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Family seeks answers for Annie

Published: Sunday, March 10 2013 9:54 p.m. MDT

Merissa Denter, Faith Believe and Victor Ramirez join in a vigil as family, friends and supporters gather to remember Annie Kasprzak on Sunday, March 10, 2013, near a bridge on the Jordan River where her body was found a year ago.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

DRAPER — It's been a year without answers, a year without a daughter, a sister, a niece and a friend.

With all that is missing, there is something that is constant, stubborn in its refusal to leave, merciless in its vigilance: the pain that comes with losing Annie Kasprzak, just 15 when she was murdered and her body found a year ago Monday.

On Sunday, in the spirit of the irrepressible teen, family and friends held a candlelight vigil at the spot not far from where her body was found in the Jordan River, holding dozens of shimmering lights as a testament that their hope has not dimmed in their  search for answers.

"We're not angry. We're not upset. We just want answers," said her father, Dennis Kasprzak.

Lisa Montellano, Annie's aunt, gave a prayer at the start of the vigil, asking God to not only offer comfort and solace to the brokenhearted, but to give strength to Annie's killer to do the right thing and come forward.

"Whatever was done here, Father, has to come to light. That's why we want no more secrets," Montellano said.

The family is offering $5,000 for information that leads to the capture of the teen's killer, and a Facebook page to spread the message about the slaying has been set up: No More Secrets — Be the Change.

Veronica Kasprzak, Annie's mother, said the family believes someone in the girl's social circle may have critical information that will assist the police investigation, so she urged people at the vigil to keep talking about Annie and her death, and talk to anyone will listen.

"Talk to the person next to you if you've been in line too long at the grocery store," she said.

Early on, it looked like a case the police were able to readily solve. Within a week, they had a man behind bars and said the teenager was killed after going to a party at a man's house, and when she refused his sexual advances, he killed her and dumped her body.

Within another week, police had jailed a second man they said they had connected to the slaying as well.

A search warrant at the party house was ultimately ordered sealed by a judge, but not before media outlets reported more details of her death that were revealed in the document.

By then, about five weeks later, the evidence revealed in the search warrant appeared to have the case and the narrative of Annie's death tied up neatly so it could land on a prosecutor's death for charges.

After she refused to have sex, the killer slammed her head up against the wall, wrapped her in tarp, and beat her so badly the teen would only be identifiable through dental records.

A trio of men took her in an SUV, dumped the body in the river and came back to the home covered in blood, according to the document.

At one point, her accused killer who was jailed on unrelated charges wrote a judge, pleading that he had been in trouble in the past and was a lot of things, but insisted,  "I'm no killer."

Six months after Annie's body had been found, months after the search warrant revealed its deadly story, still no charges had been filed.

The summer slipped into fall, Christmas came and went. While Annie's name may have faded from the news, her parents, her uncles, her friends pressed for answers, for some sort of closure.

Earlier this month, the Draper Police Department confirmed the man they initially jailed is no longer under suspicion for Annie's murder. In fact, it's been two months since police stopped looking "seriously" at him and the second man they had arrested.

Veronica Kasprzak said the passage of one year since Annie's death is prompting their outreach to the community for answers.

"We support the police, but we are not willing to wait anymore," she said.

Riverton Mayor Bill Applegarth attended the vigil and, with some emotion, assured the family that the city is behind them, even though the body was found just across their border in Draper next to the Jordan River Parkway Trail at 12600 South.

"Our city is deeply touched," he said. "We just pledge as a city to never forget your daughter and to do everything we can to protect the other Annie's in our area. This should never have happened."

E-mail: amyjoi@deseretnews.com, Twitter: amyjoi16

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