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California and the West

Yosemite Victims Remembered

Funeral: Nearly 1,000 people attend memorial service for Carole Sund and daughter Juliana. Search goes on for those responsible in deaths of the pair and their friend.

April 12, 1999|MARY CURTIUS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

EUREKA, Calif. — Nearly 1,000 people packed Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Sunday afternoon to say a final, wrenching farewell to Carole Sund and her daughter, Juliana, whose disappearance and deaths while on a February trip to Yosemite National Park with a family friend have badly shaken this north coast town.

Except for the satellite trucks and reporters, the politicians and many strangers who attended, it was a memorial the mother and daughter would have found fitting, friends said.

On an altar festooned with the flowers Carole loved, a small table held her broad-brimmed gardening hat and a pot of tulips she planted that recently bloomed. Juliana's violin rested nearby on her cheerleading pompoms. A portrait of Carole and Juliana, painted by a family friend, smiled out on the crowd during the service, which lasted more than two hours.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and state Sen. Wesley Chesboro (D-Santa Rosa) sat grim-faced in a front pew, but the memorial was dominated by the touching, sometimes comical remembrances friends and family have of two women they said shared boundless energy and a tremendous capacity to care for others.

After adopting three mixed-race children, Carole joined the NAACP and took her family to soul food dinners the local chapter sponsored as she tried to understand race relations, one friend recalled. Another spoke of Juliana's outrageous fashion sense--which tended to gaudy sports bras and boxer shorts--and her willingness to be "everybody's best friend."

But it was the final eulogy, delivered by Carole's 13-year-old daughter, Regina, whom the family calls Gina, that triggered first sobs, then applause from many in the audience.

"Although having the two most important people in my life taken away from me is the hardest thing I will ever have to overcome," the girl said as she fought back tears, "don't look at me with frowns and sadness." Instead, she urged, think of her mother as she remembers her: "laughing in a chair and smiling."

Throughout the service, Carole's husband of 21 years, Jens Sund, sat with his three surviving children, comforting his eldest son, Jonah, as he wept, and laughing with the children at some of the anecdotes about Juliana and Carole.

"My wife was a wonderful person," Sund told reporters at a news conference before the service began. "She just wanted to help people." Sund said he has been humbled by the outpouring of support from people since his wife and daughter's disappearance, and by "how many people my wife truly did touch."

After the service, dozens of churches and the many charities that Carole Sund had been active in hosted a community reception, the sort of potluck of frosted brownies, finger sandwiches, cold cuts and pies that Carole Sund had joined countless times during her life.

Carole Sund, 42, 15-year-old Juliana and 16-year-old Silvina Pelosso were last seen Feb. 15 outside Yosemite. The Sunds were showing the park to Pelosso, a family friend from Argentina who was nearing the end of a semester-long stay with the family.

The threesome vanished after abruptly paying for an unfinished hamburger dinner at a lodge near the park. A massive, statewide manhunt was launched after they failed to rendezvous at San Francisco International Airport the next day with Jens and the couple's three other children.

The case gained international attention as the family posted a $50,000 reward for information and became a ubiquitous media presence, leading vigils, granting interviews and pleading for the safe return of their loved ones. In Eureka, a logging and fishing town of 28,000, students wore ribbons and helped distribute fliers. Teams of crisis counselors were called in to help both the Sunds' other children and family friends cope.

A self-employed carpenter spotted the burned-out wreck that turned out to be the threesome's rented red Pontiac Grand Prix on March 19, in the woods near Long Barn in Tuolumne County. Investigators found the nearly incinerated body of Carole Sund, and what an FBI laboratory has tentatively identified as Pelosso's body, locked in the trunk.

A week later, Juliana Sund's body was found two hours away, near a reservoir. No arrests have been made, but prosecutors are presenting witnesses to a Fresno grand jury that is studying evidence in what investigators say was an abduction or carjacking and triple murder. Several parolees in the area with a history of violent sex crimes have been detained and questioned.

Carole Sund's parents, Carole and Francis Carrington, have served as spokespersons for the family throughout the ordeal, and Carole Carrington says they will stay active in the cause of victims rights. Owners of a successful commercial real estate business, they have established a fund, contributing $200,000 of their own money to help less wealthy families of victims offer rewards in cases of disappearance.

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