While Carol Peppers absorbs what has happened, she also remembers happier times with her daughter Jessika.
Jessika, 32, was shot and killed the afternoon of Aug. 25 at the 5700 block of Cambridge Avenue in Kansas City, reportedly after she had gone to a house to reclaim some possessions from an ex-boyfriend. A spokesperson for Kansas City police said the case file has been forwarded to the Jackson County prosecutor's office to consider possible charges.
A 2003 graduate of Fort Osage High School, where she lettered in softball all four years, Jessika had been in and out of Carol's and her other two younger children's lives for the past 10 years as she battled drug addiction and other troublesome issues. In addition to parents Carol and Rick, brother Todd and his wife and sister Ricki, Jessika leaves behind two children
“We never dreamed it would end like this,” Carol said earlier this week after uncovering a collection of pictures of Jessika. “If it had been an overdose, we'd be dealing with a totally different type of grief.
“I wake up every morning thinking it was a really bad nightmare, but then it smacks you.”
Carol said she's been trying to remember more of the good times from Jessika's younger years, when she developed her love of baseball (before switching to softball) and nature outdoors, particularly fishing.
“My dad was always a fisherman, and he took me and my brother, so I guess I passed that on,” Carol said, adding that Jessika even took one fishing trip with her grandfather and a friend named Harold Ensley – he of “The Sportsman's Friend” television show.
Jessika's pre-teen switch to softball came reluctantly. Carol jokes that if she and Rick hadn't forced her to switch, Jessika would've become the first female playing Major League Baseball.
Upon hearing the girls in their organized chants at her first softball game, Carol said, Jessika turned around with a look of “'What have you done? I want my baseball back.”
Playing catcher, she took to softball well enough to play on the varsity right away at Fort Osage and later represent the United States in an age-group international tournament in Europe.
Her softball talent could've taken her to college, Carol said, but Jessika went to cosmetology school instead – not surprising in retrospect since she discovered by age 13 that she could use Kool-Aid to color her hair. In the course of one softball season she might have several color changes.
Jessika did earn her cosmetology degree but never put it to much use, Carol said, as along the way she also started partying and soon drifted apart from her family.
Eventually, Carol says, she had to cut ties for her own sanity.
“My youngest daughter had it the worst,” she said. “She watched her older sister, who she looked up to, struggle with this addiction.
“She attempted some online classes but never stuck with it.”
The last time brother Todd saw Jessika was his wedding three years ago, Carol said, and she saw her only a few times afterward until receiving the jarring news of her death a couple weeks ago.
Carol learned that a week or two before her death Jessika had reached out to a recovery house where she had resided before, inquiring about possibly returning. The woman in charge said she was always welcome but never heard back from Jessika. For all her mother knows, she could've been planning to go there the day after she got shot.
“There's always the what-ifs,” Carol said.
Police said they will still accept information about Jessika Peppers' case on the TIPS hotline at 816-474-8477, with a possible reward for information leading to an arrest.