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Family of Dystynee Avery honor her one year later: ‘It’s not the same without her.’

“There’s a big, big piece of me missing. I’ll never get that piece back.”
Published: Apr. 18, 2021 at 10:21 PM CDT
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DENVER, C.O. (Valley News Live) - This week marks the one year anniversary of when Moorhead Police went from investigating the disappearance of 19-year-old Dystynee Avery, to tracking down her killer and later locating her dismembered body in the Clay County Landfill.

27-year-old Ethan Broad is charged with second-degree murder, while 34-year-old Brandon Erbstoesser, 27-year-old Andrea Payne and 23-year-old David Erno are accused of helping Broad cover up the murder for weeks.

Our Crime and Safety Reporter Bailey Hurley traveled to Colorado over the weekend where Dystynee’s family honored and celebrated her life.

“I never imagined having to come visit one of my kids at the cemetery,” Doreen Avery, Dystynee’s mom said.

Conversations that used to happen multiple times a day between a mother and her young daughter are now one-sided.

“Dystynee I miss you. I miss you baby girl,” Doreen sings as she holds her hand to her daughter’s headstone. “It makes it a little bit easier to come out here and talk to her, but it’s not the same. There’s a big, big piece of me missing. I’ll never get that piece back.”

Dystynee is laid to rest in Castle Rock, Colo., at Cedar Hill Cemetery, right next to her maternal grandmother.

While one year, especially this one, can seem like a long time, Doreen’s broken heart still has a lot of grieving left. She says she won’t be able to truly start healing until the four people accused in Dystynee’s murder and cover-up have finally taken responsibility and are serving prison time.

“I think once this is finally done and over with, I can actually start mourning my daughter because right now I can’t. All I’m concentrating on is what they’re doing. What games are they going to play next?” Doreen said. “I just don’t think that it’s fair that they’re going to get out and be able to live their lives and Dystynee doesn’t have hers anymore.”

For now, Dystynee’s family is finding joy and healing through the little things.

Dystynee’s stepdad, Shawn Gilliland, and older sister, Chloey Avery, filled green and yellow balloons with helium Saturday afternoon in the cemetery parking lot. Doreen says green was Dystynee’s favorite color, but yellow was a close second.

“1, 2, 3! We love you Dystynee!” Doreen shouted as the family released their balloons to Dystynee in the Heavens.

Doreen and Shawn later held a small candlelight vigil at their home in Flagler, Colo., with other family members to remember Dystynee for who she was, not what happened to her.

The group swapped tears and laughter as they shared stories of Dystynee’s first attempts with makeup, her at-home self-haircuts and her daring zest for life. Most of all though, her family says she was a giver.

“She would always make sure you had a smile on your face,” Doreen said.

Her family says they they find solace in the many signs and signals of love Dystynee’s sends to them every day. For her sister, Chloey, she says Dystynee comes to her in the form of dragonflies. Chloe says she sees more dragonflies now more than ever.

Shawn and Doreen say sometimes Dystynee will flicker the lights at their home or appear in the form of full-body chills after they attend one of the four defendants’ Zoom court hearings.

“Dystynee’s here with us. She’s always with me. Always,” Doreen said.

Brandon Erbstoesser is expected to plead in court Monday afternoon. Meanwhile, Ethan Broad has a hearing on Tuesday. If Broad’s most recent mental evaluation finds him competent and if the judge denies his attempt to take back his plea, Broad will be sentenced.

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