Archive for Friday, February 27, 2009

Slain teen’s parents urge students to be aware

Kelsey Smith had just graduated high school when she was kidnapped and murdered. Now, her parents are making sure that doesn't happen to someone else.

February 27, 2009


After their daughter was kidnapped and murdered in June 2007, they vowed to turn the tragedy into something positive.

Greg Smith spoke to seniors at Free State and Lawrence high schools on Thursday about the importance of being vigilant of their surroundings.

Smith’s daughter, Kelsey, was abducted from a parking lot in Overland Park, shortly after her high school graduation.

“When Kelsey was murdered, it was totally devastating,” Smith said. “My wife said … the only thing that the man that murdered our daughter is getting from our family is Kelsey. He’s not getting anything else.”

Greg and Missey Smith have visited several schools with their message. Greg played a video of his daughter for the students, to show she was a normal teenager.

“We always have a project for the year, and we decided to use this as our project,” said Sally Hare-Schriner, president of the Free State High School Site Council. “We wanted to focus on seniors to get them ready to go out into the community.”

Greg Smith later showed the video from the parking lot where Kelsey was abducted, to emphasize how quickly a dangerous situation can escalate.

“I hope that just the sincerity of the message and the simplicity of what it really does take to stay safe sinks in,” Smith said. “(I hope) they can use it so I don’t have to pick up the newspaper and read about another Kelsey Smith case.”

Students were given “Kelsey’s Army” whistles after the assembly to use if they are in danger.


Christine Pennewell Davis 9 years, 2 months ago

Wow, the strength this must take. Thank you for trying to help protect and inform the young men and woman of lawrence.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 2 months ago

While I appreciate that this family has gone through a lot, can't they find a better form of therapy than planting irrational fear in the minds of high school students? What happened to their daughter was a tragedy, but it was a completely random, statistically improbable, and (as a practical matter) unpreventable event. "This could happen to you"--well, possibly, but it's very very very very very very, very, very very, very very very very, very, infinitesimally unlikely, and it's not worth worrying about for thirty seconds, let alone forcing students to sit through an entire presentation.

geniusmannumber1 9 years, 2 months ago

I think you just proved my point, madmike. This isn't about doing something that will help anyone. It's about making you feel better about yourself. And while I empathize with that instinct, I think it's wrong to act on it.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

My kids went to a self defense class in Kelsey's honor last winter, and it was very helpful to them all.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

Irrational fear, improbably situation? Genius, do you ever pay attention to what the experts tell women what to do (or not to do) in a parking lot or at night? Law Enforcement has been telling women this same stuff for years, and now, another couple who lost a teenage daughter in the BROAD daylight is sharing their story, BECAUSE it could happen to anyone.
After Jodi Sanderholm, and then kelsey Smith, teenagers began to realize it could happen to anyone, and the more aware they are, the better.

salad 9 years, 2 months ago

" What happened to their daughter was a tragedy, but it was a completely random, statistically improbable, and (as a practical matter) unpreventable event."

You are wrong, geniusman. 1/2 the population has much to fear from the other half. My daughters may meet other girls who will be mean and spiteful, but if anything truely horrible were to happen to them, it will be at the hands of a male. Our daughters will unfortuneately never know the freedom men experience, because they need to keep a eye out for vile men like the guy who stalked and killed Kelsey. He followed her around the Target store for almost 30 minutes, afterall.

squishypoet 9 years, 2 months ago

A lot of these kids are about to head off to college. It's important that they learn to be aware of their surroundings. Lots of colleges issues similar whistles to incoming students because of the risk of being attacked or something while walking around campus after dark. So many of these kids have never lived away from home and are about to enter a world where they have no curfew, may be walking home late from bars or parties... It's important that they realize that they are not immortal.

geekin_topekan 9 years, 2 months ago

Genius,if you had a set you would tell Mr.Smith your ideas. I would be willing to guess that he would tell you that he felt the same way until not long ago.

rachaelisacancer 9 years, 2 months ago

I don't remember all the details of the Kelsey Smith case, but I do know that encouraging kids to be aware and be prepared is never a bad thing - even if the likelihood that anything will ever happen to them is miniscule.

Little tips - "Don't go upstairs." "Don't drink the punch." "Don't share a cab with strangers." - could all save a life some day.

Sharon Aikins 9 years, 2 months ago

All situations may not be preventable but a little awareness on the part of all of us might keep something like this from happening. If it puts fear into our kids, good, maybe they will pay more attention then to the dangers around themselves and their friends. Anyone who can say that this is only about those parents scaring teenagers or feeling better about themselves hopefully doesn't have any kids living in his LaLa Land. It's not like this has never happened before or will not again. Would be great if we could all close our eyes and live in a perfect world but it's not going to happen. Teenagers especially consider themselves invulnerable till something like this happens. We need to teach our kids how to be aware and spot potential dangers. Sure, considering the number of people out there, the chances of it happening to most of us are slim to none, but it can and does. Doesn't take a genius to figure that out.

Danielle Brunin 9 years, 2 months ago

It doesn't sound like he was trying to scare teenagers. Instead, he was focusing on how simple it is to protect yourself and how important it is to be vigilant. Things like putting down the cell phone or iPod when you're in a location where you could be potentially vulnerable, walking with a sense of purpose, being aware, and following your gut instinct if something doesn't feel right. I can't count how many times I see young adults as well as people who are old enough to know better, yapping on their phones, completing oblivious to what is going on around them. They are walking targets because they would likely not even see an attacker coming. It's not about walking around terrified; it's about knowing the best ways to minimize chances of an attack.

LawmomX3 9 years, 2 months ago

Hey genius, it is information like this that makes these kinds of things preventable.. Not only do individuals need to be more aware of there own surroundings the public needs to be more aware as well. If something doesn't look right don't just assume it's ok and keep going. Approach the situationa and ask or if you don't feel comfortable doing that get someone of authority to do so... Everyone needs to be more aware and quit saying it's not my responsibility or it's unpreventable!!!

Jeanette Kekahbah 9 years, 2 months ago

genius congratulations on coming up with such a superbly sarcastic user I.D./screen name.

MaryKatesPillStash 9 years, 2 months ago

I don't really have a problem with the assembly one way or the other...

...but what, pray tell, could Kelsey Smith have done to avoid this? She was at Target, a fairly busy place, in broad daylight. Perhaps there are details about the case that I am unaware of, and if they are helpful in preventing things like this, please share.

But the whole "OMG be aware of your surroundings!" gets irritating after awhile. Kelsey, from the little I've heard about her, was a bright girl and I'm sure she was "aware of her surroundings." So what more could she have done?

Danimal 9 years, 2 months ago

Genius, if you follow your logic to its end then you wouldn't do anything to avoid potentially dangerous situations. A little self awareness and preparation go along way. Your statement would be applauded by any kind of predator, unaware, easy targets are what they dream about.

rubberband 9 years, 2 months ago

demonfury, Those were my thoughts exactly--why only the seniors? It is about the age of the sophomores that young people begin to drive and become more independent, thus being more likely to find themselves alone in a situation like this. Supposedly it was a space issue, but I was kind of hoping there would be another session offered for the rest of the students.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

It's also possible the Smith's only had so much time, and with the space allowed, could only do a select group, such as seniors. i am sure the high school did not mean anything by not sending under classmen. And since their daughter was a recently graduated senior, perhaps that is why seniors, who are getting ready to enter the world, were selected.

anaughtymouse 9 years, 2 months ago

Genius- You are correct. The chance for any of us or our children to be in this same situation is very unlikely. It is also unlikely we will be in a house fire, or a seriouse car accident. Does this prevent us from learning what to do in that situation? I don't think the point is to scare people but rather it is to make people aware. This happened in brad daylight in a Target parking lot across the street from Oak Park Mall. It could have been anybody and we all should be educated for our own safety

Escapee 9 years, 2 months ago

Unfortunately it is true...girls lead a different life when it comes to security and having/needing to be more aware of their environs and suspicious persons. As a mother of three young women...I ingrained in them from very early on the hazards that exist 'out there' for them. Predators who look for victim characteristics and situations that lend themselves to vulnerabilities are things we must be aware of. As a college student...I was a victim of rape. Had I been instructed or made aware of my own vulnerabilities -- or even frequently reminded of the harsh realities of life for young women...I may have avoided that horrendous consequence of my own naivety.

Ignorance is a sad excuse for lack of safety.

Bunny_Hotcakes 9 years, 2 months ago

Oh cram it with the passive-aggressive victim blaming, Original_Me. It's cute that you "don't mean to be mean and heartless," but that is exactly what you are doing. There is NOTHING, and I mean NOTHING, she could have said or done to justify being raped and murdered. It doesn't really matter why he did it. I don't even want to know why he did it--all that matters is an innocent girl was brutally murdered. End of story.

Creepy-as-hell sidenote: I bought a car with OnStar in it and immediately started getting wrong number calls...for the guy that killed Kelsey. shudder I had them change the number.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

In case anyone wants it -

There are tips, and information on how to schedule seminars.

salad 9 years, 2 months ago

The other side of the coin is, however, not being addressed, which is all you people with boys to train them not to grow up to be monsters. I guarantee you that every single murder and rapist has a parent somewhere who thinks, "but deep down, he's really a good, good boy!". Believe it or not, alot of young men these days believe it's OK to harrass women and even smack em around (she was askin' for it). Popular culture requires unpopular parents to raise good kids.

mom_of_three 9 years, 2 months ago

So does that make it her fault, flaming?
No, it doesn't. No one, not even an adult woman would have necessarily notice someone walking by them in a Target parking lot.

Bunny_Hotcakes 9 years, 2 months ago

@Original_Me and the other blame the victim-ers:

The world is not fair. Those of you who wonder aloud what she could have done to prevent this are operating under the mistaken impression that bad things do not really happen to good people, that she must have done SOMETHING to deserve being raped and murdered, and that if you and your loved ones do the "right" things that you will not suffer similar fates.

Good luck with that.

From The "Just World" hypothesis:

The widespread but false belief that the world is essentially fair, so that the good are rewarded and the bad punished. One consequence of this belief is that people who suffer misfortunes are assumed to deserve their fates: a person involved in a traffic accident must have been driving carelessly, a victim of burglary could not have taken adequate precautions, a woman who was raped must have acted provocatively and led her attacker on, and so on, and even the victims often blame themselves. This phenomenon, which is usually interpreted as a consequence of the illusion of control, was first identified and named by the Canadian psychologist Melvin J. Lerner in an article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1965. See also blaming the victim, Just World Scale.

Escapee 9 years, 1 month ago

To say that someone could have been dealt a better awareness for a situation that often occurs in a young woman's NOT to assume guilt for consequences!!!!

In my own case, I think that an early education on matters such as these -- along with frequent reminders in those early to adolescent years -- would perhaps have produced a habit that would have -- POSSIBLY -- prevented a horrible, horrible event in my life.

Any opportunity to keep/remind young women to be aware of their surroundings, as well as their own behaviors that might be perceived as 'victim-like' not lost time in my opinion.

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