Family and friends of Corey Laykovich know that answers – even clues, for that matter – to the mystery surrounding his overnight July 27 killing have been hard for the Independence Police Department to discover.
Saturday outside of the offices of Suchman & Darnall Family Dentistry, at the corner of 39th Street and Crackerneck in southeast Independence, they joined forces to hopefully give the investigation a little jumpstart.
Michelle Metje, Laykovich’s mother, organized the “knock-and-talk” in hopes of gleaning any kind of information from residents in the neighborhood around the family’s house on the 4000 block of Crackerneck, west of the 39th Street retail district.
Metje said 27 volunteers participated in either talking to people around the neighborhood or logging information from volunteers when they returned to the base tent. In addition, two Independence Police detectives were on hand for potential follow-ups after volunteers made initial visits.
Last month, Metje participated in a book fair in Blue Springs, signing copies of her book “The China Cabinet” that was published months before Corey was stabbed to death. At that event she met a woman whom she later learned was a recipient of Corey’s organ donations. Several days later, she said, is when she thought of having a knock-and-talk.
“The weekend after the book fair, it was the first weekend I actually sat down and started processing everything,” Metje said. “It was like, ‘Oh my God, I can breathe.’ If we wait too much longer, it’ll be snowy or leaves will cover (potential clues).”
“I co-managed the truancy office for the Kansas City School District (she worked in the department for 10 years), and we did knock-and-talks. I thought ‘Why don’t we do something like that? I got permission from the police, and the dentist let us use the parking lot.”
Before volunteers, several of whom wore T-shirts bearing Corey’s image, fanned out Saturday morning, Metje reminded them to go in at least pairs and fully identify their purpose, but also that they, in effect, are trespassing and people don’t have to talk with them.
“We’re going to stay on top of this. We’re not letting it go,” she told them.
As they dispersed, Metje said, “If they get one thing, I’ll be happy. I’m ready for it.”
Laykovich, who would have turned 23 years old Sept. 16, was dropped off by friends about 12:30 a.m. July 27 near his home, according to stepfather Bob Norris. He told a friend he would be walking to the nearby QuikTrip, but whether he made it there is unclear. Metje said after Corey was stabbed, he stumbled into the house between 2-2:15 a.m., but was too disoriented to express how serious his situation was.
Metje said Saturday’s event did produce some information from Corey’s friends and neighborhood residents, but whether that has been of any help is unknown.
“We haven’t been able to determine if any of the leads went forward, but that’s because they want to stay tight-lipped,” she said.
Regardless of how fruitful the event ultimately was, volunteers recognized the importance of their attempts unravel the mystery of Laykovich’s killing.
Casey Witkowski, a friend of Laykovich’s, said he “put off some things at school” so he could help.
“He was my inspiration when I went through basic training,” Witkowski said before making his rounds. “He was saying how hard it would be, and I was trying to prove him wrong.”
Stephanie Jacobus, a friend of Metje’s since high school, traversed of the woods at the south end of Crackerneck, where an old Boy Scout camp existed, and her son brought a metal detector for that task. She said if anything, she hopes Saturday’s event would build awareness in the neighborhood.
“Violence can happen in your own backyard, no matter how safe you think the neighborhood is,” she said. “There’s too much traffic – this is too busy of a street for somebody not to see something.
“With everybody knocking on doors, hopefully it brings awareness, if not tips. Knowing Shelly, she’s not going to let up until we have some answers. She’ll go to the ends of the earth.”
“If nothing else, what we’re going to do is make someone feel very uncomfortable,” Metje said. “If that’s all we do, make somebody feel uncomfortable or come forward about something they know, than that would be a pretty good day.”