Michelle goes home
After being in a grave in Riverside Cemetery in Blue Earth for the past 35 years under a stone with the name Jane Doe on it the remains of Michelle Busha were taken to her hometown of Bay City, Texas, last week.
Her brother and sister were in Blue Earth to pick up her cremains and take her home.
And, while they were here, they wanted to meet with the people involved with solving the case of their sister’s murder here in 1980, and who then worked so tirelessly over the years to try and discover her real identity.
“This town is incredible,” says Marla Busha, Michelle’s sister. “It has been a huge comfort to us, my family, and my father, that the people of Blue Earth cared so much for Michelle.”
Marla Busha and her brother, Don Busha, were in Blue Earth on Friday and Saturday, April 9 and 10. They met with Faribault County Sheriff Mike Gormley and Chief Deputy Scott Adams on Friday to arrange to take possession of Michele’s cremains.
Then on Friday night they met with Deb Anderson, of Blue Earth, who had worked hard for years to try and find out the identity of Jane Doe.
Saturday morning they were in victim abuse advocate Deb Wiederhoft’s office and met again with sheriff Gormley, deputy Adams as well as former sheriff Roger Fletcher and former chief deputy Jerry Kabe, to learn all the details of the long unsolved missing person/ homicide case.
“It was so great to meet all these people, to put faces with names,” Marla Busha says. “We are so touched by the community and everyone we’ve met here. Learning about all the efforts everyone did on her behalf, I can feel that attachment of everyone to Michelle, someone they never knew.”
Both Marla and Don Busha say first hearing the news that their sister had been found, then learning the details of her death, has been an extremely emotional time for the two of them, and for the rest of the family.
“There are seven of us brothers and sisters,” Don Busha says. “Michelle was the oldest. Marla is the second oldest and I am in the middle.”
There is also Casey, Bob, Kevin and Shane, who is the youngest. And while some of them are half brothers and sisters, they have always thought of themselves as being one family, they say.
The Busha’s father, Don, has had some health issues and been in the hospital, but could be out soon. He received the call from the Matagora County Sheriff’s Office just days after he had gone into the hospital. He still lives in Bay City.
Michelle and Marla’s mother lives in North Carolina and requested privacy, as far as the recent news of her daughter being identified goes.
Michelle’s disappearance has had a very deep affect on the family for the past 35 years.
“I was just 10 or 11 when Michelle left home,” Don says. Marla adds that he was Michelle’s favorite and she called him ‘Don-Don.’
“I was 15, almost 16 when she left,” Marla recalls. “Michelle was a free spirit type of person, and she left home to go on an adventure. She was going to stop in with relatives from time to time, including our grandmother.”
Michelle made a couple of phone calls home at first, but she never did show up at her grandmother’s house in Temple, Texas.
“Our grandmother always thought she would still see her again, that she would eventually show up,” Marla says. “But she went to her grave never knowing what had happened to Michelle.”
After a while the family did file a missing person’s report with the Matagora County Sheriff’s office in Texas. But, time went by and the family never heard anything about her again.
“After so many years went by I assumed there was not a large possibility she was still OK,” Marla says. “But my secret hope was that there was a chance, even though it was a long shot, she was still alive. That she would one day just show up at my door and say, ‘I’m sorry I never called you, Marla,’ and I would say that was OK and hug her.”
But, she also knew Michelle would not have just completely walked away from contact with her family. So, keeping any kind of real hope alive was difficult. However, that does not mean she or her family will ever totally forget about Michelle.
Marla says her 14-year-old son, Steven, just told her that he, too, had always secretly hoped that his Aunt Michelle would just show up one day, and that he thought about her often.
“I never knew my son ever thought about my missing sister,” Marla says. “It surprised me to hear him say that.”
Don also now admits he thought of Michelle often, too, but never really told anyone he did.
“I always looked for her in crowds and places in Texas, or wherever I was,” he says. “I thought I might spot her. I told myself maybe she had hit her head and had amnesia or something.”
Marla says one of the most shocking things about learning what happened to her sister was the timing of her death.
“I never figured that she died so soon after I had last seen her,” Marla recalls. “That her life lasted so short of a period of time after she left home I never thought of her dying at age 18.”
The other shock was the location of her death, Marla says.
“We are not sure why she was here, in Blue Earth,” she says. “It was a total shock to learn that she had been in Minnesota.”
But, Marla wants to make another point.
“If this horrible thing had to happen to her, I guess I am happy it happened in a county where there are people who really cared about her and what happened to her,” Marla says. “Everyone we have talked to was so passionate about her and about finding her killer and giving her a name and finding her family.”
Michelle’s two siblings specifically mentioned the dedication of sheriff Gormley and deputy sheriff Adams and Deb Anderson.
“I am so grateful to Deb Anderson for everything she has done to find our sister for us,” Marla says. “And, I can hardly believe she has traveled to Texas to testify at Michelle’s killer’s parole hearing.”
Marla also praises sheriff Gormley, deputy Adams, Roger Fletcher and Jerry Kabe for all their work and for caring so much.
“I get tears when I think of Scott Adams putting flowers on her grave every May 30,” Marla says. “These people have all been so dedicated to her.”
Marla and Don Busha were also deeply touched by the fact the community had purchased and placed a marker over their sister’s grave, and the fact the grave was in the center of Riverside Cemetery and not tucked far away in the back.
“We also saw where the grave marker has been relocated to, and the fact the sheriff’s office plans on a memorial marker there as well,” Marla says. “All of this has so profoundly affected us. And I like to think that Michelle would know that everyone cared for her so much in Blue Earth.”