Jan Chambers had no qualms about cutting short a family outing Sunday – not for the event that beckoned him back in Independence.
Chambers and her mother joined family and friends of Corey Laykovich as they gathered Sunday evening at the parking lot of Suchman and Darnall Family Dentistry for a vigil to mark the one-year anniversary of Laykovich’s murder.
The 22-year-old was stabbed in the early morning hours of July 27, 2013, near his home on the 3900 block of Crackerneck Road in Independence, west of the 39th Street retail district, and died the next day in an area hospital. The murder remains unsolved, but police say the investigation is active, and Sunday’s event even yielded a couple possible tips.
Chambers, who is in her mid-40s, is blind, has battled diabetes and earlier this year lost her husband, but she received a new lease on life thanks to a pancreas and kidney donated by Laykovich. Michelle Metje, Laykovich’s mother, arranged a display table for the vigil that included Corey’s organ donor certificate of appreciation, letters of thanks from Chambers and two other organ recipients and Corey’s cap and gown and honorary diploma from Wright Career College (he was a semester shy of graduating).”
“Michelle contacted me this morning, and I was with my family at Truman Lake,” Chambers said. “She said, ‘It would mean so much to me for you to be here.’ My mother brought me back.”
Chambers’ transplant surgery was a couple days after Laykovich died, and she said her family had been following the story.
“My ex-sister-in-law told my mom, while I was in the ICU, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if Jan’s organs came from that kid?’” Chambers said.
Before she even received official confirmation of her donor, Chambers wrote her letter to Metje and presented it to her in September when Metje did a book signing for “The China Cabinet,” a collection of family stories.
Metje told the vigil gathering that she wasn’t supposed to read the letter that day until she got home, but she could only wait until after Chambers left, then teared up when she realized it was from an organ recipient.
“At that moment, I needed that more than anything,” Metje said. “My God, He took my Corey, but He sent me an angel to let me know my baby didn’t die in vain. She is a wonderful person, and she took the time to find me.”
Metje told the crowd that with her son’s organ donations, “he did more because he died than his murderer will do in a lifetime.”
The vigil drew nearly 100 people, including some family of other murder victims, Metje said. A few people shared stories of Corey, and Eve Brackenbury, co-owner of Inklings’ Books & Coffee Shoppe in Blue Springs (formerly Prospero’s Parkside Books), shared a poem. Participants released balloons, lit candles and arranged sidewalk luminaries that stretched nearly a block along 39th Street.
The balloons, as Metje wrote for the vigil, “represent our willingness to accept things we cannot change.” The candles represented the desire to face the darkness with courage and make a change, while the luminaries represented wisdom – to find one’s path and, if one can’t find their path, to seek help along the way.
Metje said Corey’s Network – the support network for families of murder victims in the metro region that she and husband Bob Norris started – is deep in the formation stages. The foundation has a board of directors and grant writer, is constructing its by-laws and is awaiting approval for 501(c)3 non-profit status.
Anyone with information in the murder case is urged to contact the TIPS hotline at 816-474-8477, or submit electronically to www.kccrimestoppers.com or by texting TIP452 and the information to 274637 (CRIMES). All information is anonymous. The reward for information leading to an arrest is up to $7,000.