Bothell family waits for justice

Mindy and Terry Bart marked the first anniversary of their eldest daughter’s killing by letting their spirits soar.

Late in July, the Bothell couple gathered with friends and family on the beach at Picnic Point near Mukilteo. As the sun dipped behind the Olympic Mountains, they set free a clutch of multicolored balloons. Tied to each was a message of love for a young woman who died just as her life was beginning to take wing.

Jessica Lynn Myers, 21, was living in Pierce County with her husband, a Fort Lewis soldier, when she dropped from sight in July 2003. Five weeks earlier, she had given birth to a son, Alex.

Becoming a mother was the realization of her daughter’s fondest dream, Mindy Bart said.

“She was ecstatic. It was what she always wanted,” she said.

That’s one reason her family insisted on a search. They didn’t buy the explanation that the disappearance could be related to postpartum depression.

Terry Bart was seated alone outside his home when a detective and police chaplain showed up four days after his daughter dropped from sight.

“I saw them coming up, and at that point I knew what happened,” he said.

Investigators told the Barts their missing daughter had been found strangled. It wasn’t long before their daughter’s husband and another Fort Lewis soldier were charged with her murder.

Jeremy Lee Myers, 22, and Christopher Ryan Baber, 19, have spent the past year jailed in lieu of $5 million bail. Each is awaiting an October trial on first-degree murder and conspiracy charges.

Baber allegedly told police the killing was linked to an apparently fictional anti-crime group they call the Federation, court papers show. Both defendants said the group existed to rid the community of drug dealers and others viewed as undesirable.

Jeremy Myers convinced his wife that the Federation wanted the couple killed, and the only way out was for them to fake her death, Baber told detectives.

Investigators found no evidence that the Federation exists except in the minds of the defendants. They did discover that Jeremy Myers apparently was having a sexual relationship with a 15-year-old girl. He’d allegedly told others his wife was getting in the way, according to court papers.

The Barts don’t talk much about their former son-in-law, only partly because detectives have asked them to avoid discussing the case. They made sure their daughter’s memorial stone remembers her by her maiden name. They are now raising her son.

“He’s a blessing, a blessing,” Terry Bart said.

As key pretrial hearings in the case near, the Barts want people to know about the young mother who never got the chance to raise her son.

The Barts raised two daughters. Their youngest, Niki Bart, 21, has physical and mental problems. Jessica was always a patient, loving presence for her sister, Mindy Bart said. She took what she learned at home and shared it with others, helping to coach a Special Olympics swim team while attending Woodinville High School.

After graduating in 2000, Jessica Myers found work at an OfficeMax store.

“She absolutely loved the job,” Mindy Bart said. “She was a people person. That put her in a position to meet and talk to people all the time.”

Court papers describe Jessica Myers as meek and submissive. That doesn’t completely square with her family’s recollection, nor with images captured in photo albums.

One of Mindy Bart’s favorite pictures is of her daughter on her wedding day. The bride wore a lacy veil over her thick, red hair. She seemed to be challenging the person behind the camera to say something as she took a deep drag on a cigarette.

Terry Bart said his eldest daughter always had a lot of spirit. He and his wife reach for that now as they wait for justice.

“It’s just hard to sit by,” Terry Bart said.

Reporter Scott North: 425-339-3431 or north@heraldnet.com.

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