Family and friends of Elizabeth Stivers gathered in front of her home on 7th Street Sunday evening to mourn, lighting candles, sharing memories and singing.
Stivers was found in her front yard on March 14, suffering from apparent trauma, police reported. She later succumbed to her injuries at a local hospital. Her family is still searching for any answers about what happened to her.
Elizabeth’s family described her as welcoming, friendly, a good hugger and an animal lover.
The close-knit Stivers family has a nearly 100-year history in Northeast Kansas City. Elizabeth’s uncle, Tom Stivers, and his brothers grew up in the neighborhood.
“The last several years, I’ve gotten calls after 10:30, 11 o’clock at night, four times, and it’s always a death in the family,” Tom said. “It’s shocking.”
Tom said it’s hard not to have answers about what happened.
“We know the process takes a long time, but we don’t want a long time, we want quick so that we can have closure,” he said through tears. “I break up while I’m driving, I think about her… You could not find another young lady nicer than she was. She never had anything bad to say about somebody. She was as sweet as could be, would do anything for you if she could.”
Her family shared how much she loved dogs. Working at a shelter, she would sometimes bring them home to give them a break.
“She’s just as nice as could be, everybody loved her,” Tom said. “Who didn’t love her? I have no way of knowing. We want answers. We want justice. I want vengeance. My vengeance is to find this person that did it, convict ‘em, send them to jail for life.”
While investigators wait on the results of an autopsy, 31-year-old Elizabeth’s family is waiting for answers.
Despite last week’s tragedy, and the many tragedies the family has witnessed over the years, many said they would never consider leaving Northeast.
“I’m a Northeast, red white and blue, through and through,” Tom said, adding that the people are what makes him stay. “I like my neighborhood. I like my neighbors. Some of them, I don’t know who they are, they move in and out so fast. But I’m a property owner. I don’t want to start making another mortgage payment. So no, I just like Northeast. It’s me.”
Elizabeth’s mom, Mary Ellen, is feeling lost without her daughter. She didn’t know of her daughter having any enemies or being angry with anybody. She spoke with her daughter on the phone about 15 minutes before the incident that ultimately claimed her life.
“She was my world,” Mary Ellen said, embracing family on the porch of Elizabeth’s house. “Everybody’s doing everything they can do, and I appreciate everything they’re doing for me.”
Elizabeth’s cousin, Jamie, said Elizabeth “was taken from this world too soon.”
“She was a sweet person and adored her mother and brother,” Jamie said. “She was amazing, loved everybody.”
Jamie didn’t meet her Stivers family until she was 13, but Elizabeth – who was six years younger – immediately welcomed her. They sat in the empty lot on the corner of 7th and Spruce and made daisy chains.
“She was the sweetest person, loved her dogs,” Jamie recalled. “My dog had an oopsie pregnancy, and she got so mad at me for it because I hadn’t been able to get her fixed yet. So she was all about taking care of them pets.”
Jamie wore a “Dog Mom” shirt in her cousin’s honor to Sunday’s vigil.
Elizabeth’s grandfather, Charles Otis Stivers, is mourning his only grandchild.
“She’s the most beautiful child in the world, she’s got the most beautiful red hair,” Charles said. “She loved to go fishing with me and Margaret, she loved to fish.”
Years ago, at Smithville, they were fishing at the spillway, and she threw a line in and was catching a few crappie, until she pulled in something bigger.
“She goes, ‘Grandpa, it’s got teeth!’ She jumped back six foot, it’s an alligator gar,” Charles said. “We loved to do things like that.”
“A child like Elizabeth, who’s very loving and caring and devoted her whole life to animals, you couldn’t have asked for anybody better,” Charles said. “She’s 31 years old and I had never ever known her to ever be mad – I’m not saying she never was, I wasn’t around all the time, either – I’ve never known her to be upset with anybody.”
Charles doubts answers about what happened to his granddaughter will give him closure, but his biggest question is, “Why?” He’s confident that one day, whoever did this to her, will answer to the man upstairs.
Elizabeth’s grandparents live in Indian Mound, and have for decades.
“I grew up in Northeast, I mean, to me, it’s home,” Charles said. “We bought the house 55 years ago with the intention of, just after a few years, moving. Well, then I got jobs, involved around the neighborhood.”
Elizabeth’s pastor, Charles Hayton of Lighthouse Chapel in North Kansas City, honored her memory and prayed for Elizabeth and her family.
One family member remembers her running around as a teenager, taking care of the younger kids at a family reunion. She will be remembered by many as always smiling.
Her pastor recalled her helping a 98-year-old parishioner out of her van each Sunday. It was one of many memories her family and friends have of her helpful spirit.
Elizabeth’s longtime classmate Morgan Murray from Overland Christian School, said she had a big heart and has always loved animals, adding that she was a phenomenal human being.
“She loved people, would do anything for you that she could,” Morgan said. “She was a firecracker, definitely a redheaded firecracker. She’d stand her ground for you, with you, on anything, had your back.”
They stayed in touch after school, and spent time together often.
“She came in second grade and we just kind of instantly became best friends,” Morgan said. “All the way through high school, we stayed in contact. She stayed with me for a month last year.”
Morgan said the news of her friend’s death was absolutely shocking, and she’s still digesting it.
“Times of anger, and just time to try and remember the happy times and just praying for justice,” Morgan said.
Her coworker from A Dog’s Fun Playce, Jenifer Dickson, is raising money for funeral expenses, and anything extra will go to Elizabeth’s mom to help care for the pets she leaves behind.
“She became the manager there and absolutely loved the dogs,” Dickson said. “She helped with so many rescue dogs… over the years. Liz would bring her dogs with her to work and the staff, customers, and volunteers all knew Liz and her dogs.”
Donations can be made at https://gofund.me/62dabccb.