've saved e-mails that he sent me.... I read those frequently and when I do, I can hear Brad's words. I can hear him."
Mark Befort drew a round of laughs when he recalled how his shy little brother Jason earned the nickname of "Woods" while running a combine in the family's harvesting business.
"When you're out in the middle of the field, I'll say when nature calls, you don't always have the best accommodations," Mark Befort explained. "Meek as he would be, he'd have to hunt woods. So that became his nickname for quite a while."
Jason outgrew that nickname when he became a teacher and coach at Augusta High School.
"His last nickname was 'Coach,' by his friends, by his students and by us," his brother said.
Jason Befort, Aaron Sander, Heather Muller and Brad Heyka -- housemates and friends -- died side by side Dec 15, 2000. They were shot in a snowy soccer field near K-96 and Greenwich Road.
Walenta, a 51-year-old cellist with the Wichita Symphony, was shot four days earlier.
She was going home from a rehearsal for the symphony's holiday concert when she encountered Reginald Carr, who asked for her help and then shot her.
"She was an amazing musician," her daughter, Suzanne Walenta, recalled. "She never gave herself enough credit for that. She taught underprivileged students the cello. She taught anyone the cello who wanted to learn."
Two survived the Carr's crime wave.
Andrew Schreiber, carjacked, kidnapped and robbed Dec 7, 2000, appeared at Friday's news conference. Earlier, he told the judge of the guilt he feels for having lived when so many others died at the Carrs' hands.
Absent was a woman who survived the ordeal. Her identity is being protected because she was a sex-crime victim.
The survivor, whose childhood nickname was "Toughy," survived being shot in the head to run for help. She identified the Carrs as the men who assaulted her and killed her friends.
It has been a tough two years for all the families, even beyond the senseless slayings.
They see the death sentences as a victory -- although a hollow one measured against their losses and the apparent unrepentance of the Carr brothers.
In court appearances, the brothers have repeatedly demonstrated not just indifference, but defiant disdain for the pain they've caused.
"To look at those guys and have them turn around... and look at your mother, look at your sister and wink, or give a smirk, is for me the hardest dang thing," Mark Befort said.
What would the family members say to the Carr brothers if they could?
Friday, they answered that question in staccato:
"I don't think they'd care."
"It's not worth the time."
"It wouldn't make a difference."
"You couldn't print it."
Following the sentencing of Jonathan and Reginald Carr Friday morning, Nov. 15, 2002, at the Sedgwick County Courthouse, victims and family members talk with the media in Judge Paul Clark's court room. JILL JARSULIC, The Wichita Eagle
Mark Befort's eyes fill with tears as he talks about his little brother, Jason, during a press conference that concluded the Carr brother's trial at the Sedgwick County Courthouse Friday afternoon. TRAVIS HEYING, The Wichita Eagle
Family members (from bottom left, clockwise) Bill Sander, Lois Muller, Connie Neises, Mary Jo Heyka, Amy Scott and Larry Heyka reminisce about the victims of the Dec. 15, 2000, quadruple homicide during a press conference Friday afternoon. JILL JARSULIC, The Wichita Eagle
Tiffany Niblack didn't want anything to do with the capital murder trial ofJonathan and Reginald Carr.
But she and 11 other jurors were asked to decide the fate of the two brothers convicted of a series of crimes, including four brutal murders.
"I realized there was evil in our world. I just didn't realize it was so close to home," Niblack, 22, said Friday. "This made me grow up a lot."
On Thursday, the jury sentenced the Carrs to death for the murders of Heather Muller, Aaron Sander, Brad Heyka and Jason Befort.
While the evidence was overwhelming, the trial was not easy, Niblack said.
"You're determining someone's fate; playing God," she said. "And it's very, very difficult to do that."
Juror Donald Manlove, 68, said there was some disagreement among jurors during deliberations in the guilt and penalty phases of the trial. He said members discussed the issues until they reached an agreement.
"Neither side had a closed mind," he said. "We just went back over things time and time again."
Niblack said she was somewhat surprised the jury was able to unanimously decide on the death penalty.
"All it would have taken was one person," she said. "I thought there would be one holding out."
Before this case, Niblack said she was a strong supporter of the death penalty. She also thought she would have little trouble sentencing a murderer to death.
She was wrong.
She said she still believes in the death penalty, though not as strongly. But she wonders if a judge -- not a jury -- should hand out a death sentence.
It's too much to ask of a person, she said.
But she stands by her decision.
So does Manlove. He, too, supported the death penalty before this trial.
However, he understands it is much more powerful than people realize.
"It shouldn't be a common phrase," he said. "I've learned that you don't just throw it around."
Reach Sarah Bahari at 268-6290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BY RON SYLVESTER - The Wichita Eagle - Sun, Nov. 17, 2002
Jonathan and Reginald Carr await execution by lethal injection for a crime spree police and prosecutors say was fueled by the brothers' cold lust for cash and material goods.
Nearly 23 months after a horrible home invasion left four young people dead on a frozen soccer field, the brothers sit in solitary cells at the El Dorado Correctional Facility, bereft of any of the things they most treasured.
The families of the victims are bereft, too, of the things they treasured most. They have been so since December 2000.
The worst of all the crimes the Carr brothers were convicted of may have started simply by their going to the wrong house.
By the night of Dec 14, 2000, the Carr brothers had either individually or together stalked at least two single people in their vehicles on the city's east side.
Andrew Schreiber was carjacked and then robbed at two ATMs on Dec 7. Schreiber remembered Reginald Carr saying how much he liked Schreiber's Ford Expedition. Four days later, Ann Walenta was attacked in similar fashion and fatally wounded, shot as she tried to flee.
Reginald Carr was convicted of the attack on Schreiber, and both brothers were convicted for killing Walenta.
On the night of Dec 14, they were looking for their next victim, a few hours before Jonathan Carr was scheduled to catch a train in Newton to visit family in Cleveland.
At 10:30 that night, Jean Beck got in her BMW and left The Grape, a restaurant and pub near Central and Rock. As Beck drove to her triplex in a quiet subdivision off 127th Street East and Birchwood Drive, she noticed a Toyota following her. She stopped at her mailbox and let the car pass. She hurried inside.
Beck lived at 12725 E. Birchwood Drive. Two strangers, later identified as Jonathan and Reginald Carr, went to 12727 E. Birchwood Drive.
Jean Beck never really knew the three men who lived next door. After that night, she never would have the chance.
Jason Befort had the engagement ring tucked inside a popcorn tin in his bedroom. He'd tried to keep the surprise from his curious girlfriend, who kept wondering why his stories about Christmas shopping kept changing. But it was hard to hide stuff from her. The woman was petite but strong-willed -- a "toughie," they'd called her as a little girl.
They were both teachers. Jason was a high school basketball coach in nearby Augusta for the junior varsity and freshmen teams. He taught the young players the fundamentals they'd need to graduate on to varsity and, years later, to win a state championship. She taught fifth-graders, precocious and in the pangs of pre-pubescent angst, whom she'd take for recess in her red coat to play in the fresh winter air.
They both loved children. With his sister, Kim, Jason bought the ring because he'd decided he wanted to be a husband and father. And the woman he wanted to become his wife often came to visit him, bringing him love and affection in many forms, including the cheesecake she made the night of Dec 14.
Jason Befort lived with his friends, Brad Heyka and Aaron Sander. Brad and Jason had always been best friends, inseparable people would say. Brad and Aaron knew each other from having worked together at Koch Industries.
Brad's career at Koch Financial Corp. took off so fast it embarrassed him. He didn't tell his family about promotions that had made him financial director. His success came at a time of cutbacks and layoffs. As others were losing their jobs, Brad Heyka's profile was rising. His success in the face of others' hardship bothered him.
All three were the kind of men you don't hear about often outside the circle of family and friends that they touch and inspire. They'd mastered what seems to be the lost art of calling their mothers every week. E-mails made it easier to write home. They weren't shy about hugging their brothers and sisters.
Brad fell in love, too, with Amy Scott, whom he'd met at work. She had intense eyes, an infectious smile and shining blonde hair. With his dark eyes and 6-foot-3 frame, he towered over her. He loved golf and Amy, not in that order.
His success had allowed him to join the Tallgrass Country Club, where he could enjoy the game he'd been playing since the clubs were taller than he was, that he played competitively through high school and college. One of Brad's regular golf partners was his father.
Aaron Sander had recently left Koch and moved out of the triplex for a time. When he moved back in, Jason was in the master bedroom, so Aaron lived in the other upstairs room. Brad had a little apartment of his own downstairs with a new big-screen television in a living area with a computer outside his bedroom.
Aaron was on a journey of his own, searching for purpose. He'd discussed with his family looking into a career as a counselor. He decided he might like to become a priest. Such a calling wasn't out of character. Aaron had a strong belief in God, which he had expressed since a toddler. Everyone who came in contact with him, through family or college, would speak of his kindness and gentleness.
Even his girlfriend Heather Muller, wasn't surprised that the church called to Aaron. Heather was heavily involved in her parish, too, and was studying to work with disabled children. She loved Aaron so much she didn't mind giving him up to the priesthood. She thought she might become a nun. They would marry to the church instead of each other.
Heather and Aaron both saw life with the brightest of outlooks. Ask Heather how she was and she'd cheerfully respond, "Faaaaan-tastic."
The evening of Dec 14, Heather and Aaron had dinner and shared sips of wine for the last time. Jason came home late from a night of basketball practices and found his future fiancee waiting for him, watching "ER." He went down to see Brad, sitting in front of the big-screen TV.
It was getting late. The clock ticked past 11 as Aaron went to answer the door and found two strangers waiting.
The night before, Dec 13, was the last good time the friends had together. Christmas packages sat waiting to be wrapped, and decorations were going up inside the triplex.
Heather and Aaron left early. They wanted to visit a seminary that Sander considered attending.
The others spent the evening like a family, Amy and Brad, Jason and his love. The men watched television. The women made Christmas stockings for everyone in the house. They even made a little stocking for the dog, Nikki.
They talked about having a New Year's Eve party to welcome 2001. They talked about which football games to watch. They were Kansas State University fans. They talked about food and music for the party.
That night, life was rich, warm and safe.
BY ABE LEVY - The Wichita Eagle - Sun, Nov. 17, 2002
St. Mary's Cathedral echoed with words of peace and comfort Saturday during a special Mass for crime victims and their loved ones.
It fell just a day after one of Wichita's most-watched murder trials concluded with the imposition of death sentences for Reginald and Jonathan Carr.
The trial has stirred emotions among people wrestling with Christian teachings about compassion and the desire for justice.
Bishop Thomas Olmsted spoke against the death penalty. Only faith can enable victims to cope with injustice, he said.
"The killing of Jesus was not the final word," he said. "The crime of all crimes was turned on its head. He transformed his dying into the act that transforms the world."
Lois Muller, the mother of Heather Muller -- who was killed by the Carrs -- attended part of the Mass. She declined comment.
Mary Roubeck of Catholic Charities, which sponsored the Mass, said crime victims need to know how loved they are.
"Our whole community needs that peace now," she said. "We have been through something horrible for the past two years, but God has a way of turning things into good."
The national media didn't give this crime any coverage.
In their silence, they were complicit.