Even those who feared Britt Allen Ripkowski can't quite believe he could have killed Monica Frome, his former girlfriend, and Frome's little girl."I didn't know he was like this," said a woman whose sister was stalked by Ripkowski for more than two years. "I mean, I kind of knew, but I just prayed and prayed and hoped it wasn't true (that the girl was dead)."
But it is.
About 3:30 p.m. (CST) Friday, Ripkowski directed police to the place where he buried the 2 1/2-year-old child almost a month ago.
Dominique Frome's body was stuffed in a suitcase in a shallow grave in a wooded area just outside the Houston city limits near Route 45, according to the FBI and Salt Lake police.
Police believe the girl was suffocated in Ripkowski's Houston apartment, which is where he allegedly took her after dumping her mother's body in the southern Utah desert.
Joel Meza, Monica Frome's uncle, said he doesn't think the family can take any more. Monica Frome's funeral is scheduled for Saturday in West Jordan.
"They've had one blow after another," he said. "Our souls are torn apart at the moment, but we do have faith that our Heavenly Father loves us."
Dominique, he said, was a bright, sweet, happy child who laughed a lot, played hard and loved life.
"She was so close to the Lord that she was happy all the time," Meza said. "She enjoyed life as much as any little angel could. She was a beautiful little girl, and I don't know how something like this could happen to her."
Ripkowski, 26, appeared in federal court in Houston Friday on charges of kidnapping and an interstate violation of a protective order. He now faces capital murder charges in Dominique's death.
Ripkowski is also suspected of killing Monica Meza Allen Frome, 29, Dec. 21, in her Salt Lake apartment. Her beaten, bloody body was found on the side of U.S. 666 near Monticello, San Juan County, the night of Dec. 22, by a passing motorist.
The driver saw a white teddy bear in the sand and stopped. A few feet away he saw Frome's body under some tree branches. It took about two weeks for police to discover her identity as she was dressed only in a sweatshirt and shorts and had no shoes or identification.
Frome's landlord saw a computer-generated picture in the Deseret News and called a friend who lived in a nearby apartment. That friend talked with the Deseret News after Dominique's body was found.
The friend, Linda (who doesn't want her real name used because she's still so afraid of Ripkowski), said Ripkowski stalked her sister, Jennifer (also not her real name).
Jennifer and Ripkowski worked together several years ago, and although the relationship was never romantic, he began to send her flowers and leave gifts outside her house.
"I talked to him on the phone after he did this," Linda said, sobbing. "He called me twice . . . He said a lot of bad things about Monica. He wanted to talk to my sister."
Linda called Jennifer, while he was still on the line, and the three of them talked on a multiple-party line. Jennifer told Ripkowski to leave them alone and not to call anymore.
Five minutes after they hung up, Linda said, Ripkowski called back. This time she taped the conversation and then turned it over to Salt Lake police.
Jennifer, whom Ripkowski has allegedly stalked since 1996, has moved three times since the man began sending her flowers. He once stole a picture off Jennifer's desk, which showed her with her children. Then he pasted a picture of his head in the photo and sent it to her.
"He was crazy," Linda said. "He'd write her (sister) 10-page letters. She'd give them to me to throw away. I read one . . .. Everything he said was kind of strange, like he was fantasizing, about them doing things together."
She said Ripkowski sent Jennifer so many flowers in the same week that it filled her apartment. He used to look in her windows at night, and he taunted her ex-husband, who chased Ripkowski away from the house once, she said.
"He was back the next day," Linda said. "The police never did anything . . .. We did what we were supposed to. We reported everything . . .. I don't think this would have happened if they would have listened."
Ripkowski had several cases of domestic violence and stalking pending in Salt Lake County courts. In fact, a West Valley case in which he's charged with two counts of stalking is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 10. That case doesn't involve Frome.
Linda said police told Jennifer that Ripkowski was harmless and she shouldn't worry. But Jennifer filed for a protective order and even considered buying a gun because she was so afraid, Linda said.
When the women found out that their childhood friend, Monica Frome, was dead and that Dominique was missing, the fear turned to panic, Linda said.
"My sister's been so stressed," she said between sobs. "She hasn't slept. She hasn't been able to eat. She was so scared."
Monica Frome and Ripkowski met through Jennifer. He told Linda that he dated Frome because she reminded him of her sister. She said he told her he knew Jennifer hated him.
"He said, `I didn't mean to do it (stalk her). I didn't mean to do it. I just had to,' " she said.
Frome filed a protective order against Ripkowski after an incident that sent her to the hospital in October.
He had a court date in another domestic violence case Dec. 16, but didn't appear for the hearing. Linda said friends saw - and one even talked with - Ripkowski outside Monica Frome's apartment in the days before she disappeared.
"Someone even heard a scream, and they didn't call police," she said.
Another neighbor saw him looking in Frome's window. "I just can't believe it. I can't imagine anybody doing that (to Dominique). I can't believe this is happening."
Linda said Ripkowski, at first, seemed "very intelligent and very friendly."
Monica's uncle Meza said Ripkowski attended a family Thanksgiving dinner a few years ago and didn't leave a good impression.
"I know one thing. He's an animal for what he's done, and I hope that justice deals with him to the maximum penalties of the law."