Some people are calling it closure. It’s a term often heard after a conviction in a criminal case.
That’s why some are calling the guilty verdict in the trial of Casey Frederiksen, who was found guilty of first degree murder and first-degree sexual abuse last week in the death of beautiful 5-year-old Evelyn Miller a decade ago, closure.
Certainly, it is closure for those demanding justice in the case of a little girl whose body was found in a section of the Cedar River appropriately named Devil’s Elbow.
Among them are members of Evelyn’s family. Law enforcement. Investigators in Floyd County and Des Moines. And the hundreds of people who spent thousands of hours looking for Evelyn after she was reported missing under mysterious circumstances.
In a story by Globe Gazette reporter Peggy Senzarino, the Rev. Paul Phillips of the Gospel Lighthouse Church in Floyd related how he was one of the many volunteers who combed a large area of Floyd County in July’s heat and humidity for six days.
What must have they been thinking? Hoping and praying for the best but perhaps fearing the worst, they looked on and on.
“I think the whole community is in relief that it is over,” he told Senzarino. “It’s taken a long time and there’s the terrible tragedy of this young girl’s death. ... I think people are relieved and they feel like justice has been served.”
For them, there is closure with Frederiksen’s conviction and the knowledge he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.
The same seems true for the many law officers involved. They are happy and relieved that the man they’re certain killed little Evelyn Miller will be punished to the extent allowed by Iowa law.
Floyd County Chief Deputy Jeff Crooks, who had been with the Sheriff’s Office about eight months when the incident unfolded, identified the body.
Thankfully, he had help from his family, especially wife Kerry, in dealing with what he saw. Now, he said, he is relieved by the conviction.
"It was just a long time coming. This whole ordeal has been a part of me ever since I started in law enforcement, It was definitely a sigh of relief to finally get that verdict to come in," Crooks said.
Ditto for Sheriff Rick Lynch, who said “a huge burden was lifted off my heart" with the jury's conviction of Frederiksen.
"We are very, very happy that Evelyn finally got her justice and that the family of Evelyn finally has some closure and hopefully will heal some of the wounds they have," Lynch said.
"July 6 (the day Evelyn was found) is a day that something was taken away from me that I'll never have back again. I know that is true with the other officers, too."
Closure for the family? We can only hope.
But imagine. It’s been 10 years since Evelyn Celeste Miller disappeared. Ten years. She would have been 15. She would be experiencing high school and looking toward her future, giggling with best friends, going to promos and doing all the other special things teenagers experience.
Her family and friends have been deprived of seeing her enjoyment and sharing in it. So we wonder, is it really closure? But for now, that’s the best word we can come up with as we pray for Evelyn’s family and Frederiksen’s family as well -- that they are able to find some peace in their lives.
Oh, there is one other word: Thanks. Thanks to those like Phillips and Crooks and Lynch and the hundreds of others who gave of themselves, from searching for signs of Evelyn in the woods to searching for clues in a laboratory to connect the dots in this agonizing case.
And thanks to those who believed that there was no giving up, that Evelyn’s killer would be brought to justice and that they were determined to make that happen.
Life goes on. But for those touched by this case, and there are so many, there is resolution. A terrible weight lifted. But they and we will never forget the memories of beautiful little Evelyn Celeste Miller.