The summer between my 6th and 7th-grade school years saw a horrific crime in my hometown. In July 1983, a 17-year-old high school senior and her 14-year-old friend were picked up by two men while hitching a ride to the beach. By the end of the day both were raped and the older of the two, Lynn Carol Elliott, was murdered while trying to escape. Her friend narrowly survived, found by police bound in the rafters of a house. Lynn's heroic attempt ultimately saved her friend's life and, as we came to learn, put an end to a serial killer's heinous obsession.
Today, almost 29 years later, Lynn's killer is finally paying for his crime. After spending 28 years on Death Row, the monster will finally be executed, much to the relief of thousands of residents past and present. We cannot say "finally" enough. The anger and heartache have continued to broil all these decades because of how badly it rattled our community.
When the news first broke, I read the newspaper and wondered if Lynn was related to the boy in my class with the same last name. A front-page picture of him and his mother at a court hearing soon after confirmed my connection. "This is such a small town and everyone is about two degrees away from everyone," said a friend recently while discussing the case.
But it's not the crime I want to write about. It's Lynn.
I never knew her, but I will never forget her. I have thought about her a thousand times since 1983. When I've walked alone where maybe I shouldn't have, I thought of Lynn. When I took a self defense class in college, I thought of Lynn every day. When my roommate said she could walk home after work in the dark because "it's not that far," I thought of Lynn and made sure I was there to give her a ride home.
Lynn's senior portrait is indelibly imprinted on my mind. She's one of the most recognized faces in the city of Vero Beach, Florida, despite having been gone for nearly 30 years.
Every year on the anniversary of her daughter's death, Lynn's mother, Jeanne, has published a memorial in the local newspaper. "Sail on Silver Girl," it always reads. Every year those of us who saw the full story emerge comment to each other on the mind-boggling frustration of seeing yet another year pass without justice for the family.
So while today finally delivers some retribution for the Elliott family, I hope that they will also know the legacy their daughter continues to sustain. Many of us girls DID learn from her tragedy. We took cautions to heart because of her. And we continue to be the influence on younger generations of girls to protect them from ever meeting a similar fate. Lynn will not be forgotten, I promise you that.