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Twenty-one years. A lot can happen in 21 years. You have 21 birthdays, Christmases, sets of all four seasons. You attend weddings and funerals. You might grow from an adolescent to a middle-aged adult, a baby to a college student, a busy parent to a grandparent. Twenty-one years and some change is how long it has been since my sister Jennifer Servo was murdered. We’ve been waiting all this time for answers. Who did this to her? Why? Where have they been all this time? What have they been doing for all these years that were stolen from my family? Twenty-one years later, we finally got some answers this week. I’m not at liberty to discuss the details right now, but after 21 years, this week there is finally some forward movement in her case.

My sister was born on September 23, 1979, in Whitefish, Montana. I was nearly four years old when she was born, and I couldn’t wait to be a big sister. I would go to the top of the stairs at our house and shout to my parents who were downstairs in the TV room, “Is my baby sister here yet?” I couldn’t wait for her to arrive, and I took my role as big sister very seriously.

Our childhood was spent in the typical ways. We would ride bikes to the pool in the summertime, jump in leaf piles in our yard in the fall, build snowmen and sled in the wintertime, and splash around in puddles in the spring. We did most things together. Even when I was entering those dreaded teenage years and wanted little to do with my little tag-along sister, she still usually got to come along, and truth be told, I really didn’t mind that much. I loved my sister, and she loved me. We were a team.

When I went to high school, she attended the sporting events where I was cheering and learned all the cheers. When I graduated from high school, she entered and followed in some of my footsteps and also created new paths of her own. When I graduated from college in Missoula, she followed me there and took over my apartment and, again, found her own path in the School of Journalism.

My sister was hardworking, fun-loving, and people loved her. Like many youngest children in families, she was entertaining, charismatic, and just so darn likable. She made friends easily, and when she did, they were friends for life.

She wasn’t perfect. None of us are. She liked to shop – too much. And so she was always broke. She had trouble in love relationships. Most of us have been there too. She was passionate and made the same blunders in relationships that many young people do. People fell in love with her, and when they did, they fell hard. She fell in love too, and when she did, she fell hard, but it also could unravel just as easily.

When Jen graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in Journalism, she was ready to take on the world. She wanted to be the next Katie Couric. That was her goal, and she was going to get her start at KRBC9 in Abilene, Texas, where she would be working as a TV news reporter making a whopping 7.50 an hour. She didn’t care about that, though. She had arrived at what would be the beginning of a beautiful future in broadcast journalism.

Shortly before she packed up and moved from Montana to Abilene, she met someone new during her monthly Army Reserves training in Missoula. Jen had joined the Army Reserves the summer before her senior year in high school. It was a plan her family didn’t agree with, but Jen was stubborn, and she wanted to help pay for college, and she thought joining the Reserves was a good way to do that.

The timing of meeting this new man right before her move to Abilene was not good. Jen was nervous about her move and infatuated with this new person, and so they decided that it would be a good idea for him to move down with her. Against her family’s advice, that is what they did.

After only being in Abilene for a few weeks, Jen realized she had made a mistake. She didn’t want to be tied down in her new life there. She wanted freedom to meet new people and make her own way. She asked the new man to move out, and he did, although he tried to change her mind. He moved to another apartment complex in Abilene that was not far from where Jen was living.

Once on her own, Jen seemed to flourish in Abilene according to her new friends there. She was enjoying life, working hard, and getting to know her new home.

Just a few days after Jen’s arrival in Abilene, my daughter Mallory was born in Oregon where I was living. Jen was so excited to be an aunt for the very first time. She called me at least 20 times at the hospital on the day when I was in labor. When her niece was born, Jen cried and cried because she was so happy to be an aunt, but so sad that she couldn’t be there with us to hold her new little niece. Jen did what she could, though. She got off the phone and went shopping. She went to Wal-Mart and bought an assortment of picture frames to fill with baby Mallory’s photos and she decorated her desk at work and the walls of her apartment with them. We made plans to meet in Montana for Christmas that year, when Aunt Jen and Mallory would finally be introduced to each other in person.

Those plans would never happen. The last time I spoke with my sister on the phone, Mallory was crying, so I had to get off the phone and attend to her. Jen was crying too because it made her cry to hear the cries of her new niece that she wanted to hold so badly. We both said I love you and got off the phone.

Days later, on September 16, 2002, my sister was murdered in her apartment. It wasn’t until the 18th, when her coworkers and friends had not been able to reach her, that a welfare check was done. That is the day we received the news. Jen had been murdered. Blunt force trauma to the head and strangulation. No forced entry. It must have been someone she knew. An investigation was underway.

The months that followed are all a blur. My husband, daughter and I drove to Montana to be with my mom and to plan a memorial service. KRBC9 chartered a plane and brought Jen’s friends and coworkers, her cat, and her ashes up to Montana for the memorial.

I was a teacher in Oregon at the time, and I had been only working half days for my maternity leave, but I took the next few months completely off and didn’t return until after Christmas break.

Following the memorial service, my mom, stepdad, and I traveled to Abilene to retrieve Jen’s things from her apartment. America’s Most Wanted and Inside Edition wanted to be the first to run Jen’s story. They paid for some of our travel expenses and wanted to interview us in Abilene.

While we were there, we gathered Jen’s things. My mom and stepdad Tom had to go to the police station to get Jen’s car. While they were doing that, I was in her apartment alone beginning to pack her things. It was eerie being there. Everything was covered with a black substance where they had dusted for fingerprints. They had cut up part of the carpet. The apartment appeared to have been turned upside down, partly because of the evidence gathering and partly because Jen was never known to be the tidiest person. There was cat hair everywhere because her cat Mr. Binx had been the only witness to what had happened on September 16th in that apartment.

While it was difficult to be in her apartment, I also felt a certain peace while I was there. It was like Jen was there with me, and I promised her on that day and many others over the years, that we would not stop until we found out who had done this to her.

Initially there was a lot of interest in her case. The police made her case the top priority. Many news shows and magazines wanted to cover her story. We were on America’s Most Wanted, Inside Edition, Montel, Maury Povich, Dr. Phil, 48-Hours Mystery, Primetime Crime, Cosmopolitan Magazine, Investigation Discovery: Still a Mystery, and countless local news and newspaper stories. We were interested in doing everything we could to get her story out there because we knew that people didn’t get away with murder in those days. That is at least what we had heard.

Over time, Jen’s case began to stop getting new leads. It became a cold case. But her family and the detectives in the cold case unit in Abilene never gave up hope.

Today we have more hope than we have had in a long time for there to be resolution in my sister’s unsolved murder. I can’t share the details right now, and the process will be long, but after some recent events, I have reason to believe that my sister’s case will not remain unsolved forever. Within the next year, maybe a little longer, there will be answers. It won’t bring her back. But it will bring us some answers and justice for her that we have promised her we would get for 21 years and counting.