PAXINOS — Sometimes even stories with happy endings are painful to tell. Ken and Jane Young, of Paxinos, know this better than most.
On May 3 of this year, the couple’s granddaughter got engaged to an ambitious and dashing young man from Atlanta, Ga. He got down on one knee in an upscale restaurant; when she said “yes,” the place erupted in applause. Later that night, Jane and Ken hid in a kitchen, waiting for the newly engaged to walk into the surprise celebration. When they did, Jane Young’s granddaughter, overcome with joy, ran screaming and crying into Jane’s arms.
“She was just so happy,” Jane said, smiling at the memory of the moment.
It was the Youngs’ happy ending. Their beautiful and intelligent granddaughter, 24-year-old Lauren Culp, would be marrying a man, Nathan Robertson, who seemed perfect for her. And by all accounts, he is.
But for Ken and Jane Young, the pain of what was long ago taken away then is almost as undeniable as the happiness of the now.
“We,” Jane explained, “are all she has.”
Ken and Jane Young’s daughter, Sherry Culp, was 8 ½ months pregnant when she was murdered.
It was January of 1998. Culp was sitting in her car outside of where she worked in Newington, Va., when a hooded man approached and shot her twice in the head. The baby, Kelsey Culp, was delivered that day in an emergency caesarian section, but did not survive. It was ruled a double homicide.
Culp’s ex-husband, Donald Culp, with whom Sherry had two children, was considered a suspect in the case. Sherry’s daughters, Lauren and Heather, were just 9- and 7-years-old at the time.
Jane and Ken Young pursued every avenue they could think of to seek justice for their daughter. They offered $50,000 of their own money as a reward for information that could lead to an arrest; they kept in frequent contact with police, applying any pressure they could; they spoke with reporters at The Washington Post, with the Washington Examiner, and with the Washington, D.C.-area television stations, in the hope someone, somewhere, may know something. They even convinced John Walsh to place their daughter’s story on a segment of “America’s Most Wanted.”
But 15 years later, Sherry Ann Culp’s murder remains unsolved.
Jane Young admits there is a lingering anger in her that has not — and perhaps never will — subside.
“I will be even-keel for months, and then all of the sudden I have to call the detective and say, ‘What are you doing? This family needs closure!’” she said.
That anger — the anger of a mother robbed of closure for the death of her daughter — has driven the well-mannered grandmother of 19 and great-grandmother of five to punch walls.
“Someone took away a beautiful girl with so much to offer,” Jane said. “She lit up a room.”