Fundraiser helps those who solved girl's murder

'Justine's Fund' dinner held April 18
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Vanderschoot fundraiser Info Box: What: Fourth annual fundraiser to benefit the Placer County Sheriff’s Department When: 5-11 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at the Gold Country Fairgrounds Cost: $30 per person includes dinner, live music, no-host bar, raffle and silent auction. Tickets: Call (530) 878-4911 Donations can be sent to: “Justine’s Fund” care of Community 1st Bank, attn: Steve Galyardt 649 Lincoln Way, Auburn, CA 95603 Mug: Vanderschoot, Justine.tif: (fresh photos can be arranged) By Penne Usher Journal Correspondent Murder victim Justine Vanderschoot never walked the line at her high school graduation, never got the chance to go to college, marry or have children of her own. Vanderschoot was murdered five years ago. The Christian Valley teen would have celebrated her 23rd birthday last week. Don and Lynette Vanderschoot’s youngest daughter was killed and buried alive by her ex-boyfriend Danny Bezemer and his friend Brandon Fernandez. She was 17 years old when her remains were found in a shallow grave in September 2003. 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 fourth annual fundraiser will be held at 5 p.m. April 18 at the Gold Country Fairgrounds 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. “Their resources are limited and we just wanted to give back to those in law enforcement who helped us and in turn that helps our community.” The first three fundraisers brought in roughly $65,000, 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. Undersheriff Devon Bell said the fundraiser has helped the department purchase Tasers, ballistic shields and pepper ball guns. “The fundraiser is a huge event,” Bell said. “Especially in the rough economic times. All we can do is cut, cut, cut. The fundraiser helps by providing us with funding for non-budgeted items that keep our deputies and the public safer.” More than 350 supporters attended last year’s fundraiser that raised more than $20,000 for area law enforcement agencies. Since the fundraiser began, monies have been donated to provide a brochure program to teenagers alerting them of the dangers of domestic violence, training for the District Attorney’s Office, ballistic shields and Tasers for the Sheriff’s Department and funds for the Chaplaincy program. 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