Mother – Know Pain of Unsolved Cases
Mother who knows pain of an unsolved case tirelessly helps other causes
TONY RIZZO, The Kansas City Star
PUBLICATION: Kansas City Star, The (MO)
DATE: December 3, 2011
The blue Mustang’s throaty rumble announces her arrival.
But it’s the hand-painted letters covering her car that announce Edith Fine-Duskin’s mission: “Bring Baby Lisa Home.”
“I will find that child,” the 44-year-old Kansas City woman asserts. “When I start something, I don’t stop.”
Fine-Duskin’s nervous energy is apparent in how she moves and talks, often unable to complete one rapid-fire sentence before launching into another one.
Missing child cases in particular draw her to action. Pamela Butler, Kara Kopetsky, Kelsey Smith and Erica Green are among the young victims whose cases she has embraced.
Today that energy is focused on Lisa Irwin. Virtually every day since the 10-month-old’s parents reported Lisa missing from her Northland home two months ago, Fine-Duskin has handed out fliers, scoured woods with other volunteers and organized regular prayer vigils in front of the family’s home.
She can’t even begin to speculate on how many hours she has devoted to the cause. And although she says she will honor the family’s recent request to quit holding those vigils outside their house, she is not deterred from seeking answers and hopefully the baby’s safe return.
“Lisa deserves justice,” Fine-Duskin said.
It was another case where justice was not done that helps explain her motivation to seek it today.
The victim was 11 years old. Her name was Windy Fine. She was Fine-Duskin’s daughter.
“I want to keep going because I know my daughter would want me to,” she says.
When Windy was 8 years old, a decade before Lisa Irwin’s case exploded into the headlines and became a rich topic for network television talking heads, Windy was touched by the sad story of another little Kansas City girl who became known as Precious Doe.
Windy asked her mother what they could do to help, and together they became immersed in the case of the unknown child, decapitated and dumped in a wooded area near Swope Park.
They took part in the gruesome search for the girl’s missing head. Later, after someone found it, they became involved in the group dedicated to learning who Precious Doe was and who would do something so horrible.
“We wanted to know who that poor baby was,” Fine-Duskin said.
Fine-Duskin and the rest of the world eventually got answers: Erica Green, killed by her mother’s live-in boyfriend. He and Erica’s mother now reside in prison.
But the revelation came too late for Windy.
On Oct. 11, 2003, while riding in a car with her mother and brother, she was killed by a hit-and-run driver who never has been caught.
Alvin Brooks, founder of the Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, first met Fine-Duskin and her children, Windy and Dustin, during the Precious Doe investigation. In Fine-Duskin’s time of grief, Ad-Hoc reached out to her with a prayer vigil at the Kansas City site where Windy died.
Brooks said he was struck by how committed Fine-Duskin was to the effort to learn Precious Doe’s identity.
“I think she’s a good-hearted person,” Brooks said. “She’s very empathetic and sympathetic and knows the pain of losing a child.”
Cherri West, too, understands that pain.
A stranger kidnapped her daughter, Pamela Butler, from in front of her Kansas City, Kan., home in 1999 and killed her.
A few years later, around the time of the Precious Doe case and during the court proceedings for the man accused of killing Pamela, Fine-Duskin and her children showed up at West’s home.
“They said they wanted to do something for Pamela,” West recalls.
They made a large banner with Pamela’s name on it. West still has it today.
Fine-Duskin attended court hearings with West and offered her support.
“It meant a lot to me,” West said.
West said she “took a special liking to Windy,” and when the girl died, West in turn helped Fine-Duskin through her ordeal.
They have remained friends ever since.
“When something like that happens, you get a lot of support from a lot of people,” West said. “But very few of them stick around. Edith is one of them.”
Since then, Fine-Duskin has been drawn to other high-profile cases in the area.
She was one of hundreds who volunteered to search for Kelsey Smith when the Johnson County teenager was abducted in 2007.
When authorities found Kelsey’s body several days later in southern Jackson County, Fine-Duskin was distributing fliers. A newspaper reporter quoted her at the time saying, “This world ain’t right.”
Smith’s parents don’t recall if they met Fine-Duskin, but they said they were thankful for everyone who helped search for their daughter.
“It was a tremendous help and comfort to us as a family,” said Kelsey’s mother, Missey Smith.
Since Lisa Irwin vanished Oct. 4, Fine-Duskin has spent countless hours looking for the little girl. She doesn’t work full time, and the search has become her main focus.
Her husband, Van Duskin, supports her efforts.
“I think what she’s doing is a good thing,” he said.
John Picerno, an attorney for Lisa’s parents, said they are appreciative of anyone who wants to help find their daughter.
But they felt the weekly prayer vigils had become “counterproductive” and hurt their efforts to bring a sense of normalcy to their two sons.
“They just don’t want to have that spectacle in their front yard,” Picerno said.
On Sunday, the two-month anniversary of Lisa’s disappearance, Fine-Duskin and about 15 others held a prayer vigil at Penguin Park in the Northland. She said she is organizing a “march for justice for baby Lisa” to be held Sunday, starting at the same park and going to the Irwin residence.
And though she is focused on Lisa’s case today, she won’t hesitate to help another parent facing a similar situation in the future.
“If there’s another missing child, there I go,” she said.