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On September 18, 2002, I had just returned home from my job as a teacher in Springfield, Oregon. The phone rang, and it was my mom’s number. That was an odd time for her to be calling, so I answered, already on alert that something could be wrong.

She said, “Are you alone? Is Mark (my husband at the time) home yet?” I could hardly understand her, and she was sobbing.

I was home alone with my daughter, but I said, “What happened?”

She said, “It’s Jen. She’s dead,” through sobs that made her words almost unintelligible. But I did hear what she said. And with those words it was as if someone had punched me hard in the gut. That feeling not going away for months and months after that moment and that feeling that would return again and again in the next decades of my life.

Next, I called my husband at work. He was out in the field, so his secretary got word to him that I was OK, and our daughter was OK, but that my sister was dead. It seemed like minutes later, Mark’s truck was home, and I saw him barely stop the truck before jumping out and running into the house.

He called his mom, and she came over with food and to help take care of our two-month-old baby daughter. It was decided that we would leave for Montana the next morning to help my mom plan for Jen’s memorial service.

I was already on maternity leave and working only half time in my teaching position, so I notified my boss that I would be out indefinitely, and they made arrangements for my long-term sub to work full time until I could return.

That night I couldn’t sleep. My sister was dead, and she had been found murdered in her apartment. I stayed up all night crying, packing what I could, and gathering every picture of Jen that I could find. I just wanted pieces of her to hold onto.

I didn’t know what I would do when my daughter would wake up in the middle of the night to be fed. I was a wreck, and I didn’t think I could be there for her that night. But she didn’t wake up during the night that night. It was the first time she slept through the night, and she did that every night from then on. I always felt that her guardian angel Aunt Jen had helped her to sleep that night, so that I could have a minute to process what I was going through.

The next morning, we loaded up the car and began the twelve-hour drive to Montana. I was in a daze in the passenger seat the whole way. I just remember seeing people driving in their cars that day, having perfectly normal days while my whole world had just been turned upside down. It seemed surreal.

When we stopped along the way for food, I remember people staring at me. I looked like someone out of a horror movie or something. No make-up, eyes red and puffy from crying, and I couldn’t stop. Every song that came on the radio, every thought that popped into my head, every item on the menu that would have been one of Jen’s favorites, and every happy family that was just out enjoying their day made me cry.

I remember the song “Landslide” playing on the radio. It was the first time I had heard the version by the Dixie Chicks. I loved the Dixie Chicks and that song, and somehow, I felt that the song had come on the radio that moment just for me. It’s still my favorite song to this day.

It’s been almost 22 years since that terrible day that we heard the news that changed my family’s world. In all this time, my sister’s murder remains unsolved.

But that is finally about to change. In October of 2023, the show Cold Justice reached out about featuring my sister’s case on their show. A few weeks later, Kelly Siegler, the crew for the show, and the head detective on my sister’s case from Abilene were all in my living room to interview my mom and me for the show.

The show and the APD worked together on Jen’s case for weeks, and they flew all over the country to talk to different people who were involved in her case. The show will air on March 30th on Oxygen at 10:00 Montana time. They’ve made some discoveries that will help move her case forward. Some of it will even be a surprise to me since I only know part of what they learned since her case is an open investigation right now.

I can’t believe that it has taken this long to finally have some answers in her case. It won’t bring her back, but she deserves justice. We all do.