‘Our Friends, Our Sisters…’ Service Honors 18 Women Who Have Fallen To Violence
Beyond the headlines and the police investigation, beyond the drugs and prostitution, beyond violent acts committed with a gun, a knife or a cord, there were people.
People who went to school, raised children, sent birthday cards to their relatives and comforted friends in need.
Nearly 200 residents gathered Monday night to remember those people: 18 women murdered on the streets of Spokane since 1984, some by a serial killer.
Central United Methodist Church was filled with song, prayer and testimonials as friends, relatives and concerned citizens created a living memorial to those now dead.
Later, the group marched down East Sprague Avenue in a show of support to the victims and their families.
During the nearly two-hour memorial service, the Rev. Rich Lang exhorted the community to remember the women - whose deaths are being investigated by a city-county task force - as “our friends, our sisters, our daughters, our moms.”
“We are here to say we are incomplete without you,” Lang said. “The city has been called together to weep, to let sorrow have its way with us.”
The Rev. Shon Davis told the assembly to remember the goodness that each woman had held in her heart and keep closed “the diaries of their past.” Many of the victims had worked as prostitutes or had abused drugs.
Others called for action, urging people to lobby city and county officials to push the investigation of the unsolved murders to the forefront.
“We need to do something so these deaths are not in vain,” one woman said.
There even was a call for prayers for the killer or killers.
“Let’s pray that they can be healed enough to seek help for themselves, so the killing can stop,” another woman said.
But the night was for the victims.
Small children laid red roses on the altar after the name of each woman was read aloud, and a candle was lighted in each victim’s memory.
Then people who knew the victims - and some who didn’t - offered their memories or their hopes.
Kathy Lloyd spoke of her sister, Shawn McClenahan, found shot to death the day after Christmas. “We shared the kind of friendship that is hard to find and hard to keep,” Lloyd said. “I am very lonely without her.”
Laurie Ann Wason, also found dead on Dec. 26, was remembered as a loving mother and a lover of animals.
A woman stood up to talk about Shawn Johnson, whose body was discovered in the Hangman Valley on Dec. 18. “I wish somebody could take her place, but nobody else can,” said the woman, who had lived on the streets with Johnson.
For Teresalyn Asmussen, found floating in the Spokane River on Oct. 17, there was this from a friend: “She was such a tiny little thing.”
A little girl spoke up about Margaret Anselmo, discovered beaten to death Jan. 7, 1997. “She was a very good person. My mom really, really liked her. I didn’t want her to die.”
A woman recalled Darla Sue Scott, who was found shot to death Nov. 5. “She had a really good heart.”
Shannon Zielinski, found murdered near Mount Spokane in June 1996 when she was 38, was remembered as a 12-year-old girl in a white dress with pink polka dots. “I wonder what happened to that kid?” a childhood friend asked aloud.
“JoAnn Flores was one of my best friends,” a resident said of the woman discovered dead in a downtown alley on Nov. 7, 1996.
Sherry Palmer, found shot to death in May 1992, was recalled as a fresh-faced teenager. “She was a sweet little kid,” said a man who had driven her to church when she was young.
Another woman recalled babysitting for Yolanda Sapp, found dead along the banks of the Spokane River in February 1990. “She was so cute. It’s hard to believe she’s gone.”
Mary Ann Turner, who was killed by a gunman in November 1986, took friends to church with her. “She was like a big sister to me,” one woman said.
McClenahan’s brother, Patrick, spoke about the other victims: Debbie Finnern, Ruby Jean Doss, Nickie Lowe, Kathy Brisbois, Donna Lynn Harris, Heather Hernandez and Jennifer Joseph.
“I came here to mourn my sister,” he said. “But, you know, it occurred to me, they’re all my sisters.”
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