July 14, 2010 -
October 21, 2013
A Grave Memorial
When we drop our children off for the day
at day care, or school or even to the baby sitter, we expect that when
we return to get them, they will be happy, healthy and telling us all
about the fun they had. Phillip and Jennifer Elgersma had no reason to
expect anything different than they would pick up their daughter,
Autumn and hear all about her day, sadly, it wasn't going to be. An Angelic faced little three year
old child who "loved the Lord" and was said to bring joy to everyone
she met, had her life taken by a woman who was trusted to take care of
Rochelle Sapp, who was 33 years old at the time, called Jennifer to let
her know that Autumn had been injured in a fall that had hurt her head
when she fell down the stairs in her home daycare. Autumn was taken to
the hospital in Sioux Falls and once there was treated for injuries
that Doctors said were NOT
consistent with a child falling down the stairs. Autumn had a fractured
skull and brain swelling.
Rochelle stuck her story about how Autumn had fallen down the stairs,
until she finally admitted that she had become angry with Autumn
because she would not take off her coat. Rochelle told Police that she
had thrown Autumn to the floor. Rochelle was arrested and charged with
willful injury and child endangerment resulting in serious injury, both
of those charges were felonies. Two days later, this little Angel died
and new charges were expected to be filed against Rochelle.
Autumn was a baptized member of the Calvary Christian Reformed Church
where she went to Children's Church Classes and loved to tell her
favorite knock knock joke, which was one about an owl and though it was
the same joke every time, Autumn didn't matter. It was said that
Autumn's favorite saying was "It will
be okay" and her family likes to think she is now in Heaven
telling that to everyone.
A neighbor said that Autumn had always been a bubbly child who loved
people and being around them:
"She was just fun to be
around and we're going to miss her a lot. She was just adorable cute
as a bug in a rug"
SHOCKINGLY, in November of 2103
Prosecutors dropped all charges against Rochelle because the charge of
child endangerment no longer fit the situation after Autumn died. It
was said by Department Of Public Special Agent in charge, Mitch
Mortvedt, that new charges could be filed as soon as an autopsy report
came back. It was expected that the results would not be back for at
least three to four weeks. Attorney Coleman McAllister requested that
the charges be dismissed without prejudice:
is needed before the State can initiate new charges arising out of
the death of Autumn
"We are at the mercy, so to say, of the medical examiners office"
It seems to me that if a child is dropped off healthy and happy with no
problems at all, then gets thrown to the floor by someone who ADMITS that they threw her to the
floor and then she was no longer happy and healthy, she's taken to the
hospital and then dies, that shows that she was abused in some way
between being dropped off at the home day care and being transported to
the hospital. It's hard to imagine the amount of force that was behind
that push to the floor.
In December of 2013,
Rochelle was arrested after the autopsy report showed that Autumn had
died of blunt force trauma to her head and her death was finally ruled
a homicide. Rochelle was charged with first degree murder and she was
sent to jail. At her arraignment, Rochelle
plead not guilty, waived her rights to a speedy trial and was released
on $250,000.,f which she only had to come up with 10% of order to be
out on bail, which she did.
People were happy that she was finally arrested, though nothing was
going to help ease the pain of losing Autumn:
"She was just a joy, an
absolute joy to be around. That joy was taken away and now
there is an empty spot in our family. I've been waiting for this day
for five weeks now.
I feel relief that she's been arrested"
Rachel L. - Aunt
Coleman McAllister noted
that the community was struggling to deal with what had happened:
"Orange City is a tight
knit community. It's a community that believes strongly in faith,
community. And I know
our community has reached out to the Elgersma's and embraced them.
And I'm sure that's in
some small measure reassuring to them"
Prayer blankets were made by First Reformed Church members and given to
the Elgersma's as well as the Sapp family. Each knot on the blanket
represents a prayer and though neither family attends that church, Rev.
Tim Breen is a Pastor there and he said that Rochelle cried when she
received the blanket:
"She was very grateful.
She was able to watch the church service live and she was definitely
moved by the support
from the folks in my flock"
Rachel said that religious faith and prayers from all over, letters and
cards were helping their family deal with what had happened to Autumn
and that they pray for Rochelle's husband and children:
"We feel for her
family, too. I just can't imagine how they're feeling"
"She was a wonderful grandchild. We loved her dearly"
Joyce D. - great grandmother
Autumn Lynn Elgersma
14, 2010 - October 31, 2013
Elgersma, 3-year-old daughter of Philip and Jennifer Elgersma, of
Orange City, passed away on Thursday, October 31, 2013, at the Sanford
Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
There will be a
celebration of her life on Tuesday, November 5, at
11:00am, at the Calvary Christian Reformed Church in Orange City. The
Rev. John Klompien and the Rev. David Heilman will officiate. Interment
will be prior to the service at the West Lawn Cemetery in Orange City.
There will be a family prayer service on Tuesday, at 10:00am, in the
Visitation will be after
4:00pm on Monday, with the family present from
5:00pm to 8:00pm, at the church. Arrangements are with the Oolman
Funeral Home in Orange City.
Autumn Lynn was born on
July 14, 2010, in Orange City, where she has
since lived with her family. She was a baptized member of the Calvary
Christian Reformed Church.
Autumn brought joy to
everyone she met and her face radiated light. Her
love for Jesus was so evident and pure. She loved listening to and
singing along with "Jesus music" and had perfected the "rock fist". She
enjoyed going to church, seeing her friends and family there, and
attending Children and Worship. She always made sure to find
Great-Grandma Foreman either before or after the service for a hand
full of gummy bears. She loved being with her family and was a
wonderful sister and friend to Faith and Jared. Some of her favorite
things were riding her trike, playing games, watching Dora, and playing
dress-up with her best friend, Addison Huizenga. She gave hugs and
kisses freely to anyone who asked for the same. While her life on this
earth was short, we praise God for the years we had with her. May our
memories of little Autumn always bring a smile to our face and warmth
to our hearts. She is so loved!
Those left to cherish her
memory include her parents, Philip Galen and
Jennifer Lynn (Foreman) Elgersma, her sister, Faith, and her brother,
Jared, all of Orange City; grandparents, Galen and Shirley Elgersma, of
Sheldon, and Perry and Roxie Foreman, of Orange City;
great-grandparents, Wilma Foreman, Dorothy Klynsma, and Henry and Joyce
Dykstra, all of Orange City; three aunts and their husbands, Rachel and
Randy Lamfers, Sara and Jerry Hofman, and Naomi and Michael Schout; two
uncles, John Foreman and Andrew Rodriguez; and ten cousins.
She was preceded in death
by great-grandparents, Earl and Gladys
Elgersma, John Foreman, and Norm Klynsma.
The following has been provided by Autumn’s parents, Phil and Jen.
Our family is deeply saddened by the loss of our little
girl. The prayers offered by others on our behalf are giving us the
strength to get through this very difficult time. Autumn was a joy in
our lives and we are blessed to have called her ours. We take comfort
in the fact that she is now with her Savior, Jesus Christ. We ask for
your continued thoughts and prayers for our family.
donations may be made to:
November 4, 2013, 5:00pm - 8:00pm at Calvary Christian Reformed Church
November 5, 2013, 10:00am at Calvary Christian Reformed Church
November 5, 2013, 11:00am at Calvary Christian Reformed Church
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