Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Linda Houlton comforted Amy LeBlanc last night during a candlelight vigil at Neal Blaisdell Park.

Oregon deaths
hit local nerve

A 22-year-old woman here
was friends with the 2 young
victims through her sister

By Genevieve Suzuki

Amy LeBlanc did not know how to answer her younger sister's computer message about the gruesome discovery in her hometown in Oregon.

"I was checking my e-mail last night, and the first line I saw was, 'They found the girls' bodies,'" LeBlanc said.

FBI agents found the remains of two 13-year-old girls Sunday in the back yard of the man suspected in their disappearance five months ago.

The remains of Miranda Gaddis were found in a shed, while the remains of Ashley Pond were discovered nearby in a barrel buried beneath a concrete slab.

It was already 11:30 p.m. in Oregon City, Ore., but LeBlanc immediately phoned her 13-year-old sister, Constance Chance LeBlanc, nicknamed "C.C."

C.C. was a friend and Gardiner Middle School classmate of both Pond and Gaddis.

"I just told her it was OK to be angry and it was OK to be scared," Amy LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc, 22, is a security officer on the battleship Missouri. She lived in Oregon City with her father until she turned 18.

"The hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life was trying to tell my sister everything was going to be OK when I didn't know myself," LeBlanc said.

"I think my mom cried harder than any of us," LeBlanc said. "She has four daughters to worry about."

The suspect in the girls' disappearance, 39-year-old Ward Weaver, was jailed Aug. 13 when he was charged with raping his 19-year-old son's girlfriend.

His son Francis told emergency dispatchers that his father had killed Gaddis and Pond, according to the Associated Press.

Ward Weaver has not been charged in their deaths.

LeBlanc said she remembered her sister bringing Gaddis home about three years ago so they could hang out and do "girly things" like play with Barbie dolls and try on makeup.

"(Gaddis) was a sweetheart," LeBlanc said.

"When they're 10, they're so innocent -- always laughing and smiling."

Oregon City, which LeBlanc describes as "a big town with a small-town feel," has been brought closer together by grief.

LeBlanc said teddy bears are being distributed to anyone who needs to be comforted.

The town has also been holding all-night counseling sessions for students. Counselors recommend families attend sessions together, LeBlanc said.

In Hawaii, however, LeBlanc must grieve alone, though her fiancé, Micheal Poole, has helped her deal with the tragedy.

"I'd like to get my friends together, but there's not a lot of people for which this hits home as much as it hits home for me," she said.

Last night, LeBlanc lit a candle in memory of Gaddis and Pond at Neal Blaisdell Park in Pearl City.

"I will cry later tonight. I tried to cry last night, but I couldn't do it, I was just so angry," she said yesterday.

Meanwhile, LeBlanc said she would like C.C. to come to Hawaii to help her get over losing two friends.

"The last thing my sister said last night was, 'How can you sleep at night knowing what (Weaver) did?' " LeBlanc said.

E-mail to City Desk


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