Sad goodbye — Candlelight vigil for Krista draws up to 1000 people

By Lisa Williams Ackley
Staff Writer

Photo by Lisa W. Ackley

Nearly 1,000 people came together in front of the Stevens Brook Elementary School last Thursday night to honor and remember Krista Deann Dittmeyer, the 20-year-old single mother who grew up in Bridgton and was found dead in a small pond in North Conway, New Hampshire on April 27.

Some of those gathered wept openly, others stood silently, and many had their arms wrapped around the person next to them — each and every one holding a candle lit in memory of Krista.

Krista’s mother, LaNell Shackley, held Krista’s little girl, 14-month-old Aliyah, on her lap. Krista’s older sister Kayla, who lives in Colorado, sat right next to her mother and young niece. Other family members were gathered around, some with heads bowed and wiping away tears, as they faced the hundreds of mourners who came to offer them their support.

Sandy Pasquale, a family friend and one of the organizers of the April 28 candlelight vigil, walked to the podium and welcomed the attendees.

“Thank you everyone for attending this memorial vigil for Krista,” Pasquale stated. “It’s amazing how many lives she has touched and how much love for her family is being expressed here tonight.”

There was a hush over the crowd, as each began to light the candles they were holding. Debbie Dean stood and read the Twenty-Third Psalm, and then Reverend Edward Boon offered a special reading.

Julie Nowell, of Bridgton, who has known the Shackley family all of her life, read aloud a tribute to the young woman she came to love and admire.

“What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch,” Nowell said. “We may not understand why Krista left this earth so soon, or why she left before you were ready to say good-bye, but little by little, you will begin to remember not just that Krista died, but that she lived — and that Krista’s life gave all of you memories too beautiful to forget.”

Kayla Dittmeyer brought many in the crowd to tears, when she walked to the microphone and spoke about her younger sister.

“This is so amazing — all these people, her friends and the entire country,” said Kayla, crying as she spoke. “Krista was an amazing person — the best sister — and so strong and supportive. She was the best mother ever.”

Photo by Brad Bradstreet

Then, directly addressing her deceased sibling, Kayla told Krista, “I hope you see how many people care about you. We know you are looking down on us. Your daughter will grow up to be an amazing person, just like you.”

Kayla concluded her remarks by saying, “Rest in peace, Little Sis. My angel forever and always.”

A group of sorority members, who attended the University of Maine with Kayla, unfurled and held up a large banner near the front of the crowd. It read: “As long as hearts remember — as long as hearts still care — we do not part with those we love — they’re with us everywhere.”

Pasquale concluded her remarks, saying, “Once again, thank you all for coming tonight and please continue to pray for Krista’s baby, Aliyah, for her Mother LaNell, her sister Kayla and all of her family and friends. Please always keep Krista alive in your heart. I hope that the vigil has given some comfort to everyone. God bless you.”

The vigil ended with everyone singing “Amazing Grace”.

As soon as the candlelight vigil concluded, the sorority group broke into a beautiful song dedicated to Krista, as they stood crying, arm in arm.

Afternoon press conference

At a press conference outside the Bridgton Police station Thursday afternoon, Shackley family spokeswoman Kathy Pratt said, “The family is devastated and would like to grieve privately. The family wants to thank all friends, community members and the public for their support. They also want to thank the Conway Police Department and N.H. Attorney General’s Office for all they have done. Also, thanks to the media for all the publicity to help find Krista. We hope that you will continue to publicize the story to find the person or persons responsible for this. Any information or leads should be directed to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.”

Fund set up/fundraiser on Monday

“There is a Krista Dittmeyer Family Fund set up at TD Bank,” Pratt said. “Donations can be made directly to any TD Bank or mailed to the Krista Dittmeyer Family Fund, c/o TD Bank, P.O. Box 173, Bridgton, Maine, 04009.

A fundraiser for Krista’s family will take place at The Black Horse Tavern on Portland Road on Monday, May 9. Dine there that evening and 10% of your bill will be donated to the fund set up for Krista’s family at TD Bank. There will also be a donation jar at the restaurant for other donations, as well.

The investigation continues

The New Hampshire Department of Justice Attorney General’s Office is overseeing the investigation in to the suspicious circumstances surrounding Krista Dittmeyer’s untimely death.

Divers retrieved her body from Duck Pond on April 27.

Conway (N.H.) Police Lieutenant Chris Perley would not confirm a report last week that blood had been found inside Krista’s vehicle. Police obtained search warrants for her car, as well as a second vehicle that was located in North Conway Village.

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael A. Delaney released a statement April 28 that said an autopsy was completed that afternoon by Deputy Medical Examiner Jennie Duval.

“Dr. Duval has ruled the cause and manner of Krista Dittmeyer’s death as pending toxicology results and additional investigation,” Atty. Gen. Delaney said, in his prepared statement. “Dr. Duval anticipates that she will be able to make a further ruling within six to eight weeks.”

The case was featured by media outlets around the nation and the world including widespread coverage on Headline News’ Nancy Grace Show, on The Today Show on NBC and on the website of John Walsh’s America’s Most Wanted.

Krista’s Nissan Sentra was found abandoned in a parking lot at the Cranmore Ski Resort with its engine idling and a front door ajar, around 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 23. Her baby daughter Aliyah was in the back seat, unharmed but alone. She is now being cared for by LaNell Shackley, her maternal grandmother.

“The New Hampshire State Police, Conway Police, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation are treating Ms. Dittmeyer’s death as suspicious,” Atty. Gen. Delaney stated. “The investigation into the circumstances surrounding her death remains active and on-going. Anyone with information regarding Ms. Dittmeyer’s whereabouts on Friday, April 22nd and the early morning hours of Saturday, April 23rd are asked to contact the Conway Police Department at (603) 356-5715 or the New Hampshire State Police at (603) 271-3636.”

Krista’s boyfriend, 26-year-old Kyle Acker, is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison in Warren, serving 18 months of a four-year prison sentence for his conviction on a charge of aggravated trafficking in Scheduled drugs (cocaine and marijuana). He was arrested by agents from the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency at the couple’s apartment on July 1, 2010. A loaded 9-millimeter handgun was seized by the MDEA at that time, as well.

The evening before Krista’s body was discovered, Kyle Acker’s older brother, 28-year-old Ricky Acker-Williams, and 25-year-old Corey Poland of Portland, reportedly called Conway Police around midnight saying they had found a Guess brand flip flop in the woods near the base off Mount Cranmore just like the ones Krista’s friends said she was wearing when she disappeared. Poland was subsequently arrested on an outstanding warrant charging with willful concealment, or shoplifting.

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