Family of ASU student struggles for normalcy 6 months after her death - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

Family of ASU student struggles for normalcy 6 months after her death

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Posted: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 3:35 pm

This will not be a typical Thanksgiving holiday weekend for the Sousa family.

In lieu of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, the family will share lunch at a restaurant in their hometown of Point Pleasant Borough, N.J.

On Friday, brothers Bernie and Michael Sousa plan to find an escape - even for a couple hours - at a golf course.

At dusk Friday comes a candlelight vigil at Greenwood Cemetery in nearby Brielle, N.J. - six months to the day that Arizona State University student Kyleigh Sousa was killed in the 200 block of East Apache Boulevard in front of an International House of Pancakes restaurant in Tempe.

"It has been a struggle," said Karen Montenegro, Kyleigh's mother. "We are all going out for a normal lunch, maybe a movie. We just want the day to pass."

Sousa, 21, died hours after a man driving what witnesses described as a newer model silver Chrysler 300 grabbed her purse about 2 a.m. May 26 near the ASU campus and sped off. Sousa, who was tangled in the purse straps, was dragged by the car and suffered severe injuries. She was pronounced dead hours later at a nearby hospital of blunt force trauma, according to the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

Tempe police have received more than 500 tips that investigators are weeding through as her tragic death remains unsolved.

Although Karen Montenegro says Tempe police have contacted her each week since Kyleigh's death to keep her updated on the search for the assailants, she said she is no different emotionally than she was within the first five minutes when the family was informed of the crime.

"We're all lost," Montenegro said. "This has been a huge loss for everybody. I spoke with Kyleigh that night. One phone call, I'm talking to my daughter, and the next one I get, I'm being informed of what happened. I believe my daughter is not resting peacefully knowing the people who did this have not been caught. We have comfort in knowing there was more than one person in the car in Kyleigh's case, and hope that maybe one of them will eventually come forward."

Tempe Police also want to find the person who dropped a driver's license belonging to a male friend of Sousa's into a Phoenix mailbox sometime between May 26 and June 20; it was stolen by the men in the car during the robbery moments before Sousa was dragged.

Since Kyleigh's death, Montenegro has spent her days communicating with ASU officials on the possibility of implementing a "Kyleigh Alert" to let people know that a violent crime or a murder has taken place on or near ASU's campus. The alert would be similar to the Clery Act, a federal law that requires all colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to keep and disclose information about crime on and near their campuses.

"That helps me keep my head and thoughts," Montenegro said. "I can't change what took place with my daughter, but I can try to do something about it to help prevent something like this from happening again. The Clery Act needs to be revisited and updated. Even if a building near the campus is not owned by the college and a crime happens there, the university needs to be informed about it so students can be alerted. I'm sifting through the act to see how it can be better."

Sousa, who was well known in her hometown, also will be well remembered.

A New Jersey sculptor plans to dedicate a slightly larger than life-size sculpture of Sousa at the cemetery on the first anniversary of her death. And on Nov. 12, the Council of the Point Pleasant Borough approved the placement of a memorial to Sousa in Riverfront Park overlooking the water. One of Sousa's favorite trees, a large Dogwood, was donated, and her family will place a plaque there. Sousa spent many of her days surfing and playing volleyball along the Jersey shore, boating and working at a cotton candy stand on the boardwalk as a youngster. She later worked at a law office because she aspired to be a trial attorney.

"Three-hundred years from now, I want people to say what a beautiful girl she was, and don't want them to ever forget what happened," Montenegro said.

"America's Most Wanted," the national crime show that airs on the FOX network and has brought 1,136 criminals and fugitives to justice worldwide, according to the show's website, has offered each month for the last three months to air a segment on the Sousa case. But, Tempe police have declined the request.

"Only they would know the reason for that," Montenegro said for Tempe police declining the request to participate in a segment on the case. "We support the police in what they are doing, but ultimately, letting a segment on Kyleigh run is going to be a decision made by our family. This is far from being a cold case."

Tempe police would not comment about their decision not to participate in a segment on the show about the Sousa case, but have said the case remains an active one as investigators continue to follow up on leads.

That pursuit helped Tempe police make arrests in another death of a student, 21-year-old Zachary Marco, near the campus of ASU. Marco died after he was shot in the chest when someone stole his laptop computer and cell phone about 9:30 p.m. on Oct. 17 in the 1100 block of E. University Drive. On Nov. 16, Tempe police announced the arrests of Louis Eugene Harper, 20, and his nephew Marion Anthony Patterson III, 17, in connection to Marco's death. Police say Patterson pulled the trigger.

Montenegro said they have spoken with the Marco family and have hope for a similar break in Kyleigh's case.

"We are ecstatic for the Marco family," said Montenegro. "We are so glad that they do not have to go through with what we are going through, but like us, there's still a long road ahead for them as well."

 

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