KENT COUNTY, Mich. -- Family members of Brooke Slocum continue to mourn the loss of the pregnant teen and her unborn daughter a year after her murder.
"Our love for them is unwavering and they continue to be in our hearts and on our minds daily," a statement issued to FOX 17 says.
Slocum, 18, and her boyfriend Charles Oppenneer were both killed last July. The couple apparently met the killer, Brady Oestrike, on Craigslist.
Oppenneer's body was found decapitated July 16, 2014 in a park off Gezon Parkway in Wyoming. Slocum's body was discovered the next day in the trunk of Oestrike's car after he fled police and killed himself on an overpass over US-131.
Investigators later determined that Oestrike killed Oppenneer and Slocum on July 12, 2014. Restraints and other items found inside his Wyoming home seemed to indicate that Slocum was held captive for several days before being killed.
Since her death, Slocum's family members have established a memorial bench for her and her unborn daughter Audi Lynn at Scheid Park in Saranac. They said in a statement it was one of Slocum's favorite parks.
Family members plan to gather at Scheid Park Friday evening to have a lantern lighting ceremony. The ceremony is expected to take place between 9:30 and 10:30 p.m.
This statement was prepared on behalf of Deb Hotchkiss, her husband Doug, their son Jordan, their daughter Cassie and our entire family. We are providing a statement to honor her daughter Brooke Ann and her unborn granddaughter, baby Audi Lynn that were so tragically taken from us one year ago. Our love for them is unwavering and they continue to be in our hearts and on our minds daily.
First and foremost we want to express our humble thanks and gratitude to all of the family, friends, law enforcement officials, and community members for all the gracious things they have done to help us heal and for all the prayers that have flowed our way, they have been welcome and helpful and it is the best thing that anyone can do for us, and we welcome all continued prayers.
We have been asked what kinds of things have taken place over the last year and the list is far too long but here are some highlights. All the support has allowed us to be blessed in many ways. We especially would like to thank the Wyoming police department, and the other law enforcement agencies we have had contact with for their gracious and supportive treatment for our entire family through every interaction we have had with them over the last year. We hope that at least one other family will be saved a similar experience and that if any other families are brought closure because of this they will not have left us so early in vain. Also special thanks to Brad’s Cleaners and the many co-workers who installed our memory garden, it is a beautiful and peaceful place to sit and talk to our beautiful angels. Thank you to the family and friends who got us the new Red Maple tree for the yard, Brooke used to love climbing the Red Maple tree in our yard so watching this one grow is a fitting tribute to her and her spirit. The outpouring of support and the fundraiser put on by David and Katie Holcomb and hosted by Buzz and Sally Posehn allowed us to have an incredible celebration of their lives and provide them a beautiful resting spot and memorial for any who want to visit. It was so overwhelming there we were able to contribute in Brooke and Audis name to some fantastic organizations and to some of Brooke’s passions. If people were unaware donations were made to Community libraries, the Destination Imagination program at Brooke’s school, a scholarship fund at her school, and to WAR International (Women at Risk). Other community support made a memorial bench possible at one of Brooke’s favorite parks. Thank you to Chelsea, a family friend who has started a foundation called Brooke’s Angels at Brooke’sAngels.com to attempt to provide help to teens and young women who need assistance. Through this tragedy we have been able to increase awareness in our community into the dangers of internet safety, human trafficking and how important it is as parents that we remain diligent. Thank you to Becky and the wonderful people of WAR International (Women at Risk) graciously helped us to do some educating in our community on the escalating numbers of human trafficking victims in the state of Michigan and to the fact that we are now consistently one of the top 5 highest human trafficking states in the country. One of the things we have learned through the last year is that you can have no clue that someone so close to you is a victim of human trafficking and/or online exploitation. It can be happening virtually right in front of your face and you can be fooled.
We have also been asked are we doing anything for the one year anniversary. This whole thing is not something you can prepare yourself for and the amount of coverage one year later has been a little unexpected and some of it a bit hard to wrap your head around. We continue to pray for His will to be done and we are grateful and hopeful that by Booke’s story being told that there will be others who will become more aware that Human Trafficking is real and prevalent in Michigan and people will become more informed and attentive to the signs. Close family and friends will gather privately throughout the day on July 17th to reflect, honor Brooke and Audi’s memories, and pray together. In the evening we will be gathering to talk, comfort and pray together at Scheid’s Park in Saranac (where Brooke and Audi’s memorial bench is) from about 9:30 to 10:30 and to have a lantern lighting ceremony. This is something we have done several times over the last year as there is something that has been very comforting and peaceful about it for our family. We welcome anyone that would like to attend.
WE LOVE YOU BROOKE AND AUDI!!