Friday, October 9, 2009

"Baby, We Will Find You"

by Susan Murphy-Milano

Keighley Ann Alyea went missing from her Overland Park, Kans., apartment on Sunday, Sept. 30. Within hours, unaware she was already dead, family and friends posted a missing person's bulletin and photos on the social-networking site Facebook. The information and offer of a reward spread quickly over the Internet. Strangers answered the plea for help finding the petite 18-year-old by holding prayer vigils in their own communities thousands of miles away.

Several days later, police found Keighley’s abandoned Mazda 626. The following day, the teenager's mother posted a message on Facebook: “Keighley, we are coming for you, baby. We will find you!”

But on Tuesday, Oct. 6, police reported Keighley's body was found in a Missouri farm field. They charged three young men with first-degree murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery in her death. Family said Keighley had dated one of the men, 18-year-old Dustin Hilt, for about two years.

The couple broke up sometime last year; a friend said Keighley broke off the relationship because “he just wasn’t a good guy.” Hilt reportedly beat Keighley, and she told friends she was afraid of him.

Although the relationship appeared to be over, several friends say it was an on-again, off-again romance. According to one close friend, “Keighley had a very hard time saying no to him.” A few weeks before she disappeared, Hilt was reportedly tapping on her bedroom window in the middle of the night, calling and texting her constantly, and following Keighley around town. Sometime after the official break-up, Hilt had Keighley's name tattooed on his arm. All of Hilt's actions indicated he was dangerously and unpredictably obsessed with a young woman who'd rejected him.

According to her uncle, during the ride out of town sometime after Keighley was attacked and kidnapped, she regained consciousness, giving the three suspects a chance to get her medical help and maybe save her life. Instead, he said, they decided to "finish killing her."

If I had to guess, few people, including Keighley's mother and father, knew the extent of Hilt’s obsessive contact with their daughter. Most teens don't tell their parents about being harassed or stalked; instead, like Keighley, they confide in close friends. Sometimes young women who break off relationships don't recognize danger signs and instead expect former boyfriends will eventually give up and move on with their lives. They believe they have the situation is under control.

But they don't. If they are being stalked, they are in danger.

Stalking is defined as repeated, unwanted pursuit behaviors (such as following, watching, phone calls, and e-mails) that seem obsessive and make someone afraid or concerned for their safety. October happens to be National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. But 20 years after I began my work in this arena -- after my father murdered my mother -- we are still no closer to addressing this epidemic.

The laws created to protect victims of stalking and domestic violence were not signed into effect with ink but with the blood of all those whose cries for help fell on deaf ears. If you have school age children, and they are dating or have recently broken off a relationship, keep the door to communication open with your child. Find out if the person is treating them with respect. If the relationship has ended, ask whether they continue to receive phone calls, texts or e-mails begging to get back together.

If you are a friend or relative, encourage teens to tell their parents; strongly suggest parents convince their teens to see people who can help them. Go to your local police department, ask to speak to an officer or detective, and have them document your concerns as often as possible. If she is afraid, have your teenager get help by talking to a professional therapist or a psychiatrist.

The final entry on Keighley's Facebook page was from a man who will never see his daughter graduate from college. He won't see her marry, nor will he be waiting at a hospital to meet his first grandchild. To him, she'll always be as she was the day he learned of her murder.

“Keighley, we will never forget you and we will make sure no one else does either, love DAD.”


Anonymous said...

I hope and pray these 3 hoodlums never see daylight and remain behind bars. As the story mentions the young woman woke up and they decided to kill her anyway. Then her body was dumped like trash.

What has happend to our youth?

May she rest in peace!

deskside said...

This happened in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation. And, in one of the most highly educated areas of the world. How did my community fail to educate Keighley what to do in an abusive relationship or situation? Relationship abuse training and self protection needs to start early and be part of the curriculum in all schools. We can't leave it up to the parents it has to come through the educational system.

Prayers to Keighley's family and friends.


Anonymous said...

Maureen, this happens in all socio-economic areas of the WORLD.

Abusive relationships that end in death happen every single day. Probably every single hour.

Cheryl said...

deskside says, "How did my community fail to educate Keighley what to do in an abusive relationship or situation?"

You make it sound like its her fault. Whether she was educated or not makes no difference. The fault lies completely with Dustin Hilt and his accomplices.

cheryl said...

Cheryl, you are right. The fault lies completely with the perpetrators.

That doesn't mean that we should not teach our children that abuse (in any form from anyone) isn't okay.

The fact that this was a girl from a wealthy well educated area could have SOMETHING to do with why she wasn't so savvy. "Something like that wouldn't happen to me! Syndrome"

deskside said...

Oh for crap sake I was absolutely not blaming Keighley. I'm the mother of 3 young women who all were raised in southern Johnson County, KS. I was merely speculating on how my community could have helped to prevent this. This murder stemmed from an abusive relationship that others knew about .... could this community have better educated all involved to see the signs long before it escalated into murder?

This is an area with the best school districts in the nation, yet with all the emphasis on academics we fail to give little to no training on the psychology or dynamics of relationships, dating, parenting and self defense.

Excuse me for caring enough to actively try to think of ways that something like this could have been prevented.

Anny Jacoby-Female Personal Safety Expert said...

I have followed this heart breaking and gut wrenching murder since day one, her disappearance. Glued to the net. It sickens me that these three young men could do such a horrible thing to a beautiful young woman. They not only killed her once, they "elected" to kill her twice.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Keighley's family and friends. I have personally been contacted to assist with setting up a foundation in her memory and working with those in the community.

First and foremost - ABUSE IS NEVER HER FAULT. If anyone feels differently then we should speak.

Secondly - in review of the surveys and statistics that are pouring in....children as early as SIXTH grade are experiencing some kind of abuse by peers (boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.)! This is alarming! This should be a wakeup call for the parents, school administrators, teachers and communities. Unless everyone mentioned is merely blind and cannot hear - they are simply turning their heads and NOT being proactive nor advocating for the victims, our children.

Unfortunately, it is imperative in today's society that we reach out to all females (and males) to educate them about all forms of abuse, what their options are, where help can be sought and yes, ultimately how one can physically and mentally protect and defend herself.

Abuse is not a taboo subject any longer. Personal safety training and education must be incorporated into our school systems. It doesn't matter what the school's academic standing is, what kind of community it is, what the population is, what color one's skin is or the age. We have an EPIDEMIC of abuse and it high time that everyone gets their heads out of the sand, step up to the plate and start to doing something about it. There are answers and there are solutions. Ignoring abuse is not the answer, it will not go away. So, we have to hit it head on.

I know that not all parents/teachers/admin feel the way that so many of us in the field do but they bulked at bringing sex education into the schools. In retrospect, it is a blessing because the children were/are not learning "safe sex" at home. So why not introduce "safe life skills" into our schools from 6-12 and in college?

We must continue to work with communities to educate and bring "safe life skills" to them. Communities are not at zero option - it's just a matter of one person typing the email or making the call.

I thank everyone who supports "safe life skills" in advocacy and for being a voice of reason.

Makes sense, doesn't it?

Take care and STAY SAFE!

May God wrap His loving arms around Keighley's family and friends as He protects and guides them on their journey. Through His unconditional love He will give us continual strength.

Anny Jacoby-Female Personal Safety Expert said...

If anyone would like to contact me to discuss "safe life skills" or to speak to your communites, organizations, schools, personal safety name it - please do not hesitate.

"Raising female awareness and skills to reduce susceptibility in response to violence."

Anonymous said...

It would be very nice if there would be more education on abuse in the high schools.

Today's problems are not the same one's I faced as a girl. The world has changed and is becoming much more violent especially against women.

I am not saying violence doesn't happen against men. But all you have to do is look at the headlines or better yet go to your book store. How many books are full of women being murdered.

We need to address this War on Women. I can't think of a better group to talk about this as you are all members of this very special group....WOMEN

Susan does a great job making us all feel like the family.

Great post!

Leah said...

I agree Cherry. When I was growing up boys didn't hit girls unless it was their sister. On the occasion we girls would get into it, we just pushed, shoved and pulled each other's hair. So much has changed and not for the better.

Anonymous said...

i went to high school with keighley and although i hadnt seen her in a couple of years its sad to say the last conversation i had with her was on facebook on sept 29th the day before all of this took place and she asked did i remember her and i told her yea that we had what you all would call seminar but for us it was more of a counseling class and she said cool and logged off i didnt know she had went missing until they actually found her body i was listening to music but had the tv on and on mute i just happened to look over and see her picture on the news and it kind of spooked me