Sheriff's staff has to deal with loss, too

While friends and family grieve for 9-year-old Krystal Steadman, the employees and staff of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, who searched for her and found her body, also have to deal with the loss.

Douglas County Sheriff Ron Pierini said the department has a policy for helping officers deal with being so close to an unexplainable incident.

"The critical issue is to understand how terrible acts like this occur. They will never understand how a predator will kill a young girl," Pierini explained. "They will be questioning, 'Why does this happen?' and they will not be able to relate to that. Added to the helpless feeling you have, they will be questioning themselves and asking, 'Why couldn't I have been there to stop it?' That's what they deal with. Even I, and the rest of the staff, we've often talked about this. It was a terrible thing and there's no rationale."

Capt. Robert Lekumberry of the East Fork Paramedic District, who is trained in crisis counseling, will assist the department.

However, because the investigation is ongoing, detectives cannot take the time to deal with the emotional investment they may have put into the case yet.

"We will have a mandatory session for them to attend soon," Pierini said. "Also, Jim Doornink is a psychologist in Carson City and they can see him up to five times free of charge," he said. "But the other thing is, history will tell you, employees think everything is OK. But down the road, they will have recurring problems, so it has to be monitored, and we will monitor the situation."

Pierini said the last time the department had to deal with the loss of a child was in 1992 when two children and their parents drowned in Lake Tahoe and their bodies were discovered on the Douglas County side.

Last year, the department created a team of clergy trained in counseling victims. Pierini said that program has proved invaluable.

"When we notified the (victim's) mother, we had our sheriff's chaplain and he is versed with the agencies the family can go to for assistance and he will stay with the family and make sure they aren't left alone," he said.

Pierini said another way the department helps the family get through a trauma is to ensure they are given updates often and help them understand the process so they won't feel abandoned.

A bank account in Krystal's memory will be set up at the South Lake Tahoe Wells Fargo.


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