A family friend of murdered Alice Springs woman Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson has described her as a happy and much-loved child.
Pearce-Stevenson, whose body was discovered in the NSW Belanglo State Forest 2010, was the mother of Khandalyce Kiara Pearce, whose bones were found alongside a suitcase near Wynarka, in South Australia’s Murray Mallee region, in July.
Long-time family friend and neighbour Patrick said Pearce-Stevenson, last seen when she was 20 in 2008, had good parents.
“We know them (the family) very well. We lived a street over,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
“She was just a happy-go-lucky kid … just a normal everyday sort of kid who went to school and had good parents.
“They’re really good people, just salt of the earth people. They sure didn’t deserve this to happen to them.”
Patrick hoped the remains of mother and daughter would eventually be repatriated to Alice Springs to be buried with Khandalyce’s grandmother, who made the now-famous patch quilt that helped police begin to unravel the mystery behind the deaths.
“The family’s not that well off,” he said.
“It’s just a really bad time for them. They haven’t got very much money to do this sort of stuff.”
Pearce-Stevenson was born in Alice Springs in 1988 and gave birth to Khandalyce there in 2006.
She left to travel and work around Australia between 2006 and 2008.
Detectives are following several lines of inquiry into the murder of the mother and daughter.
Police in NSW and SA, and two territories, are continuing their joint investigation into the final movements of the pair after Wednesday’s “crucial breakthrough” in linking the two sets of remains.
“All I can say is that we are pursuing a lot of lines of inquiry. We have got a lot of work ahead of us,” NSW Police Homicide Squad Commander Mick Willing told Network Seven on Thursday.
Using DNA, police confirmed on Wednesday that it was Khandalyce whose body was discovered alongside the Karoonda Highway near Wynarka in July.
In a separate investigation police used DNA to identify Karlie Jade Pearce-Stevenson as the young woman whose skeletal remains were discovered in the Belanglo State Forest, south of Sydney, in 2010.
“(We are) appealing from people from across the country who may have seen this young mum and this little girl at any time in the last 10 years so we can piece together their moments,” said Det Willing.
Karlie was 20 when she was last seen driving near Coober Pedy with Khandalyce in November 2008.
Police say another witness took photos of the pair at Marion Shopping Centre in Adelaide the same month, while an unconfirmed sighting placed them in an ACT shopping centre in December 2008.
“We have had tremendous support and I think it will take us to a successful conclusion,” Detective Superintendent Des Bray of SA Police told Seven on Thursday.
Family, including Khandalyce’s father, and Karlie’s stepfather and stepbrother, have been ruled out as suspects.
In a statement, the family said: “Our family is devastated by this news of the deaths of Karlie and Khandalyce and we are trying to deal with the grief.”
Karlie’s mother died believing her daughter was safe and well, and living interstate.
On Wednesday, police said it was the 1267th caller to Crime Stoppers on October 8 on Khandalyce’s case that gave police the breakthrough they needed in both murders.
With information from an anonymous caller, police were then able to locate photos of Khandalyce wearing a pink dress and with a handmade quilt, identical to those found in the suitcase in Wynarka.
“Since July, it has been a very intense investigation involving every law enforcement agency across Australia,” said Det Willing.
“It was after about 1300 calls that we got the call that put us on to Khandalyce. Within a few days – another call and other investigations from other authorities.
“It was a sigh of relief when we got that call.”
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