Sunday, February 10, 2008

Requiem for a Life Taken Far Too Soon and a Shattered Community Finding Solace


(Credit: WSJV-TV)

Could 16-year-old Kari Nunemaker's death been prevented? What could have been done? And why didn't anybody notify the police at that time?

There were two opportunities where someone -- and I mean someone -- could have intervened, but didn't. Rita Snider heard a woman screaming for forty minutes, and later saw Fred Mott remove a plastic package from an apartment and put it in the trunk of a car that had taillights fitting the description of Kari's car.

Had they acted decisively and intervened, perhaps this senseless tragedy could have been avoided.

By all accounts, 16-year-old Kari Nunemaker was a sophomore attending Bethany Christian High School -- the same high school which I graduated from in 1975. A good Christian girl with strong moral convictions, she was described as fun-loving and very active in her church and school.

Accordng to an online source, Kari left the Elkhart YMCA on January 28, 1991, after a soccer game and dropped off a male friend at the North Main Street McDonald's so he could pick up his car. They were to meet up at the South Main Street McDonald's in just several minutes. Once Kari reached the railroad tracks she had to wait for a train. Barbara Rensberger later reported seeing a light-skinned black man gesture to have the window rolled down and then he got into the driver's seat of the car and put the car in reverse. When the observer turned around the car was gone.

It would be later that Rita Snider heard a woman screaming near her residence within earshot for forty minutes, and later saw Fred Mott remove a plastic package from an apartment and put it in the trunk of a car that had taillights fitting the description of Kari's car.

Why didn't Rita Snider pick up the damned telephone and call 911 at time? I mean -- this went on for forty minutes while Fred Mott tortured, sexually assaulted and strangled her to death! What the hell was she thinking? Was she that paralyzed with fear that she couldn't pick up the phone and call the police?

And Barbara Rensberger? Doesn't the circumstances seem at least a tad suspicious? True, perhaps Rensberger assumed he might be a friend, but PLEASE, give me a break! How could they live with themselves knowing they could have prevented her murder?

It took the due diligence of law enforcement to vigorously pursue any and all leads into the case. It was because of DNA evidence secured from the crime scene that led them to 58-year-old Fred Mott, a career criminal currently serving a life sentence in a California prison. Just this past week, Mott was convicted this past week in a trial held in Elkhart, Indiana. His conviction was secured due to DNA evidence that led to his discovery in California. Had it not been for the advances made in DNA technology, he would very well have gotten away with Kari's murder.

And while many people say convicting Kari's killer does give them some closure, her murder has profoundly impacted the greater community in so many ways, and Mott's conviction doesn't stop the pain that still lingers after all these years.

And when I think of cold cases, I can vividly remember the senseless murder of Robert Ferrie, then the beloved owner of the Holiday Roller Rink in 1979. He was shot to death at close range with a handgun, and I can still remember the ripple effect his death had on his immediate family. I saw many of the regulars who showed up at the rink to skate and have a good time, wracked with grief and loss over the untimely passing of a dear friend. As I write this, I have no details about the case, but this dread of the unknown still sends shivers right up my spine to no end.

For some, closure still appears to have no end.

Rest in peace Kari. And Robert, I pray that some day, justice will be finally served.

1 comment:

DS said...

I was on the Mott jury.

The reason that Ms Snider didnt call anyone was that she didnt have a fone - remember that this was in 1991, and cell fones were the size of a brick. The place where the assault occured was a housing project building.

Her boyfriend at the time testified that the assault went on for about 10 minutes, she testified that it went on longer than that; could have been up to 40 minutes.

The tears she shed on the stand were real, her remorse for not doing more is real, and based on what I saw in the courtroom that morning, no Court could do to her anything she hasnt already done to herself for these past 17 years.

The next day, she gave a statement to the Elkhart PD, WHO DID NOTHING! They didnt even take her statement at all (since Kari was just a missing persons case at the time). The only way the cold case detective knew to even talk to her was that she was a post-it note in the case file when it was sent to the Indiana State Police Cold Case Unit.

Besides Kari's mom and her friend, Ms Sniders was the most emotionally gripping testimony in the trial.