Though it’s still painful for Holly’s mother, Patricia Quick, to believe her daughter is gone, she said she’s grateful for the program’s support and those who diligently followed up on the one tip that made it possible for Quick’s family to get justice.
“Today means a lot to me because we’re able to thank all the volunteers and agencies that helped everything come together the way that it did,” Quick said with tears welling up. “These people help us to have a safer community.”
Community leaders, law enforcement officials and members of the public celebrated the 30th anniversary of Secret Witness at a luncheon at the Grand Sierra Resort on Thursday, honoring crime victims who lost their lives and the cases that have been solved because of the program.
Attendees heard stories of children and young adults who were kidnapped, murdered or have disappeared, the circumstances of which were only made known by anonymous tipsters in the community who came forth to be extra eyes and ears for local law enforcement agencies.
Mike Biselli, chairman of the planning committee for the luncheon said Sparks has been a forerunner in helping Secret Witness solve hundreds of cases and more than 30 murders in its 30 years of existence.
“Secret Witness has aided the Sparks Police Departments through tips in solving hundreds of crimes and several murder cases and I think that’s why the (Sparks) City Council and Police Department were major sponsors for the events,” Biselli said. “They know how important Secret Witness is to Truckee Meadows.”
Various speakers, including the original founder of the area Secret Witness program, Don Richter, praised the courage and integrity of the community to offer assistance to the police departments.
Richter said 32 years ago, it was a challenge to get two people in the community to discuss an “off-the-wall” idea to fight crime, but now many are willing to contribute to its work.
“We’re just a handful of men and women working together to achieve extraordinary results,” he said.
Others, like Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley, emphasized strong partnerships with local media and businesses as part of its success.
“We urge the community to action to solve such serious crimes in our community,” Haley said.
But the most emotional part of the celebration was the presentation by Marc Klaas, father of kidnapping and murder victim Polly Klaas. Polly, a 12-year-old girl from Petaluma, Calif., was abducted from her mother’s home in 1993. Her disappearance inspired the family to become advocates who changed laws and police procedures for handling child kidnappings and public notices, including the Amber alert.
Klaas shared challenges in the developments of Polly’s case, including public theories that ranged from Polly running off with an older boyfriend to a prank call from a girl pretending to be his daughter.
“At 4 a.m., I walked out to an empty parking lot of an abandoned supermarket, I got down on my knees and I screamed at God, because what kind of God would allow a little girl like my daughter to be kidnapped and to have the police tell me that she had run away with her ‘boyfriend?’ ” Klaas said. “It was brutal. ... It was a storm we no control over whatsoever. It was the lowest point I had ever experienced in my life.”
Klaas also commended Secret Witness for the many accomplishments it’s made to help other victims and families in Sparks and Reno.
“This is about getting back up, putting one foot in front of the other,” Klaas said. “We realized we could do something. Polly could give meaning to her life but only we can give meaning to her death. ... We owe it all to the little girl whose smile lit up the night sky.”