Piper Streyle’s daughter releases book on mother’s murder, healing process
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - This story contains both parts of our special report on Shaina Fertig’s new book detailing the murder of her mother, Piper Streyle, and her healing journey in the 26 years since. The two parts aired on Dakota News Now on Feb 1 and 2, 2023, and Fertig’s complete interview can be found at the end of the article.
On a summer morning, Shaina Fertig, then Streyle, and her brother Nathan were playing with his new blue kid’s tent under the watchful eye of their mom, Piper Streyle. Everything changed in a heartbeat when a killer came to their door.
“I actually do remember my mom’s kidnapping. It’s a horrible memory I have,” said Fertig.
Through therapy, she was encouraged to journal to process the trauma.
“Sometimes I’d write it really angry. And then sometimes I’d write it like kind of just goofy. Ignoring the pain, like I was just writing it factually and I hadn’t gone through anything myself,” said Fertig.
The journaling morphed into writing her own life story in “A Call to Remember, the Little Girl Who Wouldn’t Testify and the Woman Who Will.”
“I just really felt called, and I really felt like I had the words. And it was a healing practice for me to even write it,” said Fertig.
DCI agent Jim Severson, now retired, remembers finding little Shaina and her younger brother alone. The prosecutor, now retired Judge Larry Long, remembers the heartache. Both have ordered her book.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about this case, one way or another,” said Severson.
During the interview, he glances at the 26-year-old missing poster of Piper Streyle in front of him. “The picture just keeps staring at me,” said Severson.
And the memories are hard for him as well, as he pauses to find his composure.
“You just got to bear with me,” said Severson. “I knelt down on one knee, and she came over, introduced myself, and she sat on my knee. And I think she felt somewhat safe, which made me feel a little bit better.”
Shaina told him what she saw. She also tells us in her book how at age four, she was called to the witness stand, silently hiding under a blue blanket. Even without her testimony, the killer was sentenced and eventually hanged himself in prison. The years continued on.
“Denial, which is basically my childhood. I had an awesome childhood, but of course, the trauma was in there woven within,” said Fertig.
Her past kept catching up with her present. In a school assignment to “google herself,” she discovered what she believed the world thought of her: the little girl who refused to testify at trial against the man who killed her mother. That was part of the mounting pressure through the years.
“And it’s my breaking point. It’s where I start having anxiety attacks. I’m in deep depression,” said Fertig.
“Shaina feeling guilty. I mean, that makes me feel bad,” said Severson.
“Right. That makes me feel bad, too,” said Long.
But the men saw her as a hero.
“The information she gave us was absolutely critical,” said Severson.
“And we continued based on what she had to say. The investigation went in those directions.”
“I didn’t appreciate until this interview today the level of responsibility that she must have carried for a long time,” said Long.
In part two, Shaina tells us how the heaviness of guilt, grief, and trauma catching up to her also became the turning point toward finding help and healing. She also tells us about her mother and the rest of her family.
Fertig’s book is published by Westbow Press, where you can purchase the book from their website. It is also available wherever books are sold online and in print.
It’s been 26 years, but many in South Dakota still remember the name Robert Leroy Anderson, who was convicted of killing two young mothers in the Sioux Falls area.
In part one, we introduced you to Shaina Fertig and a book she just released about being the daughter of Piper Streyle, one of two women killed by Anderson. It has been a healing journey for Fertig, as she wrote the book, “A Call to Remember, The Story of a Little Girl Who Wouldn’t Testify and the Woman Who Will.”
While many in the region can recall hearing of the women vanishing, the search parties and the court trials, eventually, life went on, and the details became blurry. But for Shaina Fertig, who at the age of four was called to testify in the murder trial against the man who ended her mom’s life, the trauma remained.
Shaina replayed her mother’s kidnapping in her dreams, wishing she could have made a difference. Therapy sessions helped bring healing.
“Such a harsh reality of any crime like this is lives continue on,” said Fertig. “You just have to keep going, and we drag behind us all the pain and the trauma and things until we can heal from it. I had to go back to the little girl and say you couldn’t do anything because I had guilt. You couldn’t do anything you couldn’t save your mom and run out the back door. I was tiny.”
She wants others to know her mother is more than a crime story.
“I love going through pictures of her and realizing how she was such a gentle spirit, and I just wish people would remember her for who she was and not what happened to her,” expressed Fertig. “A beautiful 28-year-old, and you know, it’s so sad what happens and horrifying, but let’s not just remember that.”
Among those who walked beside Shaina and her family were DCI agent Jim Severson and Prosecutor Larry Long, both now retired.
“It’s absolutely remarkable in my mind that all of the people in the Streyle family and in the Dumansky family and in Amy Anderson’s family have resolved this as well as they have,” said Long.
“God, for me, is the great healer in my story,” said Fertig. “And really, without him, I know that myself, I would be in a much darker place, for sure. And I can probably attest to the fact that my family probably would be in a very dark place.”
Those who worked to bring Anderson to justice have a message for Shaina.
“Thank you for giving us what you did give us,” said Severson. “It was instrumental. I’m sorry that you struggled with it. I understand why. I wanted to give her a hug back then, and I’d probably ask her if I can give her one now.”
Long believes without Shaina, other crimes could have been unsolved.
“She was also the key to bringing Anderson to justice for Larissa Dumansky’s death. She was the key,” emphasized Long.
Although readers may be intrigued to read the firsthand account of her mother’s abduction, Shaina hopes each reader is encouraged to face their own past and find healing.
“Whether it’s as crazy as our story or it’s just normal everyday life things that you haven’t dealt with. Really the biggest thing I hope people realize is that my mom Piper’s life, that wasn’t the end of her story.”
Piper Streyle’s story continues through her daughter and now her granddaughter.
You can watch Fertig’s full interview below.
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