|Updated: 1/10/2008 8:57 am
||Published: 1/09/2008 9:06 pm
Jury selection in the capital murder trial for Kenneth Osburn starts Thursday morning in Hamburg. Osburn is accused in the 2006 kidnapping and murder of Pine Bluff teen Casey Crowder. Casey's family hopes the trial marks the end of the most painful chapter in their lives.
Melinda Crowder says time, even just a year and four months helps heal, but only a little. She says the next few weeks will be among the most difficult since losing her daughter.
Crowder calls it Casey’s treasure box. It’s a collection of keepsakes belonging to Casey and others reflecting the outpouring of support since her murder. Melinda Crowder opens it up and looks through prayer chains, Casey’s teen Bible, her softball glove, and notes written to Casey to help keep the memory of her daughter alive.
"The missing part doesn't get any better. It's like I miss her more everyday," Crowder says.
Casey's car broke down just south of Dumas in August 2006. Police believe she was walking to a gas station when she was kidnapped. After an exhaustive six day air and ground search that included support from the National Guard, her body was found six days later dumped just a few miles from where she disappeared. She was 17.
"I still wake up in the morning sometimes feeling like somebody has just reached into my chest and is just squeezing my heart, because I miss her so much,” Crowder said Wednesday. “That's never going to change."
Casey’s mother now prepares herself to travel two hours round trip everyday for the trial of Kenneth Osburn. Osburn, 47, is charged with kidnapping and capital murder.
"I feel like with me being there I have to be her voice because she can't talk for herself now,” Crowder says. “I feel like I have to be there to support her."
And prepare to be in the same courtroom with the man accused of taking Casey away from her family.
"She can't be here and sleep and eat and breath and talk to us the way he can to his family, and that's tough," Crowder says.
Casey's treasure box also holds just a fraction of the community support for the Crowder family in the form of condolence cards. Melinda hopes that support and Casey's memory will prove enough to get her through the trial.
"I want justice for my daughter and that helps to think that maybe if he's convicted, which we hope he will be, that this will help bring a little bit of closure to my family," Crowder says.
Melinda Crowder says she has gained support from Parents of Murdered Children. The group has regular meetings and representatives will be with her when jury selection begins tomorrow in Ashley County.
The trial was moved from Arkansas City to Hamburg on a change of venue due to publicity. Jury selection is expected to last two days but could stretch into the weekend. If convicted Osburn could receive the death penalty.
Casey's passions including playing softball, hunting, singing in the choir and going on youth mission trips with her church. After she died, her classmates honored her. Watson Chapel High School left her seat empty with a ribbon when the class of 2007 graduated last May.