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Vanderschoots raise money for local law enforcement agencies

Today would have been Justine’s 26th birthday
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Nine years after her daughter Justine was murdered, Lynette Vanderschoot doesn’t mind when people bring it up. She welcomes the opportunity to reflect on her favorite memories of her daughter’s 17 years of life, or describe the way her bright blue eyes and outgoing personality could light up a room. Today would have been the Christian Valley teen’s 26th birthday. “She was always the center of attention whatever room she was in,” Vanderschoot said. “Her eyes would light up a room. They were just beautiful.” And in the moments that were some of her worst memories — finding out her daughter wasn’t coming home and that Justine’s boyfriend Danny Bezemer and his best friend Brandon Fernandez brutally killed her — several local law enforcement agencies were there for her and her family. Bezemer is serving 25 years to life in prison on first-degree murder chargers and Fernandez is serving 15 years to life in prison on second-degree murder charges. Over the past five years the Vanderschoots have been able to honor Justine’s memory, and those that helped put her murderers behind bars, by starting a fund to give back to them. So far Justine’s Fund has raised over $95,000, she said, and its annual fundraiser is coming back April 21. Proceeds of the fundraiser will benefit the Placer County District’s Attorney Office, The Center for Victims of Violence and Crime, the Placer County Sheriff’s Council and Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy. “The DA was working seven days a week, 24 hour days. They were there around the clock and the sheriff’s department searching,” Vanderschoot said. Lieutenant Mark Reed with the Placer County Sheriff’s Office said the department appreciates that the sheriff’s council has been able to purchase tasers to equip deputies with the donations from Justine’s Fund. “We have been able to outfit our deputies for tasers, which is a great tool for our patrol folk,” Reed said. “They had a very tragic situation and I can’t image as a parent having to go through something like that and all our personnel felt for them. We’d give back all the tasers if we could bring back their daughter.” Deputy Senior Chaplain Jim Milne, with the Placer County Law Enforcement Chaplaincy, said he went to help some of the Vanderschoots’ coworkers when they first found out Justine was murdered. “Here is a terrible tragedy in their life. They not only created a new norm, but they started a foundation reaching out and giving to society,” Milne said. Milne said the money Justine’s Fund has donated helps pay for one full-time and one part-time chaplain, as well as administrative costs of running the program. Most of the chaplaincy staff volunteers their time for free and pays for their own training, he said. “I have held many moms in my arms and they have soaked the front of my shirt in tears,” Milne said. “Don’t let tragedy make your tragedy, but make you stronger. That is easier to say, but much harder to process and walk through.” For Vanderschoot, giving back to the local agencies that were there for her family is one way to keep the memory of her daughter alive and some good that can from her family’s grief. “Just remember the funny, happy-go lucky, laughing girl,” Vanderschoot said. Reach Sara Seyydin at saras@goldcountrymedia.com, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.