NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nearly a decade ago, a gunman in a pick-up truck opened fire on a car along a busy North Little Rock intersection, killing a mother with her baby girl in the back seat.
Linnea was 11 months old when the shooting happened. She just turned 10
“I’m a single father,” Eric Olson, Linnea’s dad, said. “Sometimes the little things she says are funny — it’s like, wow. Where did that come from — it’s just like your mother.”
Linnea’s mom, 31-year-old Samantha Olson, died August 14, 2013, right before Linnea’s first birthday.
“Pretty painful and difficult to think about a life could’ve been like that just been erased in an instant and for what seems like — no reason,” Eric said.
Samantha was driving on McCain Boulevard near JFK Boulevard when she was shot and killed by another person. Eric was at work when he got an urgent call to get to the hospital. When he arrived at the Emergency Room and the doctor’s eyes filled with tears, he said he knew the worst had happened.
“She told us Samantha had been shot and killed,” he recalled.
As shots were fired into the car, Linnea stayed strapped in her car seat, escaping the gunfire. Her mom did not.
The loss left Eric with heartbreak and uncertainties about how to move ahead.
“How do you sleep? Oh, and I got an 11-month-old child that’s been a nursing infant — how do I get her to sleep?” Olson remembered thinking.
North Little Rock Police Department Detective Gary Jones said it appeared that the shooting was random, and officers quickly realized they had a brazen killer on the loose.
“That night we put people trying to locate video,” Jones recalled.
Officers found security footage of the suspect’s truck, which police believe is a 2004-2008 Maroon Ford F-150.
Police have interviewed some people, but questions remain as to what will it take to solve the cold case. Jones said if a second person witnessed the shooting from in or out of the truck, now is the time to come forward, saying investigators are looking for, “someone with first-hand knowledge that will come in and speak to us and say, ‘Hey this is what happened, I was in the vehicle, this is who did it.’”
Eric said the moment he realized his wife was killed is indescribable. To guard Linnea from that day, Olson said the two moved across the country.
“The only way to move forward is to trust God that your feet are going to land on dry land and you’re not going to be swept away,” he said. “No matter how small, or large, the step you’re taking is.”
Eric knows another big step must come, though. He has only ever told Linnea her mom died in a car crash, not she’s the victim of murder.
“That’s pretty much the extent of the story she’s been giving, and so far seems content with that amount of information. She hasn’t really pressed for details of what happened,” he said.
Eric is juggling the battle of time, trying to figure out when to tell his daughter the other half of Samantha’s story.
“She’s a sharp, curious kid. The technology is there to Google things, look them up, even innocently,” he said.
What would Eric want to tell his wife’s killer?
“If they hear this, there’s a little girl who never did anything to anybody and when the day comes that I tell her what happened to her mom, she really deserves to know why,” he said. “She deserves to know that that story is completely wrapped up. There’s no why her mother was murdered, who did it and justice is served.”
As each day passes, Eric prays the gunman comes forward. Not for himself, but for Linnea.
“She shouldn’t have to carry into her life the burden her mother was murdered and having no idea why,” Olson said.
There is a $15,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. Anyone with information, no matter how big or small they think the tip is, should call the North Little Rock Police Department at 501-680-8439.