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'Person of interest' is in custody for murder

family shares sweet memories of Khighla Parks, 15

Khighla's family says she was taken from them far too soon.

October 08, 2012|by Linda Russell, KY3 News | lrussell@ky3.com

WILLARD, Mo. -- Investigators now have a "person of interest" in custody for Khighla Parks' murder.  Just before 6 p.m. Monday, the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Dallas County Sheriff said they were searching for Anthony Balbirnie, 47.  Shortly after 6, the Dallas County sheriff said officers had just taken Balbirnie into custody.

As investigators try to retrace the final hours of Khighla's life, her family struggles to make sense of why anyone would kill her and dump her body in Truman Lake.            

Khighla lived with her grandparents on a farm south of Willard.  They say she loved the country and was always riding her horse, and it wasn't uncommon for her to take a walk.  After 24 hours of no contact, however, they knew something was wrong.

As they sit in the place she called her God spot, a gazebo in the cemetery where she'll be buried, Khighla's loved ones remember her beautiful life. 

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"She would come up here when she was feeling low,or just a beautiful Spring morning or light crisp autumn afternoon and she would sit and she would tie her horse to the corner," said Bonnie Adams, Khighla's grandmother.

They say her life revolved around horses.  Khighla's father, Jeremy Parks, says she started riding horses as soon as she could talk.  She wanted to fill her dad's farm in Kansas with horses, and they were part of her daily life in Greene County.  

"Every morning, she'd get up; it was, 'Grandma, I've got to go ride.'  'Grandma, I want to take a walk.'  The country was what Kighla was about," said Adams.

Khighla's family holds back tears thinking about what came after her last walk.  She was seen in the area of Highway AB at Highway EE on the evening of Sept. 20. 

"She had taken off a few days, went to a friend's house or something like that, so I gave her the 24 hours," Adams said.

Then, Kighla's family began searching through flyers, Facebook and on foot, as they knew something wasn't right.

"No Facebook, no comments from friends, no contact with family, that wasn't like her," Adams said.

On Friday, Oct. 5, investigators confirmed Kighla was the young woman found in Truman Lake on Sept. 30.  Now, investigators believe the murder may have happened in Dallas County.

"We felt, in our heart of hearts that after just a few days, she was no longer with us," Adams said.

Right now, Khighla's family is focusing on her sweet memory. 

"Her smile, her excitement in her voice.  Every time I heard her on the phone, it lit up every day," said Parks.

They remember how she would break out in beautiful song. 

"I can still hear her, when she was little, maybe 3 or 4, singing the little mermaid song," Parks said.

They'll picture her as she was seen riding down the farm road near home. 

"He heard the clippity clop of the hooves and then he heard her singing to the top of her lungs, some song that she loved with her arms stretched straight out," Adams said.

Khighla's family says her visitation will be Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Klingner-Cope Funeral Home and her Celebration of Life is Friday at 2 at Clear Creek Baptist Church.  

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