Melanie Koontz Memorial Scholarship
"She was my baby, my only girl, my best friend, and I miss her..." said Michelle Koontz.
A year ago, Michelle's daughter, Melanie went missing. She was just 16.
"That morning was very difficult before they found her. It was about six hours but it was the longest six hours of my life." said Michelle.
Michelle was frantic. She asked Melanie's best friend to go to their favorite hangout...a bridge at Cole Creek.
She found Melanie dead.
"It's very difficult. I don't wish it on anybody." said Michelle.
Twenty-one days after Melanie was murdered, her ex-boyfriend Justin Lenz,16, was arrested.
"I didn't even know she had been talking to him. They weren't a good fit. Nothing against him personally or her personally, they just weren't a good fit." said Michelle.
As details of the crime came out, Melanie's parents were crushed. They had to hear how their daughter was strangled by Lenz, first with his hands and then a belt.
Michelle said, "I mean my daughter suffered knowing she was dying and he continued to kill her."
"Melanie's here and this is where I can come talk to her. I know she's with the Lord, but I can sit and look at her picture on her headstone. My parents and grandparents are here and my grandparents." said Michelle.
Melanie's family was also at the grave today. It is easy to see they have all supported each other through this entire ordeal.
The family says the hardest part of all of this is that Justin showed up at Melanie's visitation and a memorial her friends held for her.
Michelle says, "To me he shows no remorse. He shows no expression in his face. He doesn't seem to care."
Justin Lenz pleaded guilty on Tuesday to second-degree murder. Michelle's parents agreed to let him plead to a lesser charge. They didn't want the details dragged out in court.
"Melanie's not here to defend herself. She's not here to share her side of the story." Michelle said.
As Justin said the words, "Guilty," Melanie's parents hope he pays the full price for his crime. He is facing 20 years to life in prison.
"Why does he deserve to have a life outside of there when he took hers."
Michelle says the tears come every day. She dearly misses her daughter. "She didn't get to drive a car. She didn't get to graduate. She didn't get to get married. She didn't get to have children."
They only hope as Lenz pays for the crime, their daughter isn't forgotten.
"She wanted to be a counselor and a writer. She was just a beautiful spirit and she's missed very much." said Michelle.
Melanie's family also gives credit to a young woman who came forward and relayed information to the police Lenz had told her.
They hope by sharing Melanie's story, others will step forward in crimes.
Melanie's family has started a scholarship fund for her.
Melanie was a student at Benson High School. The scholarship money will be awarded annually to one deserving graduating senior.
Donations can be made online on the Omaha Schools Foundation Website.
Please specify that it is for the Melanie Koontz Memorial Scholarship.
You can also send a check to:
Omaha Schools Foundation
Attn: Toba Cohen-Dunning, Executive Director
3215 Cuming Street
Omaha, NE 68131
The family says they greatly appreciate any donations and all the support they have received.