EXCLUSIVE: Mother of Omaha murder victim honors daughter one year later

Karly Wood, 20, died as a result of the shooting at a birthday party in November 2022 that left seven others injured.
Published: Nov. 13, 2023 at 6:17 PM CST
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - On a solemn anniversary, an Omaha mother is honoring her daughter through her activism.

Turning a loss into a positive is, at face value, an inspirational way to deal with setbacks -- but a loss like this one, no one would ever sign up for: dealing with a murdered child.

It’s been one year since the murder of 20-year-old Karly Wood at a North Omaha house party.

The tragedy unfolded on the night of Nov. 13, 2022, when gunfire broke out at 33rd and Ames. Eight people were hurt including Wood, who died after she was shot eight times.

The other victims ranged in age from 25 to 30 years old. Two of those victims were later determined to be suspects in the shooting.

“I don’t know what to call it,” said Amber Wood, Karly’s mother. “I don’t like to call it an anniversary. Karly trusted people who invited her to this place, to this party. She trusted them, and then they’re not speaking up for her.”

The grief never goes away but in the year since, she’s also become a victim advocate and policy changemaker. Monday afternoon, she picked the backdrop, the Douglas County Youth Center, and invited the sheriff and a couple county commissioners.

“I think they’re doing a really good job rehabilitating youth here at DCYC,” Commissioner Mike Friend said. “But it’s not foolproof, it’s just not.”

Here’s the point Amber Wood wants to make. The plan was this place would shutter in January and make room for the new juvenile detention center downtown -- but the new place has a capacity of 52. The population here now is twice that, meaning if this place were to close Monday, 52 young people ordered by judges to be detained wouldn’t have a place to go.

“It’s clear our county is struggling with a spike in high-risk felonious behavior by juveniles,” said Douglas County Sheriff Aaron Hanson. “I don’t think anyone knows why it’s happening. We’re so fortunate to have appropriate secure detention infrastructure that keeps them safe, and innocent people safe from them.”

“Does it help hearing from us, from victims?” Wood asked Friend and Commissioner PJ Morgan. “Does it matter?”

“Amber, your input is valuable and always will be important to us,” Morgan said.

“Thanks for the work you’re doing,” Friend told her. “Obviously it’s important.”

Both commissioners voted to delay the opening of the new facility and to keep the current DCYC open, essentially buying time for more solutions.

For Amber Wood, it’s about holding the powerful accountable -- and hoping another parent doesn’t deal with what she has for the last year.

“Imagine what we could do with more people behind us,” she said. “Imagine what we could do with a philanthropist behind us. We have to make these changes state-level and local level. I’m just glad that this facility is still open because we need it, clearly.”

The commissioners who did not want the delay when it comes to opening the new detention center have said the system and numbers had gradually been decreasing and that there are always fluctuations in populations. They insist the system, both state and local parts, will figure out how to detain fewer young people and rehabilitate them so they don’t come back.