By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
By Charles Lam
* * *
In Cottage Grove, the Olson family home shows signs of the spring thaw. The front lawn is returning to a deep-green shade, and a carton of unplanted pansies sits on the front porch. Inside, the St. Olaf choir sings through a set of Bose speakers atop matching bookshelves.
Rolf and Nancy have just returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon. The two hiked partway down the majestic gorge, and their legs are still feeling it. "You get no rest," says Rolf, stretching his foot. The couple took the vacation as a brief respite before their week ahead. The Concert for Katherine is finally upon them.
"Hopefully," says Rolf, "this will be our last week with media for some time. Then we can return to somewhat normalcy."
Rolf offers his guest a Pepsi, then coffee, and a Pepsi one more time before sitting down on a cream-colored couch with his wife and Richter. Near the couch is the kitchen table where Katherine used to sit, reading a book and munching away on a bag of Honey Nut Cheerios. Nancy laughs at how much the "crunch-crunch" sound annoyed her. While happy, each memory ends with the fight to hold back tears.
As the conversation moves back to Craigslist, the family members talk about their disgust with the 48 Hours Mystery episode they watched the night before. The show—titled "Craigslist: Classified for Murder?"—nags at Richter. It hurt her to see a full hour dedicated to bashing a company that's helped her family so much.
"There are evil people out there," says Richter. "And unfortunately, Craigslist is built for everyday people. And so someone that has ill will, someone psychotic like Michael Anderson or this medical student, they are going to take it for what it is worth. It's a free tool, and they will take advantage of it. And evil people will take advantage of whatever they can."
The family is most worried that the lurid events in Boston will eclipse their memorial. Splash News, a British gossip website, and Geraldo Rivera are pursuing Nancy and Rolf for interviews. The 48 Hours Mystery crew even tried to get Richter on film while she was away in Milwaukee at a funeral.
"We have been through hell. This is our celebration," says Nancy. "We don't want evil to have the last word."
* * *
On a cloudless May 3, about 700 of Katherine Olson’s friends and family gathered at Grace Church, a colossal house of worship in Eden Prairie, about 15 miles southwest of Minneapolis. The last time this group had been together was at Olson’s funeral, but those gathered on this day eschewed black clothing in favor of pastel-colored spring attire. There were no tears among the congregants, no Kleenexes hastily passed. This was to be a day of celebration.
When it came time to begin, five members of the Olson family took the stage to subdued applause. Trailing behind in a black suit worn over a tieless maroon dress shirt was Craig Newmark. After a brief introduction by Richter, Newmark approached the podium, lifted the microphone and leaned over his prepared remarks.
“I am really, really humbled and really honored to have been invited here today to speak at this tribute to Katherine, extended by the whole Olson family,” Newmark told the crowd. “I was personally sickened and horrified when I heard about this tragedy. I started Craigslist around 14 years ago as a way to give back to the community.”
Rolf stood behind Newmark, gazing thoughtfully at the crowd.
“Despite the billions of times well-meaning people have helped each other through Craigslist, it’s been devastating to see that it can also be used by bad people to take cruel advantage of others and bring a senseless end to a beautiful young life,” Newmark continued. “The most recent crime in Boston has been a grim reminder of that.”
It became clear he wasn’t speaking just on behalf of Katherine, but also on behalf of reason and personal responsibility in the age of the Internet.
“I’m saddened that we met under these circumstances, but I am truly inspired by the Olson family, and I extend my love and friendship to them,” Newmark concluded. “And I applaud everyone’s effort to let Katherine’s light continue to shine.”
For a slideshow of images, click here.