Once again, Cherri West is living the nightmare of losing a daughter to violent crime.
It’s something the Kansas City, Kan., woman said she could never imagine would happen again.
“I just can’t figure out life,” West said Friday, standing next to the playground dedicated to the memory of her youngest daughter, Pamela Butler, who was kidnapped and killed in 1999. “I didn’t dream I’d be standing back here again.”
West was there Friday morning to talk about her oldest daughter, Casey Eaton, who was fatally shot late Wednesday night less than a block from the playground at 10th Street and Kansas Avenue.
“How much can one family take?” West said. “It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be a tough fight.”
Eaton, 34, was a teenager in 1999 when her 10-year-old baby sister “Pammy” was grabbed by a stranger and thrown into his pickup truck.
As the kidnapper sped away, Eaton ran after the truck screaming for help.
The man got away, and Pammy’s body was later found in Grain Valley.
The man who took her, Keith D. Nelson, was convicted in federal court and sentenced to death.
West has had to endure years of his appeals, appeals that are still ongoing.
And now, she anticipates having to deal with more years of the grinding court process when the killer of her oldest daughter is caught.
“For her to have to do this again is just a tragedy,” said West’s sister, Cheryl West-Todd.
She will be helped by her large close-knit family.
But she will have to do it without Eaton, who was her “rock.”
Eaton was the one who always tried to make other people feel better when they were down, relatives said.
“She always worried about mom,” Cheryl West-Todd said of her niece. “It was always about mom.”
After Pammy was murdered, Eaton would sit at her grave and write in her journal. Her mother said she wrote beautiful poems.
“I know she was writing to Pammy,” their mother said.
Eaton had struggles in her life, but she was in a good place, family members said.
She was a new grandmother and the oldest of her four children was about to graduate from high school.
That daughter was an infant and Eaton was holding her on her hip that day in 1999 as she chased after her sister’s kidnapper.
Eaton’s children are struggling with the loss of their mother, but the rest of the family is doing everything they can to help them.
“I believe we are a strong family and we will pull together,” Cherri West said.
While they are grieving once again, the family is planning a remembrance for Eaton at 3 p.m. Saturday at the park they call “Pammy’s Park.”
They want it to be a celebration of her life, not a vigil to mark her death.
“She was one of those beautiful people,” said another aunt, Ruby Collins.
For Cherri West, the belief that her daughters are now together in heaven, embracing and looking down on her, is what gives her the strength she needs.
“I have to have faith,” she said. “I’ve got to believe that.”