It’s been almost one year since Dylan Redwine was reported missing. One year of his mother’s struggle to find answers. One year of investigations, searching and unanswered questions. And while his family is no closer to the truth, they have made a place to find peace.
More than 260 people gathered Saturday at Pine Valley Foursquare Church in Bayfield for a memorial service to honor Dylan, followed by a dedication and blessing of a memorial bench at the Pine River Cemetery.
In a heartfelt service led by Pastor Justin Gingerich, friends and family spoke, while television crews and other media quietly stood by.
Friend of the family Bethany Wanket played a soft, simple “Amazing Grace” on violin, almost a slow fiddle that seemed to fit the occasion and the community.
“This past year has been a struggle,” said Dylan’s mother, Elaine Hatfield, her voice filled with emotion. “I’ve struggled with the events that have taken place and what has happened to Dylan.”
She said she also struggled with hope.
“I’ve lost faith, and I’ve regained faith,” she said. “Without faith, I have nothing to look forward to, and I need that.”
Her words were met with more tears – her own and those of many others in the sanctuary.
“I’ve learned that while there is tragedy and while there is evil in this world, there is also an enormous amount of humanity and kindness left, as well,” she said. “That is indicated by all of you sitting here. You’ve touched our lives, and I know that Dylan has touched yours.”
A larger-than-life portrait of Dylan, in his baseball uniform and ready to swing, stood near the podium. His team jersey, No. 19, was encased in glass underneath a mounted baseball from his school team.
Some of Dylan’s closest friends shared their favorite memories of him.
Fernando Stubbs spoke of his humor, saying how much he misses his friend.
“He was always taking my pencil,” Stubbs said, crying. “We’d walk together down the hall, and I’d look over, see him smile, and he’d always make me laugh.”
Dylan’s older brother, Cory, spoke lovingly of his only sibling, saying that Dylan’s birth changed his life.
“I wasn’t sure how to feel that day when my mom told everybody that it was time to go to the hospital – That it was happening,” he said. “It was one of the scariest moments in my life. But when I walked into the room and I got on my tippy toes and leaned over and saw my little brother for the first time, there was no more fear.”
A close friend of the family, Denise Hess, said at times she wasn’t sure if she could continue with the immense undertaking of the search. Thousands of volunteers from near and far dedicated their time and resources to helping find Dylan, moved by a gentleness reflected in a picture of a young boy.
“There have been peaks of hope and valleys of despair,” Hess said. “I’d go to bed thinking that I couldn’t do this anymore, but there was always a little voice saying, ‘You’re so close.’
“In this past year, this 13-year-old-boy united thousands of people, in faith, hope and love,” she said. “Even in the stillness of a photograph, they could see him shining. You could always see Dylan’s heart shining. I’m going to honor Dylan by letting my heart shine a little brighter.”
What began as a local search effort on Nov. 19, 2012, grew to attract state and national attention and support.
Initially there was hope of finding the missing boy. But those hopes were dashed when searchers recovered remains near Middle Mountain Road, north of Vallecito, 10 miles from where Dylan was last seen by his father, Mark Redwine, during a court-ordered visitation. The remains, found June 27, were identified as Dylan’s, but many questions remain unanswered.
What is known is that he sent some text messages to friends in Bayfield from his father’s home, north of Vallecito, making plans to do what kids do, and the next day, he was gone.
“It’s still an open and active investigation,” said La Plata County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Dan Bender. Bender, who has been involved with the case since day one, said evidence is now being reviewed in partnership with state and federal authorities.
“We’ve met recently again with the FBI and our investigators, going over information that we’ve accumulated,” Bender said. “We are in contact with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which has crime-related laboratories, and they are processing items that we have sent to them.”
Bender said examination of the search area is on hold for the winter, but for now they will focus on evidence they do have.
“We’ve done a search in the area where items were found earlier this summer on Middle Mountain (Road) about three weeks ago,” Bender said. “We’re trying to be as thorough as possible, after the low vegetation had died off and before heavy snow covered the area, and we are reviewing previous interviews and reports to make connection between them, and that process will continue.”
Bender said he still receives tips and added, “We follow up on each and every one of those.”
Mark Redwine could not be reached for comment.
For now, Dylan’s mother, brother, friends and family have a place to remember him. The bench, in lieu of a tombstone, reads: “Our home run in life and now our angel in the outfield.” Underneath, it is lined with handwritten messages written on stones by those close to him.
Dylan’s brother said since losing his brother, his heart has only grown.
“When you’re getting out of the car, going to school, give your mom a hug and tell her you love her,” he said, overcome by grief. “You never think it’s going to happen to you, but when it does, it’s the moment of truth. You know who is close and what matters.”
Hatfield said she knows her son is watching out for her.
“I know that he is with me,” she said. “I’ll never say goodbye.”