Posted on Thu, Oct. 25, 2007 10:15 PM

Public case a private anguish for woman

By SARA SHEPHERD

The Kansas City Star

Summer Shipp

Summer Shipp

As authorities in Jackson County pulled skeletal remains from the Little Blue River, Brandy Shipp was road-tripping through Germany.

It wasn’t until Shipp reached Poland — having spent days without phone or Internet access — that she called home to check in with her father. He told her about the remains and, within hours, called back to say authorities had confirmed they belonged to her mother, Summer Shipp.

“At that point, I dropped the phone, fell on the floor, and cried and screamed hysterically,” Shipp said Thursday.

Summer Shipp had been missing almost three years.

She disappeared Dec. 8, 2004, while conducting a door-to-door survey in Independence. Police and volunteers had searched extensively for her body, but Brandy Shipp had remained hopeful that her mother still was alive.

This week, as she prepares for a memorial service, Brandy Shipp still feels numb about the discovery.

“It’s like I know it, but I don’t,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m still in denial or just in shock.”

She hopes Saturday’s service will be at least a little bit upbeat, with photos, a display of her mother’s antique purse collection and performances by Ida McBeth and David Basse, some of Summer Shipp’s many friends.

Brandy Shipp plans to speak, too. She has a poem in mind, but she’s still not sure exactly what else she’s going to say.

Maybe something about her mother’s “aura of goodness” or how she always left people with a happy feeling and saw beauty in everything, even the little things.

The number of lives she touched became even more apparent through the outpouring of support the family received after her disappearance.

In the days after her mother’s remains were identified, Shipp said, she received 600 to 800 e-mails from people offering condolences.

John Shipp, Brandy’s father and Summer’s former husband, marveled at the hundreds of people who backed up their well-wishes shortly after Summer’s disappearance by donating money, distributing fliers and even helping with searches.

“It’s been a marvelous case of the community pulling together for a person many of them didn’t even know,” he said.

The memorial service will be a chance for those people to say goodbye, Brandy Shipp said.

At some point, after authorities release the remains, the family will plan a private funeral, she said.

Shipp said it’s hard to stomach the fact that someone killed her mother — then 54 — and apparently dumped her body into a river.

Confirming her mother’s death doesn’t give Shipp closure, she said. Her mother still was taken away from people who loved her.

But it does provide “one more piece to the puzzle.”

Shipp said she would let police do their work.

“Eventually I think we’ll find the person who did this to my mother,” she said.

“I think it’s just a matter of time.”

Since her mother’s disappearance, Shipp has been active with missing persons efforts. She plans to continue her involvement and continues to push for passage of related legislation.

Shipp’s aunt, Fran Nelson of Tampa, Fla., said she’d seen her niece’s character grow throughout the ordeal and that she was proud of how she used her experience to help others in similar circumstances.

“She’s been strong from the beginning,” Nelson said. “She never gave up hope.”


SERVICE
A memorial service for Summer Shipp is set for
2 p.m. Saturday at the Screenland Theatre, 1656 Washington St. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the CUE Center for Missing Persons or the National Center for Missing Adults. For more information, go to friendsofsummer.com.


@ Go to KansasCity.com for a video of Brandy Shipp talking about her mother.

To reach Sara Shepherd, call 816-234-4366 or send e-mail to sshepherd@kcstar.com.