Berrelez family knows pain Ridgeway family is experiencing
Most families can only imagine the pain the family of missing Jessica Ridgeway is going through.
But one family truly knows the heartache.
A neighbor abducted and killed 5-year-old Alie Berrelez outside an Englewood apartment complex nearly 20 years ago.
“The feelings are always brought back. They are always there. They never leave. They just resurface, resurface every time a child is abducted,” says Richard Berrelez, Alie’s grandfather.
When Jessica Ridgeway vanished near her home six days ago, Alie’s family unexpectedly returned to a day they wish they could forget.
“I didn’t know what to do. I felt totally helpless, totally helpless,” says Berrelez, at his Denver condominium near DIA.
He says the Ridgeways are likely in shock and paralyzed with fear.
“They’re trying to understand what has happened. They are trying to, maybe be able to believe that it’s happened. It’s unbelievable to begin with,” says Berrelez.
And while he sees similarities in the two cases, like an army of searchers, he hopes the outcome is different.
“Those people will never forget. They will be in pain the rest of their lives. They will never. If worse comes to worse they will never get Jessica again. But hopefully that’s not the case,” he says.
He knows the pain remains nearly two decades later, but out of the bad comes some good.
Berrelez started the ALIE Foundation. “It’s an acronym for, ‘Abducted. Lost. Innocent. Enough,” he says.
“I’m trying to keep those people away for the past 20 years–not from Alie because Alie is already gone. But I try to keep that type of people away from children like Jessica,” he says.
The foundation education children and families about child abduction, and provides bloodhounds to law enforcement to search for missing kids.
A bloodhound found Alie’s body four days after she disappeared.
Berrelez says Jessica’s family has to keep the hope.
“Sometimes it takes more than us out there looking, it takes a miracle from God,” he says.
Berrelez also says Jessica’s family will go through a lot of what-ifs. What if they had done this, what if they had done that?
He reminds them, they can’t change what’s happened.
He also says they should use the media to help keep the search for Jessica in the public eye.
After 18 years, Alie’s killer was identified through DNA. He was a former neighbor, Nicholas Stofer, 41. But he was found dead, apparently of natural causes, in his Phoenix apartment in Oct. 2001.