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Mother's journey to find her daughter's killer

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Reality is setting in for a mother whose daughter was murdered 17-years ago.
SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – It was early Sunday morning in 1995 that caused Lewine Tapia to rise early.

She says for some reason she headed to her daughter’s room.

"I saw the curtains were pushed to the ground and the windows were wide open,” Tapia recalls. “The screens were on the ground.”

Tapia’s six year old daughter, Rosie was not in her room.

"I went and woke up my husband and I said somebody took our daughter out through the window," she said back in 1995

Rosie disappeared and police blamed it on a stranger. The next day her body was found in a canal. She had been raped and killed.

"Why did he have to do it, why did he have to take my daughter away from me,” Tapia said back in 1995.

To date, her killer's never been found.

And for 17 years, Lewine Tapia returns to Rosie's grave to celebrate her birthday and mark the date of her murder. And just like clockwork she invites ABC 4 News to film her visit.

"What would Rosie look like,” she told ABC 4 News in 1997. “What would she be doing right now?”

And with each passing year she adds a few more flowers and a few more tears.

"I need to have that closure to find the person who did this to my daughter,” she said in 2004.

ABC 4 News showed Psychiatrist Dr. Noel Gardner the video ABC 4 had from over the years.

“It's really an extraordinary set of clips to see someone reacting over time to such a tragic event," he says.

And he watched Tapia's lifelong journey.

“The things that are most striking to me is how potent the grief remains,” Dr. Gardner says.

He says tragic stories like Rosie Tapia's disappear in the news and the public forgets.

But Rosie's mother chooses not to let that happen.

“As long as I’m living, I'm going to put her story on every year," Tapia said in a video clip in 2004.

“She wants to bring that grief forward and connect people with her daughter and become a participant and still wanting to solve this crime," Dr. Gardner says.

He says sharing her grief openly is Tapia's way of dealing with the pain and he says it's healthy because it serves a purpose.

“The other thing that is most striking is how important it is to her that we not forget, that society not abandon this child not be forgotten,” Dr. Gardner says. “She's still very important.”

After 17 years of visiting cemeteries and laying flowers, her grief remains strong

“And (she) struggles with the fact that other cases have been solved but hers has not,” Dr. Gardner says.

And in 2012 reality seems to be setting in for Lewine Tapia.

“I have the feeling that I'll probably leave this world not ever know who took my daughter," she told ABC 4 News last month.

Dr. Gardner says that at some point, Lewine Tapia needs to sort things out by hanging on to precious memories and letting go of things she cannot control.

“This is an extraordinary thing she's given us a gift to watch her process across time."


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