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Parents of dead Utah teen had quickly reported her as a runaway

Published March 14, 2012 10:38 am

Police • Investigation produces no new leads.
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Anne Kasprzak spent a quiet evening with her family the night before her body was found in the Jordan River, her parents say.

Her little brothers were playing with a cousin on Saturday night at their home, near 2500 West and 12800 South in Riverton. Her new dog — a gift for her 15th birthday in January — was indoors with the family. Anne told her parents about 7:30 p.m. that she was going downstairs to her bedroom to listen to the radio, said her stepfather, James Bratcher.

Her parents went to check on her about 45 minutes later, Bratcher said. But she was gone.

"We immediately called the police," Bratcher said. "She's a 15-year-old girl. It [was] night."

It was not until 10 a.m. Sunday that a passer-by found blood and a shoe near a footbridge over the Jordan River, near 12600 South in Draper. On Sunday afternoon, officers in a helicopter spotted a body with a matching shoe in the river a bit downstream from the bridge. By Sunday night, Anne's mother realized who the victim was.

Her parents remain mystified as to why she left the house in the first place.

"There was no fight. She wasn't in trouble," said Veronica Kasprzak-Bratcher. "She wasn't upset, which is why we don't know what was going on."

Kasprzak was reported as a runaway Saturday because there was no sign of an abduction in her home, the parents said. A culprit would have had to go downstairs unnoticed by the whole family or the dogs.

"There was no sign of struggle," Kasprzak-Bratcher said. "She never ran away overnight. If she got frustrated, she'd take a break. But for Anne to take off at night was very unusual for her. Maybe she wanted to go and meet someone."

Anne's parents concede that her life "was not perfect." They do not discuss her life before she was adopted from the foster system at age 10 — partly, they say, because she would want her privacy, and partly because it doesn't seem to have anything to do with her death.

"It was something she had worked through," Kasprzak-Bratcher said.

Anne was dealt another adjustment when her parents divorced and remarried. The couples live just a few miles apart, and Anne had moved back and forth between the two homes this fall.

"She had her struggles, as most teenagers do," Kasprzak-Bratcher said. "But everything was stable for the last while. There were no issues in at least three or four months. She was doing her homework; she was taken care of and happy.

"Anne was not a bad kid. She's just a regular teenager who for whatever reason left the house and didn't get to come home."

While Anne had a close group of friends, she had no serious boyfriend, her parents said. She was not allowed to date, but she often joined mixed groups of friends. They spent time at parks during summer days, her mother said, but it isn't clear whether they spent time on the river trail.

Anne expressed strong objections to drugs, her stepfather said, so her parents are skeptical they played a role in her disappearance or death.

"Sometimes she might have been too trusting," Kasprzak-Bratcher said. "She so wanted everybody to be OK. She felt anyone could be different, could be better."

Anne transferred to the Summit Academy high school in Bluffdale in the fall, and the charter school was a "better fit" than her previous schools, her parents said.

"She was a bright girl. I wouldn't say she was academically motivated," Anne's mother said. "She always did her homework, but she didn't always turn it in."

One class where she did shine was creative writing, and her parents have found pages of stories and songs in her room.

"She was such a good writer," said classmate Stephaney Farley. "I loved reading her stuff. Not sometimes; it was always good."

Throughout Monday and Tuesday, students and teachers alike were choking back tears, said classmate Tim Pierson.

"It's been a huge devastation for the whole school," he said.

Students on Tuesday pinned red ribbons to their shirts in honor of Anne's favorite color; several also wore red shoes and flowers in their hair.

Anne's classmates and family said the mystery of her death is the biggest hurdle to processing their grief. Draper police said Tuesday that medical examiners had not yet released the cause or nature of her death despite Monday's autopsy. Neither police nor Anne's mother, stepfather or stepmother would comment on media reports that her cell phone produced GPS data during the time she was missing, though Draper police Sgt. Chad Carpenter said detectives are investigating that information.

They had no further leads and continue to ask the public for any information about Anne's whereabouts between 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday morning. Anne was last seen wearing a red plaid shirt, blue jeans and red shoes. Anyone with information may call police at 801-840-4000.

"We just want anyone who has any information to tell police," Bratcher said. "Somebody knows what happened."







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