Each staple, fired into another wooden pole, hits like a heartbeat.
Another sign goes up — the fliers Kirsten Olivarez made for her only brother, Christian, pleading for someone to help Kansas City police learn how he came to be shot dead at the age of 20.
And she wonders with each pulse: Did he know he was loved?
Did he love me?
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Christian was the 135th and final homicide victim of 2018 in Kansas City, found shot about 10:15 p.m. on Dec. 30 outside a home in the 7500 block of Oakland Avenue in southeast Kansas City.
Before her brother was killed, Kirsten feels they were growing close again. In the past year, they both were living together again at their mother’s Lee’s Summit house with Kirsten’s three young children. Her brother, after some years of emotional detachment, was healthier, happier, enjoying life again.They’d been hanging out like they used to when they were younger, before the difficult teen years set them apart the way those years can.
If Christian could see her now, when she is out with their mother, Dana Godfrey, posting their signs, he’d know how much they miss him.
Kirsten found herself one night after his death sitting alone on the couch among the storage in her family’s garage, where Christian used to keep his weightlifting bench. They used to relax and talk there.
A cousin texted her, asking how she was doing. And Kirsten told her she was imagining Christian as he lay dying that night, not knowing, despite the good feelings that seemingly had returned to them, that he was loved.
“We’d been torn all those years,” Kirsten said. And her brother, though kind, kept so much of his emotions hidden. Could she even be sure, Kirsten texted her cousin, that her brother loved her?
“I’ll show you,” her cousin replied. And she connected Kirsten to a string of messages from three years ago that Christian had sent out to nearby friends and family on a hot summer afternoon when he knew Kirsten, pregnant at the time and without a working car, needed a ride home from a grocery store.
There he was, himself without a car, trying to get someone — anyone — to go get her. And Kirsten hadn’t known about it.
She wishes he could know now that she is trying every way she can to get him justice. She and her mother printed out 500 fliers. Other people have taken a digital copy and are printing more out. They’re going up on poles and, where proprietors allow it, getting taped in the windows of gas stations.
“He was my only brother,” she said. “My way of grieving . . . is showing my brother I will not let this go weeks and months of not finding out anything and just give up. I am not going to do that.”
Police have not released any suspect information. The investigation is ongoing.
His mother and sister don’t know many friendships Christian kept. They don’t know why he would have been where he was shot. But they know that he was feeling revived over the past year.
The zest for life was returning, Godfrey said of her son, reminding her of the boy he was in Kokomo, Ind., where he was a sports star, especially in baseball. He set a town record when he hit 18 home runs at the age of 10.
His athletic self was coming back. A new job as a package handler in a FedEx warehouse was trimming him down. He was smiling more. Feeling sociable. Christmas morning he was jovial, helping his niece and nephews open their presents, letting his mother include him in snapshots.
“We felt we got Christian back,” his mother said.
Now she asks, “Why would someone take him from us?”
So their Facebook posts carry on. The fliers go up, staple after staple.
They want anyone who knows something to hear the message from police and the Greater Kansas City Area Crime Stoppers that a reward up to $10,000 is available for information in homicide investigations. Tips can remain anonymous.