crane kids

An Unimaginable Tragedy: Cumberland Murders

The murder of Jeremy Crane and his 7-year-old niece, Kyleigh, sent shock-waves through the small community of Cumberland, Indiana. A family friend recounts her memories of the family and her sorrow at tragedy touching their lives.

I was horrified on Monday night when my Facebook homepage began to fill up with posts to and from one of my friends, indicating that she’d lost both her son and her granddaughter. At first, I assumed that the girl and her father had been killed in a car crash or something along those lines. However, as the posts continued to mount, I ventured over to her wall and discovered something almost unbelievable. Her youngest son, only 21, had been home babysitting her 7-year-old granddaughter. Someone had come into their home and shot them both. I couldn’t breathe for a minute. My heart actually gave a little kick as it switched into grief mode and decided whether or not this was the type of world it wanted to continue to beat for. Pictures my friend had posted of her granddaughter flashed before my eyes and it took me back 20+ years to when I’d been a teenager.

Meeting the Cranes

I began dating my husband when I was a junior in high school. The year was 1986, almost 1987. It was a time of big hair, lip gloss and neon everything. It wasn’t long after we started dating that he took me to meet his friends, David and Cathy. David and Cathy were older than us by about 10 years. She was a young mom with a son that was about 3 or 4 (Joshua).

I immediately loved them all. They were warm and welcoming. In a time when teenagers got on most people’s nerves, David and Cathy welcomed us into their home and let us hang out with them. They genuinely enjoyed our company. I remember Cathy serving as a good role model. She would talk about her faith as a Catholic Christian and about being a good mom, wife and friend. However, she was also feisty and spunky and just plain fun to be around.

A few years later, Cathy and David had Jeremy. The year was 1990 and Scott and I were just married. Jeremy seemed like one of those happy babies you just love to be around. As often happens with life, we got busy, had children of our own and only saw the Cranes a couple of times. Still, they stayed in our thoughts and we exchanged occasional Christmas cards over the years. Facebook was also a great way to reconnect.

I remember one time my husband spilled Joshua’s bubbles on accident and he demanded we take him to the store and get him more. We did. He was so cute. Who could resist him and Scott did spill the bubbles. His red-hair and love of life were irresistible.

Red-Headed Memories

When we became friends on Facebook, Cathy would post pictures of Kyleigh and stories about her dance competitions. The little red-head’s love of life and energy simply shone out of her photographs. I commented on how much she looked like Joshua when he was little and how cute she was.

I think Kyleigh stole everyone’s heart who came in contact with her directly or even just through her pictures. She shone as bright as a star with that cute personality. Every picture I ever saw posted was of her smiling, laughing, doing something funny. She reminded me of my own daughter in a lot of ways.

The Betrayal

Within a week, the police had arrested those who hurt two precious angels on this earth. I had known from the first that it was likely at the hands of someone they knew. Why else would you harm anyone, let alone a precious little child, unless they could identify you? One of those arrested was a close friend of the family.

My husband first met the Cranes as a young boy. They welcomed him into their home, mentored him and loved him. I’m sure he is one of many over the years and so was the person who hurt Jeremy and Kyleigh. It is horrible enough to contemplate the kind of cold-heartedness that allows one to kill two people, let alone the fact that a person they’d welcomed into their home, treated like one of their own children, and loved was involved.

Ripple Effect

Two lives are gone and many more changed forever. A family never gets over a loss such as this, or the pain. The pain may ease a bit at times, but it still comes in waves when you hear a song, see a favorite place or see a child that looks like the one lost.

Another loss that ripples across my consciousness is that Cathy and David are unlikely to embrace strangers again. I’m sure they’d be terrified to do so for fear of losing more people they love. That is a great loss to children who might have been helped by them in the future and lives that might have been changed for the better. An even deeper ripple is the mistrust the entire community feels at this point. If a best friend, a trusted person who is like one of the family can do something like this, then who are we safe from?

With time, justice will be served and those who created such sorrow will get their just desserts (we hope anyway). However, the lives that have been touched by this will be forever changed. Let us hope that we can look to Kyleigh and Jeremy’s example and change for the better. Let us take the example of being filled with life, laughter and fun and try to make something bearable out of something unbearable.

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