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Joy Ehlenfeldt's victim impact statement
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Published: 5/16/2007

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It seems trite to say that Richard Earl Ehlenfeldt was a loving son, dependable big brother, devoted husband and proud father. But he really fulfilled the deepest meaning of those words. He was also a deeply dedicated friend, employee and employer. Our Dad was a person who didn't just let life "happen" to him, he didn't accept "that's just the way things are" as an excuse for anything. Improve it! Solve it! Make it Better! - and even Make it More Fun! - were words that he turned into actions. He always was an advocate for issues concerning peace and justice. His guiding light was service to others, and the brief words we share here can only give a glimpse of what his life meant to all who knew him, how greatly he is missed, and how lovingly he will be remembered.

As an employee our dad was versatile, intelligent, and entirely committed to each position he ever held. Answering an early call; he became a Deacon in the Methodist Church and served as the pastor of a small church in Wisconsin. As a juvenile detention night security guard in graduate school, he contributed ideas to improve building and employee security. In all of his political positions and right up to his last days at the restaurant our dad demonstrated tremendous ability to improve processes, to make the most of opportunities, to create positive experiences, and to deliver an exceptional product. One particular evening at the store a nun came up to the counter wanting to redeem 50 coupons for a free two-piece meal. Although the coupons were old and issued by the previous owners and he was unable to give her the 100 of pieces of chicken right then, he agreed to donate each days leftover chicken to the Little Sisters of the Poor. He didn't want it to go to waste if others could somehow benefit from it.

While our Dad had a strong work ethic; he valued his family even more, and sacrificed a lot for his three girls. Our Dad had a great sense of humor, loved a well-executed practical joke, was a zealot for organization, and was handy with duct tape and WD-40. His favorite shirt was flannel, and his proudest purchase had to be a bargain. He planned our family vacations with the same precision and attention to detail that he applied to his work as an advance man for an event involving the President of the United States. He relished challenges and encouraged us to take advantage of the many resources available at college to learn something new, think of something in a different way, and to challenge ourselves.

Dad was proud to boast of the accomplishments of his three daughters, and was devoted to our Mom. They were a team both at home and at work. Dad dreamed of retiring in Wisconsin and being close to family. It is an aching sorrow to us that their grandchildren know them only as Grandpa and Grandma Angel.

One of the special places our family spent many memorable weekends was at our Grandparents' cabin in northern Wisconsin. Our father's presence is felt there to this day. His small, hard to read handwriting of the Rules for Opening and Closing the Cabin still remains on a weathered lined notebook page taped inside a cabinet. Even while relaxing, Dad had to work and putter around the cabin. Working WAS relaxing in Dad's mind. He was in constant motion chopping wood, redesigning the outhouse, reorganizing the tools and game cupboard, and finally going to town to get a bargain and maybe stopping by the bakery for some sweet treats for Mom and the Girls. He never "slept in" in the morning, rather opting to get up early, bring in wood to start a fire, and act as short order cook in the kitchen - beaming that he created a hearty breakfast in just one skillet, dirtying minimal utensils.

Our Dad made time for each of his three girls. We all looked forward to when it was our turn to go to a Badger football game or a BlackHawks hockey game. He always managed to make each of us feel special and loved.

How do we articulate the loss of our Father, who was so senselessly taken away from us? Jennifer says the impact of losing our dad is, of course, felt at all the big events in her life, but also in all the small ways that a Father lovingly offers his guidance through life. When Jen and Chris's son Nathan, was born, a beaming new grandfather was not present to hold the new infant in his arms, and dream of the fun activities that he would plan for his new grandson, such as fishing at the cabin, showing him where the big dipper is in the sky, teaching him to color and stay within the lines, or reading books to Nate as he drifted off to sleep. On election night in 2000, Jen prepared a victory speech, as the newly elected State Representative from La Crosse, Wisconsin without her biggest political supporter by her side. She inherited her appetite for politics from our Dad, and because of your selfish, vile actions neither our Mom nor Dad would ever see her sworn in as a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly.

And there are so many examples of the small day-to-day things that we can't turn to him for his advice. We have longed pick up the phone and ask his advice on a household project, should she use duct tape or electrical tape? Why isn't the lawnmower starting?

Jen has learned to golf, and remembers our Dad's advice, "Learn to play either tennis or golf, they are both lifetime sports, but golf is the sport of business." She will never be able to enjoy a warm summer day playing a round of golf with our Dad, in the way that he enjoyed playing golf with his own Father.

One of the biggest things we miss most is the opportunity to get to know both our parents as friends. The relationship you develop with your parents grows and matures over time, and we never had an opportunity to form an adult friendship with them, because of your cruel, dark, actions on January 8, 1993. Our Dad was the minority in the house, living with four women. He probably looked forward to the day that he would have sons-in-law to help him build a deck on the cabin, landscape the yard, go to college football games, or spend hours in a hardware store finding the right tool for a well-designed home improvement project.

We have had to grow up before our time. Thrust into adulthood without the guidance and steady hand of a loving and proud father. You took that from us and, much like the three of us, your son will not know the presence of a father in his everyday life either. How could you do that to him? You went into Brown's Chicken and Pasta that night and didn't think about the repercussions of your cruel and fatal actions to the victims' families or your own. You have broken our hearts, and now your own family and loved ones know the heartbreak and loss, as you are being held responsible for your actions. How could you have such little respect for life? You will now be branded as a "convicted killer." How does that sound to you? Juan Luna, Convicted Killer. You may not want that title, but you deserve that horrible label. We do not like to be described as the daughters of murder victims Richard and Lynn Ehlenfeldt. We do not deserve that label or reality.

You have taken so much more from us than just our parents. In many ways, you took away our innocence, and our dreams. Fortunately, we know there are many more good people in this world than evil. However, with your brutal and inhumane desire to kill, you robbed the world of seven good people. There are no words to begin to adequately describe how your crime has impacted our families or us.

My Dad often referred to me as "his little helper." I was his Baby Girl, but he made sure that I learned I could do anything and everything. I helped him rotate the tires on his car, change the oil, paint the shed in the back yard, organize the garage, organize his workbench even organize each nail, screw and bolt; down to size and style each one having its own drawer. He loved to organize. We would play horse in the backyard and pool in the basement. He was at every soccer game, every basketball game. Ironically, some of my fondest memories of spending time with my Dad revolve around me being grounded, he preferred the term "on restriction." I look back and realize that after his initial frustration and disappointment with me he would accept my apology and love me unconditionally without hesitation. I have come to find out that despite what my offense had been (prank calling pizza places, fighting with my sisters, sneaking around) he would call the other relatives and begin the phone conversation with a chuckle and a smile and say, "you'll never guess what Joy's done now ..."

He taught me lessons that I didn't realize he was teaching me until long after he was gone. He taught through his actions. My Dad taught me responsibility, fairness, compassion, integrity, honesty and so many others too numerous to mention. One of the biggest lessons I learned from him was accepting responsibility and living with the consequences of my actions. And those consequences should be fair and just, not vengeful. Whenever I got "put on restriction" I was never really angry with my Dad, at least not for long, because he did it in a way that I knew he loved me and he was wanting me to do better. He wanted me to learn the lesson for myself and become a more responsible, honest, trustworthy person. My Dad taught me there is a difference between a right and a privilege: privileges must be earned and can be taken away at any time. When I turned 16, my Dad taped a newspaper clipping to my bathroom mirror which read "Driving is a privilege."

I was supposed to leave for college 36 hours after you murdered my parents. Instead of being driven to start my college career, I drove myself, following my sister and her boyfriend. I cried the whole way not really knowing where my life was taking me. I couldn't even stay in my own dorm room. For the first three weeks or so I stayed with Dana and her roommates. I literally slept in her bed by her side because I was too frightened and terrified to be alone at night. I felt like I lost a part of my Dad long before he was murdered. For 16 years I had taken for granted that he would attend every game, every concert, every award ceremony. Once he even chartered a plane to make it back to speak at our school for career day. When my parents took over the Restaurant they put their heart, soul, and time into it. So much time that my parents, who never missed a soccer game, missed the State Championships and I was the only player who didn't have parents in the stands. They weren't around to see me off on Prom night and they didn't even attend my high school graduation ceremony; instead they were busy catering many other graduation parties. But I always knew that when things settled down at the restaurant they would find time for me again, I just needed to be patient. You stole that time away from him, from me, from my sisters. You sent my world crashing down around me. 18 years old and I had no parents, no one to turn to for advice, for a hug, for unconditional support.

In the past 14 years my sisters and I have gone through so many big and little moments without our Dad. The first time my toilet overflowed in college I picked up the phone to call my Dad, then remembered he would never answer. Dana and I graduated from college and graduate school without him there telling us how proud he was of our accomplishments. Jennifer, Dana, and I each walked down the aisle at our wedding alone; there is no one who could replace him or give us away. We were only able to have our Dad in our hearts, but not by our side. He was already preparing to become a Grandfather the day you murdered him, he had started a Dr.Seuss book collection at the house, but he was never able to read them to his five Grandchildren.

I often wonder why you just didn't wear a mask and take the money. My parents would have given you anything, done anything to save their employees' lives and their own. Then I realize it wasn't about the money, was it? It was about power and fear and terrorizing innocent and good people, peaceful and law-abiding people. I can't imagine how a mind let alone a heart works that way. Juan Luna, you have brought these consequences upon yourself with the actions you chose on January 8, 1993. Not only are you responsible for the suffering and grief of six families, you are also responsible for your own family's suffering. Your family will now join ours in the circle, of grief. You owe them an apology, you owe us all an apology.

My Dad was completely devoted to my Mom, his love for her was deep; pure, and forever. After our parents were murdered we found a letter my Dad wrote to my Mom. It is the most beautiful and powerful letter I have ever read. The following passage is just a glimpse of what the letter entailed but I feel it encompasses his love, faith and devotion to my Mom, "You are a beautiful, wonderful woman, and I am proud to share this relationship with you. May our love continue to grow, may our lives together continue to share the happiness we have known. Lynn, I love you."