I reported Kristi as missing on Monday morning, February 17, 2003. It was about two weeks later that I retrieved a phone message telling me her body head been discovered. I was alone in the back of a limo at night heading into New York City. The plans had been to speak on a national talk show the next morning to continue efforts escalating publicity on Kristi’s disappearance in the hopes that she was still alive and would be found. The words on the voice mail from the chief of police confirming Kristi’s death extinguished all hope. I was engulfed with an overwhelming physical hollowness and a mental paralysis. At the same time, I was filled with a presence of strength and love. I was not alone in the back of the limo; a spirit resided within me. Kristi was now at peace in an everlasting world filled with love.
During the search for Kristi, everything moved rapidly — but not fast enough. The last time I had spoken with Kristi was on Saturday, February 15, 2003, the day of her murder. We spoke with each other daily. That morning we chatted a little about this and that; I thanked her for the e-Valentine she had sent me the day before. It was a sweet message accompanied by a song she liked. She was going to go to the mall later on; she wanted to buy some candles. I told her to pick some out. The candles would be my Valentine Day present to her. President's Day was going to be on Monday, she had to work but I had the day off.
Later during the day, I tried to call Kristi. She didn’t pick up. The next day I tried several times to call her again, still no pick up. I thought it was odd; maybe she didn’t remember to charge her cell phone or maybe she was busy with friends. Whatever the reason, I’d try back on Monday morning.
Monday morning came and still nothing. At 9 a.m., I called her office number; no pick up on her direct line. I called the main number and they hadn’t heard from her either. This was unusual since Kristi was always on time or would have called if running late.
The next call I made was to the Santa Monica Police Department to report Kristi as missing. I was concerned she had been in an accident. The SMPD suggested I contact local hospitals. I called multiple hospitals. Kristi had not been admitted to any of them. I called SMPD back to confirm reporting Kristi as missing. An officer was deployed to her apartment around noon to interview one of her roommates. The search for Kristi was on.
Every waking moment was spent ramping up the search efforts for Kristi. Any possible scenario of her whereabouts was ever present in my mind. Phone calls became constant. Missing persons and search organizations, the media, the police department, family, friends, Kristi’s co-workers. Pictures of Kristi were put together to assist in building the awareness of her missing. The circumstances related to Kristi disappearance combined with her beauty and innocence heightened media interest. I was grateful to get the attention to build awareness of search efforts. Time was lapsing but never my hope that she would be found. I hadn’t known at this time the fact that after 72 hours of a person missing, they most would not be found alive.
Kristi’s birthday was coming up soon. She was born on February 27, 1981. She would have turned 22 years old on that birthday had she lived. I reached out to the Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to organize a vigil on Kristi’s birthday. I had been an Episcopalian all my life and Kristi and her brother grew up attending the Episcopal Church. Saint Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica welcomed me with love and support.
A candlelight vigil was held on Kristi’s birthday, February 27. On the evening the vigil was held, I received much love, support and prayers. The music at the service was beautiful. Two songs were sung, one “You Are So Beautiful To Me,” a song I used to sing to Kristi as a baby when I rocked her to sleep. The other song, “Hero,” by Enrique Iglesias, was the song Kristi had sent to me in her e-Valentine. The crowd that had gathered for the vigil proceeded outside to the courtyard while singing and holding lit candles. A circle of prayer was formed under a beautiful tree within the courtyard. This would eventually be the location of the Fountain of Joy in Kristi’s memory.
On March 3, 2003, Kristi’s body was discovered down a ravine in the Hollywood hills. The circumstances of her murder are beyond horrendous. After receiving the news of Kristi’s death, all my energy immediately went to planning a beautiful funeral. This was my last opportunity to lay Kristi to rest with the respect and dignity her life deserved. The activity of dealing with details of funeral preparation somehow kept me functional. It diminished my deep dark grief.
I shopped for Kristi for the last time, picking out a lovely sleeping gown and wrap for her to be dressed in. Even though the casket would be closed, it gave me comfort to know I could somehow make a contribution to honor her, no matter how unnecessary. I could barely see the road driving home as my eyes welted with tears, the shopping bag on floor next to me containing the sleeping gown packed in a gift box.
Kristi’s funeral was held at the Episcopal Church in the town where I was then living, Los Gatos, Calif. Simultaneously, a memorial service for Kristi was being held at the Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Mich. A memorial service was also held later that week in Santa Monica, at St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church.
While Kristi's brother and I were planning her funeral with the Father at St. Luke’s in Los Gatos, he told us that his mother had always said, “Funerals are for the living.” These words still reside with me. Not only was Kristi’s funeral for the living, but also any future tributes to Kristi’s life would be for the living. Kristi loved life and that’s how she would want us to continue ours.
An incredible amount of people had given time, effort and support during the search effort for Kristi. People continued to give of themselves and made financial donations in her memory after her death. I contacted St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to discuss possible projects to channel contributions to. The church had started a project a couple years before to erect a fountain in the courtyard but the project had taken a back burner.
A fountain sounded perfect. My parents have a fountain in the courtyard at their home. This fountain had always been a focal point of family photo shoots during gatherings and events. The fountain could represent so much of what Kristi’s life emitted, it would be called the Fountain of Joy.
It’s been over three years since Kristi’s murder. The trial just recently completed with an outcome we can be satisfied with. The Fountain of Joy project is still living. As with many projects, it’s evolved into a larger undertaking than originally anticipated. The Fountain of Joy’s concept and intent have grown as well.
The Fountain of Joy is still a tribute to Kristi’s life and a gift to all inside and beyond the community who gave so unselfishly during a time of another person’s tragedy. Many of the people who donated their energies did not even know Kristi or anything about her. It was inspiring for me during my difficult journey to see how truly loving and generous people are.
In addition to these tributes, the Fountain of Joy will also be presented to anyone seeking a place of respite and meditation from the challenges of daily life. The fountains beautiful final design, comprised of natural elements; water, stone and light, will evoke the essence of the project, to “Celebrate the Quiet Power.”How wonderful it will be to see a tranquil welcoming spot in the middle of a busy metropolis welcoming the human sprit to pause, gain strength and celebrate the beauty of this world. I hope the Fountain of Joy will help flourish the joy, love and celebration encompassed in Kristi’s life.
This was originally posted on Nov. 9, 2006.