Benefit dinner honors memory of Justine Vanderschoot

Annual event raises funds for local law enforcement
By: Penne Usher Journal Correspondent
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Murder victim Justine Vanderschoot would have celebrated her 24th birthday March 30, but her life was cut short in September 2003 when she was killed by her ex-boyfriend Danny Bezemer and his friend Brandon Fernandez. Justine was 17 years old when her remains were found in a shallow grave near Applegate. The Vanderschoot family has chosen to turn their years of grief into action. Each year since their daughter was killed, they have hosted a benefit dinner in their daughter’s memory with the hopes of raising needed funds for local law enforcement. The fifth annual fundraiser will be held at 5 p.m. April 17 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds in Auburn to benefit those who helped solve their daughter’s murder. “We have this fundraiser because after going through all we went through, we had a chance to reflect on the people who aided us and realized there are a lot more who need our help,” said Justine’s father, Don Vanderschoot. The first four fundraisers brought in roughly $80,000, which helped purchase non-funded items for the Placer County Sheriff’s Department, the District Attorney’s Office, Chaplaincy, Sheriff’s Council and The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime. The fundraiser has helped the Sheriff’s Department purchase Tasers, ballistic shields and pepper ball guns. More than 380 supporters attended last year’s festivities that raised about $22,000 for area law enforcement agencies. Justine Vanderschoot was reported missing by her parents following a family Labor Day dinner in September 2003. After weeks of searching for the missing Maidu High School student, police arrested Fernandez and Bezemer on Sept. 17, 2003. FBI investigators questioned Fernandez, who eventually led them to a remote spot in Applegate where Justine Vanderschoot’s gravesite was found. Bezemer, 24, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and is serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life, reportedly in San Quentin. Fernandez, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder for his part in Justine’s murder and is serving a prison sentence of 15 years to life in the Susanville penitentiary. Penne Usher can be reached at ---------- What: Fifth annual fundraiser to benefit the Placer County Sheriff’s Department and other local law enforcement agencies When: 5 to 11 p.m. Saturday, April 17 Where: Gold Country Fairgrounds, Auburn Cost: $30 per person – includes dinner, live music, raffle and silent auction. No-host bar Tickets: Call (530) 878-4911