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Children of Linda Nemelka hope to find closure after charges filed in their mother’s death

Two suspects were charged with murder after an informant came forward with information.

(Unified Police) Linda Nemelka, who was shot and killed in a driveway in Millcreek on March 11, 2020. On July 7, 2021, the Salt Lake County District Attorney's office filed murder charges against two people accused of killing Nemelka.

Almost 16 months after their mother, Linda Nemelka, was killed, her children have finally found out more about the circumstances of Nemelka’s death as two individuals were charged Wednesday.

“Having answers is definitely helpful, it really is, but I think closure will come after everything is finished,” said Jessica Nemelka, one of Linda’s five children. “It’s going to be a long court process ... and having answers is part of its own closure. But it doesn’t change what happened. It doesn’t bring her back, but it does help.”

Police believe Linda’s death on March 11, 2020, was the result of a carjacking gone wrong. An informant provided information in February that led to charges filed today against James Dakota Brunson, 24, and Anika Celeste Thorpe, 23. Sheriff Rosie Rivera said in a news conference Wednesday afternoon that the two were on parole at the time of Linda’s death. Brunson and Thorpe were arrested the day after Linda’s death on other charges.

“It was absolutely the wrong place [at the] wrong time,” Jessica said. “And that’s unfortunate, but it’s better than it being somebody that she knew who targeted her for a personal reason.”

Over the past year, Linda’s family and loved ones have felt fear and anger over not knowing what happened to her. Adding to their pain, the family couldn’t have a proper memorial service for her, as COVID-19 restrictions complicated events last March.

“She was a wonderful mother,” Jessica said. “She was a friend to everyone she met. She was the kind of woman that could go to the grocery store and make three best friends just waiting in line, because everybody just felt like they could open up to her and talk to her about personal things. And we do miss that about her.”

A 5.7 magnitude earthquake also struck the area just a week after Linda’s death, and Jessica believes the pandemic and the quake likely delayed the investigation.

Jessica said knowing Brunson and Thorpe were incarcerated shortly after Linda’s death was “definitely a comfort.” The two are being held without bail at Utah State Prison and are charged with murder and aggravated robbery, first-degree felonies; and possession of a firearm by a restricted person, a second-degree felony.

Jessica’s sister, Sarah, wanted to make sure the family’s condolences went out to Brunson and Thorpe’s loved ones as well.

“Yes, they did something terrible, they did something that they can never take back,” Jessica said. “But we do hope that their families, their parents, their siblings, their kids … we do hope that they recover from this as well. Our sympathies are with them, too. Because they are also infected. They experienced a loss in their own life, but yeah, the anger is still there. She was irreplaceable.”

For months, the family didn’t know if their mother’s killing would ever be solved due to the randomness of the crime and the lack of evidence, but after hearing the news Wednesday, a weight was lifted off their shoulders.

“We do want to give a very heartfelt thank you to Detective Stephanie Warden and her team,” Jessica said. “We could not have survived this year without her, and of course without Sgt. Melody Gray. We are indebted to them, they were absolutely tireless on her case, and we appreciate that more than we could ever express.”

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