I wanted to think of something humorous and pleasant to write about, but this topic is one that cannot be ignored. The following story has hit close to home for me.
On May 4th 2001, in Lethbridge Alberta, Canada 5 year old Jessica Koopmans vanished from her front yard where she was playing with her older sister . Within minutes her mother was checking the neighbors houses when Jessica did not come inside for dinner. More then 500 volunteers flocked to perform a ground search, divers, dogs, police , a door-to-door search was conducted within hours.
Then horrible news came out. There had been two recent abduction attempts of girls Jessicas age in the area and police had kept it under wraps in hopes of catching their man. The public was not warned.
In an increased attempt to find her, Emails with the little girls picture flew around the world. Cards and prayers were sent from as far away as Australia, the states, England and Ireland. An anonymous donor offered up a 50,000.00 reward for her safe return.
On Friday May 11, just as a vigil was being held at her church for her, Jessica Koopmans family was informed a body of a young girl was found in a field 50 kilometers away half hidden in tree branches. But the question would not be answered yet. Was it Jessicas body? They had to wait until the autopsy was completed on May 14 to identify the body. Samples of Jessicas mothers DNA were taken to confirm if the body was indeed Jessicas. The family then went into seclusion to await the results. No other young girls were reported missing in Alberta recently. The chances that Jessica was still alive were grim yet the family must wait another three days to be certain. On May 14 police tell the family the evidence suggests the body is probably Jessica but they still cant be certain . The results of the DNA tests arent back yet and they cant be sure.
Police refuse to explain why DNA tests are needed to identify the body. They refuse to release information on how the girl died or weather she was molested . The family is not allowed to see the body. No new information for the family.
Fear sweeps into the neighboring town near where the body was found. Talk springs up of vigilante justice and a witch-hunt begins. Grandmothers threaten to perform the execution themselves. To quell fearful residents the mayor explains that the killer is believed to be from out of town..
May 16, its announced the body was indeed Jessica and plans for a massive funeral are made. No other details are clear.
There are many questions to be answered. Would Jessica be safe right now if Police had alerted the public alerted about the other two abduction attempts? Who did this? How long will the child killer be at large? When will we have justice? Will there be any other children taken before this is over? What exactly happened to Jessica that fateful day? Is there any way we can speed up identification processes for worried families? The family can lay their baby to rest now but the nightmare is far from over.
No parent wants to think of the possibility of being the one in Sylvia Koopmans shoes. The reality is she is not alone thousands of other mothers have gone through this terrible ordeal . Any one of us could be next. There are things we can do to help prevent our children from becoming the next victim and measures we can take now to help law enforcement agencies should we ever face the nightmare Sylvia faced. This link offers tips for Preventing Abduction . Other things you can do is register your childs finger prints and keep a copy on hand in case they are lost or the worst happens so they can easily be identified. Pay attention to what cloths your child wears every day. Keep an up to date photo on hand at all times. Make sure your child knows their home phone number and how to call 911. Make sure they know not to take rides from anyone even friends without your permission. Know where they are at all times. Encourage them to play in groups and use the buddy system.
On a political scale you can put pressure on your reps for a pedophile registry. Ask for more stringent laws in cases of child abuse and molestation. Ask that the public be notified of all failed child abduction Attempts. Our Children are not bait.
When you go to bed tonight kiss your babies twice and take a moment to be grateful.