Family gathers, grieves

September 21, 1997


Staff Writer, Martinsburg

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Seventeen years ago Beatrice Stream lost her son. Sunday the Point of Rocks, Md., woman gathered with her family to grieve again, this time over the apparent slaying of her granddaughter Jessica Lynn Newell.

"He drowned at the age of 19. They didn't find him for eight days," Stream said amidst the somber adults and playing children outside the home of granddaughter Lisa Newell at the Dodson Mobile Home Park. A few doors away, FBI agents were interviewing Jessica's parents, David and Deborah Newell.

"You see it on the television, but you never expect it to happen to you," Jessica's grandmother said.

She came to be with her family after learning that Jessica had disappeared from the Pikeside Bowl Thursday night. "We cried for three days," Stream said.


"It's not a good time," Lisa Newell said a few moments after the agents left the parents' house.

"She's had a breakdown. She's with a reverend," Lisa said of her mother, Deborah.

Later Lisa Newell, who is married to David's brother Patrick, said her mother was "being examined by medical people" and that her stepfather David was with her mother.

Lisa and Kellie Cline of Vanville are Jessica's half-sisters from a previous marriage. Cline said David and Debbie had been married less than a year, "but they've been together over nine years."

"Our children loved Jessie. I have an 8-month-old daughter and she always wanted to hold her, feed her and play with her," Cline recalled.

She said Jessica, a second-grader at Berkeley Heights Elementary, was a straight-A student who wanted to go to school every day.

There were family members and friends inside and outside Lisa Newell's trailer. Cline said Jessie came from a very large family and she estimated about 50 people had been by since word of her disappearance became known.

It wasn't just the family that came together, but members of the community, as well. In some cases they were complete strangers. Lisa Gunter, a friend of the family, was at Kmart Friday evening having pictures of Jessica blown up for fliers. Gunter said the woman at the photo desk didn't charge her for the color blowups of the missing child.

Melissa Snyder, of Hedgesville, and her daughter were in the store when Gunter was having the enlargements made and "I asked her if anyone was going to make fliers for them."

Another woman overheard the conversation and gave Snyder $10 to help. Snyder bought three reams of paper, paying the difference, and then made 500 copies that night at her former church, the Hedgesville Assembly of God.

She gave Gunter and Cline the fliers that night and then she and her son delivered fliers until 1 a.m. Saturday to open stores and restaurants. Later that morning she went to the Mount Zion United Methodist Church in Berkeley Springs and made 1,000 more.

"If it were my children I'd hope someone would help us," Snyder remarked.

Miriam Centamore and two of her sons were among the many volunteer searchers. She said they went "all over. Wherever they thought they had a lead, we were there. It was a community effort."

"There were so many searchers. We appreciate everything they've done and all they're doing," Cline said of all the people that turned out to help.

Mike Newell of Martinsburg is the paternal grandfather of Jessica. His sons Mike and David were at the bowling alley when the child disappeared. Contacted Sunday afternoon he said, "I can't talk about it now. I'm too shook up."

At the same time, not everyone was helpful. Cline said there were two fast food restaurants and a store that refused to allow them to put fliers in their windows.

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