Here is the article from the newspaper.
CENTRAL KITSAP — Paymela Faye Long loved the holidays because it meant spending time with her family.
For that reason, this time of year can be difficult for her son, daughter and grandchildren, who called their grandma Ninny.
“When we’re together we can feel her with us, but there is always something missing,” said Myle Dahlke, Long’s daughter.
Halloween marked the sixth anniversary of Long’s unsolved homicide. She died in her Illahee-area mobile home, which was intentionally set on fire following her death. She was 58.
As Long’s family has moved forward, some hold out hope that her killer will be brought to justice. But they wonder what justice would even look like. Others focus on their memories of Long, her spontaneity and her love of life. They refuse to give her killer a second thought.
But they feel her absence, often in the joy of the holidays or the pride in their accomplishments.
For Pheobe Garcia, 17, Myle’s daughter, it’s the memories of her Ninny that she focuses on.
“Those memories do fade, I’m trying to keep them strong,” she said.
The memories include Long tramping in the brush collecting mushrooms or picking blackberries, or leading the children on camping trips and cheering on the sidelines of their football games. She was a larger-than-life presence whose legacy to her family is their open hearts. She was an accomplished country singer and played venues throughout Washington. Sometimes her kids would be awoken in the middle of the night, with their mom cooking a meal for the band. If she caught them sticking their heads out of their bedroom doors to see what was going on, she was liable to put them to work.
“There was never a dull moment,” said Tory Ryen, Long’s son, who is pained to think that his mom isn’t around to watch his son, Payton, grow up.
“She would be so proud,” Tory said.
Payton, 18, thinks of his Ninny when he runs onto the football field or gets a report card.
“I don’t have the person I want to be proud of me,” Payton said.
The case is open and ongoing, and Sheriff’s Detective Lissa Gundrum, the investigator on the case, still has the Crime Stoppers poster for the case on her office wall.
“It stays up until it’s solved,” Gundrum said.
What partly sets the case apart, Gundrum said, was the lack of physical evidence.
“There’s always stuff,” Gundrum said of other homicide scenes, even arsons. “This just destroyed everything.”
An autopsy showed Long had been killed before the fire, but the autopsy results took a few days. In the meantime, Long’s family had sifted through the wreckage, hoping to salvage mementos. Myle said this caused the family some guilt, as they were left to wonder if they had disturbed evidence. Gundrum said it was unfortunate that the scene had been released, but investigators at first did not believe they had a homicide.
At this point, Gundrum said, the case will be solved through interviews. As time goes on, people tend to become more willing to share information.
“That gives us an avenue to walk down and hopefully open more doors,” Gundrum said.
Payton thinks about his Ninny all the time, but he doesn’t give much thought to her killer.
“Whoever did it is not worth my time,” he said.
Maddy Garcia, 20, also Myle’s daughter, remembers her Ninny’s strong faith and the nightly prayer she taught her.
“Make all the bad people good and all the good people happy,” Maddy said, reciting the closing line.
“My whole world changed, I changed,” Tory said. From sleep patterns, to his ability to trust. When he lost his mom he also lost his best friend. She taught him to cook, leading the way to his career as a chef. Whenever he gets a compliment, he wants to give it to Long.
“She is the one who gave me that,” he said.
Myle struggles with the fact that there is a killer on the loose and that families like hers are left to wait. But she is also unsure what — if any — peace an arrest and conviction would bring.
“Maybe we will never know, maybe we weren’t meant to know,” Myle said. If a suspect was arrested and brought to trial, the family could have to sit in court while Long’s name is dragged through the mud, Myle said. She doesn’t want people to forget her mom, or to forget that somebody got away with murder.
It still puzzles her, though, that anybody could want to hurt Long, a forgiving, loving woman who made friends wherever she went.
“Who? Why? If you knew her, for somebody to do that to her, it’s unimaginable,” Myle said.
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