Nov. 1: Olson funeral: 'Evil does not have the last word'

  • Article by: CURT BROWN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2007 - 10:32 AM

The funeral of Craigslist murder victim Katherine Ann Olson was awash in community support. In their anguish, as family and friends buoyed one another, they affirmed a vibrant life -- and hope.

Once the pews filled, mourners crowded in front of the sun-splashed arched windows of an Edina church Wednesday afternoon.

There were police officers, high school classmates, friends from St. Olaf College, visiting clergy members, relatives, neighbors and strangers. They more than filled the 1,600 seats at Christ Presbyterian Church to remember murder victim Katherine Ann Olson.

The outpouring of community support showed "that evil does not have the last word," according to the Rev. Tom Koelln, a Lutheran pastor and longtime family friend.

"We shouldn't be here today," Koelln said. "But it's so important we are here to comfort this family. God did not want another angel. What happened last Thursday was the work of evil -- undisguised, uncensored and unmasked."

The 24-year-old Olson was shot in the back last Thursday after showing up for what she thought was a baby-sitting job she had found on the Internet site Craigslist.org.

Michael J. Anderson, 19, has been charged with second-degree murder for allegedly luring her to his Savage home, shooting her once in his bedroom and abandoning her body in the trunk of her car at a nearby park.

Savage Police Capt. Dave Muelken and his partner, lead investigator Laura Kvasnicka, showed up in uniform and took seats in a pew in the back corner of the church.

"We didn't want to be a distraction or take away any attention from the celebration of Katherine's life," said Muelken, 51.

But Olson's family insisted the officers sit up front with them. Muelken said the bond forged between the police and the family is like nothing he has experienced in 30 years of law enforcement.

Both officers have photos of Olson on their desks, gifts from the family.

"It's as if they've adopted us into their family," Muelken said later. "What an incredible service."

He said that he only knew Olson since her death, and that to learn about her life "was incredible."

'Surrounded by a great cloud'

During the service, Olson's friends and relatives traded anecdotes and watched a slide-show montage of her short life as an actress, singer and lover of life.

The Rev. Craig E. Johnson, Minneapolis-area bishop for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, told Olson's family: "We are broken-hearted, but we will support you and stand beside you as long as this journey takes."

He then read a statement from Olson's family, which includes her brother Karl, sister Sarah, mother Nancy and father Rolf, a pastor at Richfield Lutheran Church.

"The outpouring of grief has come from more places than we can comprehend," they wrote. "We are truly surrounded by a great cloud."

Sarah Sevcik has been a close friend since Olson's family moved from Duluth to Cottage Grove when she was in fourth grade. She and Katherine Olson attended St. Olaf together, and Sevcik remembered her as "charming, energetic, adventurous, talented, intelligent, beautiful, gracious and humble."

Other friends read psalms in English and Spanish, a tribute to Olson's studies in Argentina. Early last week, she told friends she was reconsidering her career goal of being a Spanish-English interpreter.

"She learned the role of an interpreter was to be invisible and behind the scenes and she said: 'That's not me. I'm an actress and I want to be in front,'" her family's statement said. "We do not need to list her immeasurable gifts now lost to this world.

"We had Katherine light up our lives for 24 years and how bright that light shone."

Motive still a mystery

As the officers left the church, they talked about the night shifts they have spent over the years patrolling the community.

"Then, in broad daylight, someone comes into this community and takes a life away and we're powerless to stop it," Muelken said. "This renewed for us why we pursue every criminal because, behind the crime, is a young woman and it was good for us to hear all the positive things she brought to her life."

Authorities say the second-degree intentional murder charges Anderson faces could be increased to first-degree murder once a Scott County grand jury is convened.

Through his attorney, Anderson declined a request for a jail interview Wednesday. Anderson's motive remains a mystery. Police believe he acted alone and had no previous contact with Olson.

"Whatever caused the trigger to be pulled and the bullet fired was the work of the evil one, not the work of God," Koelln told the throng at the funeral. "What happened to this unsuspecting, caring, trusting individual, we may never know why.

"Just like we may never know why there had to be such a violent and senseless death," he said. "But we do know that the darkness will not overcome the light."

Curt Brown • 612-673-4767

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