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Back in 1989, I came to Grant County for my second job in community journalism.
I was living in Dry Ridge and the Grant County News was looking for a staff writer.
I applied and got the job.
I’ve had the distinct pleasure of covering many stories that have stayed with me through the years, but I guess your first ones are somehow the most special or at least most memorable.
For me, there are two that standout. The first was the conditions at the farm where Grant County’s unwanted dogs were held. Deplorable is one word to describe it. There were dogs having puppies in pens and food/water bowls full of poop. The dogs were muddy, hungry and crowded. That is something I’ll never forget.
The second story of 1989 that has stuck with me was Lawanda Sue Raines story. Raines went missing in May when her daughter Summer was just 2 years old.
I wrote stories about the search for Raines, as well as when her body was found in 2001 after her boyfriend, Keith Bramblett, confessed to police that he killed her and showed them where he hid her body under a pile of rocks in the middle of a field that searchers had walked past dozens of times.
Until last week, I had never met Summer, but I’ve thought about her countless times through the years.
As a community newspaper reporter and editor, I’ve covered dozens of stories of tragedy, death, destruction, along with the happy times of the community, but I never forgot the name Lawanda Sue Raines and Summer Raines.
I wondered about the little girl who grew up only knowing her mother through family stories and old photos. I thought about the birthdays and other milestone moments that Lawanda missed as Summer grew into a woman.
I wondered what she looked like and even how she had coped with such a horrible tragedy.
Maybe Summer stuck with me all those years because she was just a couple of years older than my own daughter. I don’t know but she was on my mind.
It was a pleasure to finally meet her when she walked into the News office that snowy, cold afternoon. Not only was Summer beautiful, but she was sweet and kind.
She probably thought I was a little crazy, but I couldn’t help but give her a hug that day and tell her that I was glad to finally meet her face to face.
She might have thought me even crazier when I teared up asking about her recollections of her mother, but somehow this story just got to me and obviously stayed with me.
I do know Summer’s Aunt Mary and she is a kind, sweet, decent woman. She and I have spoken several times through the years. Mary kept Lawanda’s memory alive and she is always quick to give an update on Summer.
I can’t imagine how Summer learned to live with the tragedy that began in her young, innocent life and even though I never met Lawanda, I believe I can safely say to Summer that her mother would be proud of how she turned out.
(Jamie Baker-Nantz is editor of the Grant County News. She can be reached at 859-824-3343 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.)