of a series:
This is the second of a three- part series on crimes against children.
In part one, law enforcement officials from Whitley County as well as from state and federal agencies discussed the ongoing challenge of keeping America’s youth safe from the ever-present threat of child predators.
In parts two and three, The Post & Mail talks to the heartbroken parents of a murdered girl whose life was taken earlier this year.
RIDINGER LAKE — Jason Doggendorf of rural western Whitley County awoke with a start March 18, startled by the sounds of his panicking wife, Linbeth.
“She (Linbeth) woke up that morning and I basically got woke up to the sound of her screaming Kaylin’s name,” remembers Doggendorf.
The couple’s 14-year-old daughter Kaylin was missing from her bedroom.
Unbeknownst to the Doggendorfs, their teenaged daughter was not OK.
Police say 17-year-old Joshua M. Wright snuck into the Doggendorf house through the basement.
She would later be found raped and murdered in Kosciusko County.
Not sure what happened to Kaylin, the Doggendorfs waited several hours before calling the police, waiting until school started “in case she showed up there,” said Linbeth Doggendorf.
For nearly two agonizing days, the couple felt the deep pang of uncertainty.
Investigators on the scene treated Kaylin as a runaway.
“As far as the police were concerned, they were classifying her as missing,” said Jason.
“They were very professional, they were very much ... well, they didn’t want to look at the worst of it either. That’s why they treated her as missing/runaway and not as anything else,” she said.
Jason said police tried to give their daughter a break in the event she was displaying typical teen-aged angst.
“The responding officer, when he came out there, he was hesitant to fill out the paperwork because as soon as he filled out the paperwork and filed it, she’s in the system, she’s going to have to go to court, end up on probation, stuff like that. He didn’t want that to happen,” said Jason.
Instead, the responding officer took the worried father around to a few places in Kosciusko County to look for the missing girl. “He wanted to find her too,” said Jason.
As it turned out, a day in court was not in the cards for Kaylin, who was in the 8th-grade at Whitko Middle School.
Appearing before a judge in the Whitley County Courthouse instead is the fate of Kaylin’s accused killer, Wright, who is scheduled for trial Jan. 25.
Police said Wright raped and murdered the girl not long after abducting her from the Doggendorf home.
Days after the murder, Wright admitted to killing Kaylin Doggendorf to television reporters outside the courthouse. He also led police to the girl’s body.
Psychological evaluations are being conducted on Wright.
When the news of the worst-case scenario was finally delivered to the Doggendorfs, the two were each buffered by friends and families
“He (Jason) was at home and had a friend or two with him and I was at one of her (Kaylin’s) best friends, at their house,” remembered Linbeth.
“I got sick to my stomach when I found out,” she said. “I was so grateful that I was there with all those friends when I found out, instead of alone by myself. I couldn’t have picked a better place to be because without our friends and our family, we couldn’t do this.”
The Doggendorfs caution parents to never take anything for granted.
As they remained diligent to know as much about their daughter’s circle of friends as any parent can, they say Wright was on the periphery.
“Anywhere she went, we knew who she was with and we knew, in the larger group, the guys’ names,” said Linbeth. “We had never heard his name mentioned, which means she could not have considered him anything more than an acquaintance.”
The Doggendorfs had met their daughter’s accused killer, however.
“We’d only met him once before, and that was at a choir concert a week earlier,” remembered Linbeth. “She met him through a friend that she spends the night with. They (the family of Kaylin’s friend) knew him better and the grandma didn’t like him that much, but not enough to say he couldn’t come around. But the more we learn, the more we find out, there were red flags all over the place.”
The Doggendorfs further assert that Kaylin would probably not have allowed Wright into her inner circle of friends anyway.
“She’d always been a good judge of character,” said Linbeth. “If she likes somebody, there’s a reason why, they’re a good person. If she doesn’t like ‘em, she pretty much hits the nail on the head.”
“As the trial of their daughter’s accused killer nears, the Doggendorfs can’t help but hope things don’t go well for Wright.
“She (Linbeth) was very withdrawn (after Kaylin’s death) and I will admit my first response was I wanted to strangle him,” said Jason.
“I talked him out of it,” responded Linbeth. “Killing him (Wright) would not be justice for Kaylin.
“Justice for Kaylin would be to see him (Wright) suffer as much, if not more than what he did to her.
“We know he will not have a nice time in prison.