By BRIONNA FRIEDRICH
The Daily World (Aberdeen, Wash.)
ABERDEEN, Wash. — More than a week after they were discovered in a shallow creek in New Albany, it’s unclear whether Jaime Clutter and her children will be coming back to Aberdeen or will be laid to rest in what was their new home.
Memorials are in the works for the 35-year-old woman and her children, Brandon, 10, and Katelyn, 6 months, in Washington state and New Albany, where they moved about three months ago. Jaime Clutter’s father, Bill Pink, said earlier this week that he and her mother would likely attend an Indiana funeral service tentatively set for Saturday.
“As soon as that gets concrete, I think we’ll probably do a memorial over here,” Pink told The Daily World.
His daughter and grandchildren lived in Aberdeen all their lives, he said, connected to a large group of extended family and friends.
Pink said the cost involved might prevent the family from bringing them home for burial.
“The cost is really pretty high to do all that,” Pink said.
The family’s church, The World of Praise United Pentecostal Church in Hoquiam, Wash., has set up a donation page to help the family with the various expenses. Joyce Smith, wife of the Rev. Ronald Smith, said the family would never ask for such help, but the congregation wanted to do something to lighten the burden of memorials, air travel and other expenses that may come up.
“They’re all family people. Their family is very close, they’re very faithful people. They’ve been faithful to the church, and they’re faithful to each other,” she said.
“This family is just so unique, they are above reproach. They are the finest people I’ve ever met,” Ronald Smith said. “On a scale of 1 to 10, they’re above 10.”
Jaime Clutter and the children attended the church nearly all their lives until their move to Indiana in late December. Her father was assistant pastor for 25 years and was promoted to pastor last August.
Ronald Smith said the church has been inundated with calls from people all over the state offering to help.
“You don’t have to ask anybody, they volunteer, they call, [asking] ‘What can I do?’ ” he said.
Jaime Clutter and her children were discovered by a passer-by in Falling Run Creek which runs through Binford Park on March 13, not far from the Sheffield Square apartment where they lived. The Clutters moved when Jaime’s husband, Mike, found work.
Police have not said what they think may have happened, but at a press conference March 15, Floyd County Prosecutor Keith Henderson said, “I have no reason to believe we have an individual on the loose, if you will, that would cause the public alarm or harm.”
The preliminary cause of death for the children is drowning. A cause of death for Jaime Clutter is pending toxicology results.
“They are working on some things, and it’s a whole lot more involved than what we thought and they thought. I guess I’m glad to hear there are some things they’re working on,” Pink said.
Members of the church have been devastated by the loss, Joyce Smith said.
“They’re really shocked, and they’re really reaching out to the family. Actually, it has really brought the church together,” she said.
The Clutters lived in Aberdeen for about a decade, moving from Indiana, where Mike Clutter has family. They spent the first three years of their marriage in Indiana and Brandon was born there.
“They thought, ‘Well it’s time to come home and spend some time at this end of the world,’” Pink said.
Mike Clutter found a job at Westport Shipyard, and the Pinks helped them find a house, paint it and prepare it for their young family.
The Pinks got to spend a lot of time with their outgoing young grandson and their eldest daughter.
“She’s always been a very involved person, and of course at home with the family. She home-schooled Brandon, and they had dedicated one whole room of the house just for his school room,” he said. “It was just packed with everything. She made a huge investment in his education, and he was just sharp as a tack. Home-schooling doesn’t work out for everyone, but she made it work.”
The last few months of her pregnancy with Katelyn, Jaime Clutter was on bed rest, so the Pinks had Brandon with them for much of last summer, traveling to Disneyland and enjoying quality time.
“We had a great summer together, and then of course they were here for the holidays,” he said.
The Clutters’ furniture went to Indiana before they did, so they moved in with the Pinks for a few weeks.
“That was a lot of fun. We have a lot of great memories,” Pink said.
He remembered saying goodbye when the family moved as very difficult, and “that’s a normal feeling, but Mike needed a job so that was … the positive thing about it.”
He said Jaime spoke with her mother three to four times a week, and he would talk with her at least once or twice a week.
“In that short time [they had lived there], everything has worked out really well, it sounded like,” he said.
He remembered his grandson as a boy who often made friends while standing in line at the store.
“That’s the kind of kid he was. Very talkative, very much a people person,” Pink said.
He said Mike Clutter is holding up as well as can be expected.
“He’s doing better today, he’s been through a lot,” Pink said Tuesday. “He’s worked very tirelessly with the detectives and the police department.”
“It’s a great tragedy, and I’m sure he’s still in shock to some degree. Somehow or other, we all agree that God is the only one who can take a tragedy and something evil and turn it around to something good,” Ronald Smith said.
Donations to the family may be made on the church’s website, theworldofpraise.com, under the link “Clutter Memorial Fund.” Checks may also be mailed to the church at 601 Karr Ave., Hoquiam, WA, 98550.