EXETER, R.I. (WPRI) — When Dawn Shippee was killed, her children were just 3, 6 and 11 years old.
After 17 years, the memories are fading.
“She was silly and funny and playful,” the oldest, Kylina, said.
The youngest, Brandon, struggles to come up with any stories involving his mom.
“I don’t remember her voice,” he said. “I don’t remember how she was or anything like that. I only get to hear the stories that come from my sisters and dad.”
The middle child, Dylana, starts to cry as she recalls the little things.
“I remember riding bikes in the kitchen,” she said. “Eating cookie dough ice cream. Watching movies.”
They’re all little memories of fun and laughter.
“I can’t imagine what it would have looked like if she was here,” Dylana said. “How normal it could have been.”
Their mom was murdered on Dec. 27, 2002. She was last seen dropping off her kids with their father and then eating at the Middle of Nowhere Diner in Exeter.
Her body was found by a fisherman two days later in the Arcadia Management Area.
The murder remains unsolved. That’s a burden her children have carried with them.
“What happened to our mother, it shaped who we are and what we’ve become today,” Brandon said. He’s now in the criminal justice field.
The siblings didn’t want to share their current last names. So much has happened has Dawn died.
“I spent my adolescence searching for that love in everything,” Kylina said.
She wanted everyone to know what she’s been through because she believes it shows the importance of faith.
She started doing drugs and drinking to excess.
“I even got pulled into prostitution at one point,” she said. “I was really lost.”
In the last few years, she started attending church. She now has a husband and children of her own. She believes it wouldn’t have been possible without her faith.
“He is the one who will give you peace through the storm,” Kylina said. “Not anyone else. Not justice. Though that will bring about a peace, there will still always be a gaping hole inside.”
Brandon said he has found comfort in sharing his story of grief as well.
“To go out and help other people not only helps myself but takes what happened to me and allows me to affect that other person’s life for the better,” he said.
Rhode Island State Police added the investigation to a deck of cold case playing cards to bring in new leads. Each card highlights an unsolved homicide or missing person case in Rhode Island.
Dawn Shippee is the six of diamonds.
Justice would be nice for her kids, but they also say through their faith they have found forgiveness for the killer.
“I can’t imagine having to live with that every day,” Kylina said.
Dylana said she doesn’t hold onto anger anymore.
“This person is alone living with all this burden,” she said. “I couldn’t even imagine the weight.”
Brandon said his perspective has also changed over time.
“I don’t feel anger,” he said. “I don’t feel hatred. I feel sorry for them.”
Anyone with information on the death of Dawn Shippee is asked to call 1-877-RI-SOLVE.