Loveland murder victim remembered
On Sunday mornings, David Shern liked to take his son and daughter out for breakfast.
He liked to teach them how to fish.
Like most fathers, Shern enjoyed sharing his time and knowledge with his children, 8-year-old Kaitlynn and 10-year-old Caelan.
On April 30, 2009, a man identified as a follower of the Juggalos street gang, who Shern didn’t know, stabbed Shern with a 14-inch sword after an altercation at Loveland’s North Lake Park.
Shern, 34, who was hospitalized after the stabbing, died one day later.
That day, the children Shern raised, who are now admired by adults for their upbringing and good manners, lost their father.
That day, Priscilla Stamp lost her son.
And although she is dealing with her own grief, Stamp said the hardest part of her son’s death is watching her grandchildren move on without him.
“To see how much I miss him is hard enough,” Stamp said recently. “But then to listen to the children, how much they miss him. That just breaks your heart when they start talking. There’s those spurts where they’ll just burst into tears and they want their dad.”
Friends and members of Shern’s family recently gathered in Loveland to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
Afterward, they talked with Loveland Connection about Shern and their beliefs that he died at the hands of Loveland gang members.
Since losing her son, Stamp said it’s difficult to detail how much her life has changed.
“I don’t even know words to sum it up,” she said. “It’s been devastating. My life stopped at that moment. It all just stopped.”
While coming to terms with their loss, Stamp’s and Shern’s family and friends also have had to deal with their grief while sitting through hearings and watching people involved in the case face justice.
Sarah Sypian, a close friend to Shern, attended many of those court hearings.
“You want to see it through, you want to see an end. You want to see justice,” she said. “It wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. … Nothing will ever bring him back.”
During many of the court proceedings, Stamp said it was frustrating to hear people talk badly about her son.
She was especially hurt by accusations made about her son saying he acted aggressively and violently toward people the night of his death because he had been laid off from his job.
Stamp said her son knew his work was temporary at the time of his death.
“So, none of it made sense to me,” she said. “In my heart, I just couldn’t put it together.”
Larry Walters, 20, was sentenced in November 2009 to 12 years in prison for reckless manslaughter in the stabbing death of Shern.
Two other people were charged with being accomplices in the case.
Christopher Hatch, whose flame-shaped sword was used to stab Shern and who helped hide the weapon after the assault, will serve one year at the Larimer County Detention Center.
Melissa Deeb, 19, who hid the weapon in her parents’ motor home, received a 45-day sentence for her involvement in the incident.
The gang connection
During an April court hearing, Stamp stood before Larimer County District Court Judge Stephen Schapanski and said Walters and his friends are members of the Juggalos street gang, a group that follows the Insane Clown Posse band and started as a Detroit street gang.
And although Loveland police have classified this case as gang-related, the case was never dealt with as if it was gang-related, she said.
This week, Loveland Police spokesman Sgt. Jan Burreson said Walters never was identified by police as a gang member, but officers were aware that information on his MySpace page mentioned the Juggalos and he liked to listen to Insane Clown Posse.
“According to us, there was no gang relation there,” Burreson said, adding that the assault on Shern was not a planned crime.
In the past, Loveland police officials have said they will not attribute gang activity to gang members because they do not want to glorify their actions.
Still, Stamp said she wants people in the community to be aware of gang activity in town and know exactly who their children are associated with.
“You worry about your kids when they drive to Denver or something, but I never would have dreamt that something like this would have happened in Loveland,” Stamp said of her son’s death.
To help people learn from her son’s death, Stamp hopes to encourage lawmakers to formally recognize the Juggalos street gang as one that operates in Colorado.
Lawmakers in Utah, Arizona and California already have done so, Stamp said.
“How do you prosecute them if they’re not recognized legally as a gang,” Stamp asked.
Earlier this year, Loveland police hosted a community forum focused on increased gang activity in the city.
During the forum, more than 200 residents gathered as Loveland police officer Tammy Fisher talked about the types of gangs in Loveland and graffiti they post around town.
Fisher said the Juggalos is an active gang in Loveland.
The Loveland Police Department has documented 262 gang members, 69 of those gang members are juveniles.
In response to gang activity in the community, officials with the Loveland Police Department have started outreach efforts and encouraged people to spend more time with their children, being engaged in their day-to-day activities.
At the county level, Deputy District Attorney Shaun Reinhart will serve as the Larimer County Detention Center’s office liaison and specialize in gang activity for all law enforcement agencies, said district attorney spokeswoman Linda Jensen.
Now that the people involved with Shern’s death have been sentenced, Stamp said she is focused on bringing routine back to her family member’s lives and remembering her son.
Most of Stamp’s family lives in Iowa and many have visited Loveland in recent months to help her through the difficult times.
Through family support and memories shared about her son, Stamp said she hopes to help her grandchildren come to terms with their lives now.
Earlier this month, about 90 people attended a service at Resthaven Memorial Gardens, where Shern is buried, to mark the one-year anniversary of his death.
People like Sypian and Jeremy Olson, longtime friends of Shern, shared stories of spending time with him.
Olson was friends with Shern for 30 years, he said.
“At a drop of a hat, he would be there,” Olson said. “I just called him out of the blue one day, hoping that he would be around because I knew that he knew how to do drywall and asked him if he wanted to help drywall my garage and on moments notice he’s like, ‘Yea, lets do it.’ ”
In addition to his dedication, Olson said Shern had a sense of humor and was someone people wanted to be around.
“He was so funny,” Olson said. “He could always pull you out of a bad mood.”
“He could lift your spirits,” she said. “He had a knack of doing that.”
Sypian and Shern were schoolmates at Thompson Valley High School, where Sypian said he was her first love.
Throughout the years, she said they remained good friends and he always had a way of lifting her spirits.
Such memories of her son are nice for Stamp to hear, she said.
They help her think back on how he lived his life and are now helping her make decisions with his children for their futures.
“On his Facebook (page) after this happened, everyone (wrote) how much they were going to miss him, and that he had their backs since grade school,” Stamp said.