Elissa Self-Braun was 11 years old when she was kidnapped, raped and murdered in St. Louis. That was 20 years ago. Tonight at midnight, the man convicted of the crimes against her is to be executed.
Gary Morton is her older half brother who was 20 in 1991, when Elissa went missing.
“It devastated our family,” he says. “It was a cold, snowy day and we got a phone call from the school that she wasn’t there and we started our search becasue that was so unlike Elissa. We searched the neighborhood and put up fliers… then we got a phone call four days later that she had been found in South Missouri.”
Elissa’s body had been found on the banks of the St. Francis River.
She had a little sister named Lily — she’s now 24. Lily Braun says Elissa’s disappearance happened when she was 4 years old, and though her memories are sparse, she says Elissa’s death has become a part of her.
“I remember her coming in to my bedrom a lot and she would always read to me or help me brush my hair and make sure I was tucked in,” she recalls. “Lissy was very much the one to be the caretaker of me and Jake, my younger brother.”
Lily Braun started working toward a degree in counseling. She says she doesn’t know that her own family’s situation led her to that career path. She does say it gives her a reason to understand that Martin Link’s heinous crimes against her sister might have been part of a vicious cycle. She has since decided to go into deaf education and will work with children.
She says after this final chapter of grieving, she’s going to push her mother to bring out old videos of her sister who was killed 20 years ago. For Lily, she says she wants Link’s execution to bring a to a close Elissa’s death, and for all of them see her alive again.
She says she learned recently that her mother has old home videos of Elissa tucked away.
“I’d like to see her living again, see her in action, see her face to face, because it’s very hard to remember that when all you’re remembering and talking about is her death. Probably in the next few days we’ll try to all get together and relive Elissa being alive again.”
Lily says she hopes Link’s execution will mean her family won’t have to be so sad about her murder anymore, and that they can begin to celebrate her life.
AUDIO: Jessica Machetta reports (click to listen.)
Visit this facebook forum to see Elissa’s classmates from Enright Classical Junior Academy talk about when she went missing.