Vigil for still missing Jo Ringer

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EASTHAMPTON — Nearing four months after a Clarksburg woman went missing, dozens of family members, friends and supporters from the community gathered at Millside Park for a candlelight vigil, coming together in support as little new details emerge in the case.

Joanne "Jo" Ringer went missing on March 2, the day she failed to show up for her first day of work as a taxi driver in Easthampton. In April, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless announced that investigators have from the beginning considered Ringer's disappearance a homicide case. Ringer's husband, Chad Reidy, is the sole suspect. On April 7, Reidy was found dead inside his garage of apparent suicide.

The mood at Wednesday's vigil was both heavy- and light-hearted, with tears and hugs one minute and laughter the next. Bring Jo Ringer Home, a group of loved ones including Ringer's daughter Savanah, organized the event, which featured a bake sale and shirts to support their cause. They shared memories of Ringer over a microphone, urging attendees not to forget her story and to keep working to find her.

"To have this show of support for Jo really feels good," said Ringer's friend Teigh Brown, who baked whoopie pies and other sweets for the event.

Scattered throughout the audience were a handful of bikers clad in leather — members of local motorcycle clubs coming out to show support for Ringer, a fellow biker who loved taking a motorcycle apart as much as baking.

"We rolled in about 20 deep today," 44-year-old Erik Brown, a longtime friend of Ringer's, said. "We had both of Jo's brothers leading the pack."

The event began with a speech from Marianne Winters, the executive director of Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and relationship abuse. Several close friends and Ringer's daughter have told the Gazette that Ringer complained of violent abuse at the hands of Reidy before she went missing.

"We know that as only a community that we might have a chance to one day find our way back to hope," Winters said. "For now, however, we must rely on trust that we have the resilience to heal, that we can deepen the bonds of love and connection with one another. This is our task and our hope."

For Winters, community events like the vigil are important for those struggling with sadness, frustration or a sense of hopelessness — emotions that often accompany situations involving domestic abuse.

"It just means an opportunity for people not to live with all those feelings in isolation," Winters told the Gazette. "Those feelings are normal."

For an attendees struggling with those emotions or their own issues, councilors from Safe Passage were on hand Wednesday for support.

Ginger Plantier, a close friend of Ringer, served as master of ceremonies for the event, coordinating everything from the lighting of candles to a group photo of Savanah with the bikers.

"Nobody is ever going to forget," she said. "That's what tonight is about."

Little details have emerged in the case after the district attorney's press conference in April, though Plantier did announce on Wednesday that a private investigator — Dr. Sarah Stein of the Center for the Resolution of Unresolved Crime — has taken on the case pro bono.

Authorities have charged Reidy's ex-girlfriend, Laura Reilly, with three counts of allegedly misleading investigators at Reidy's behest in the wake of Ringer's disappearance, when authorities believe Reidy may have ditched Ringer's car in Easthampton to misdirect authorities. Reilly's attorney, Jesse Adams, has said Reilly has nothing to do with Ringer's disappearance.

Once candles were lit and the sun had set, Ringer's daughter took to the microphone with a brief message for those gathered.

"My mother was not allowed to make the choice to live or die," Savanah said, reading a prepared speech. "A selfish man made that decision for her."

"I hope nobody, man or woman, ever have to endure what my mother went through," she said, talking about the alleged abuse at Reidy's hands.

Savanah then moved on to praise for her mother's talents and personality.

"She helped everyone, including several friends of mine when they had nowhere to go," she said. "She wasn't just my mom, she was a mom to all."

Savanah said her mother's favorite thing to do was to be in the sun, which is why organizers chose the longest day of the summer for the vigil.

Standing in the crowd with a candle was Reidy's sister, Jennifer Carbery, who said she was there in solidarity with Savanah, her family and friends.

"I'm a party to this, I'm a witness to this," she said, struggling for words to describe the mixed emotions she was feeling. "I don't know what to do with it."

Carbery said she hopes that authorities can get the answers they need to bring Ringer home.

"The questions have just been agonizing," she said. "There's not a day that goes by that you don't think about it."

After the speeches were over, friends and family were invited up to the microphone to tell stories about Ringer — some funny, some embarrassing, some touching.

They told the crowd about the Jo everyone knows: a never-dull friend that brings people together; a talented cook, scrapbooker and motorcycle expert who can make impressive costumes by hand; a listening ear for family and friends caught in a bad moment; a rebel riding her motorcycle 120 miles per hour with a bikini on, or skipping class to have fun with friends in high school; someone who is deeply missed by many who love her.


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