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‘An Instant Connection’: Sisters Of High-Profile Murder Victims Bond, Become Lifelong Friends
Kelsi German and Michelle Cruz both lost their sisters under tragic circumstances, but they've found each other to lean on.
Janelle Lisa Cruz was just 18 when she was bludgeoned to death by the Golden State Killer in 1986. She was home alone in Irvine, California while her family was vacationing in Mexico when she became one of the killer’s numerous murder and rape victims.
“He bound her, raped her, and bludgeoned her beyond recognition,” her sister Michelle Cruz said at CrimeCon in 2017. “It’s a vision that has haunted me for 30 years.”
Michelle Cruz told Oxygen.com during a phone interview last year that she and Janelle were inseparable. Michelle was one year younger than Janelle when Janelle was killed.
“Anything that we did, we pretty much did together except for the time that she was murdered,” she said, adding that she was out of town, working at a ski resort on Mammoth Mountain in California.
Michelle has spent decades keeping her sister’s story alive in hopes that the person responsible would finally be held accountable.
“I started a Twitter for my sister and an Instagram and whatever I could,” Michelle recently told Oxygen.com. “I did podcasts and radio and interviews, TV shows and news and wherever I possibly could.”
Through her efforts and the efforts of others, the case received more attention — attention that helped lead to the arrest last April of a suspect in that case, former police officer Joseph DeAngelo.
It makes sense that Michelle found a fast friend in Kelsi German, who has been on her own quest for justice for her murdered sister, Liberty German. Liberty, 14, and her friend Abigail Williams, 13, were killed in what has come to be known as the Delphi Murders. They vanished on Valentine’s Day 2017 while hiking along the Delphi Historic Trails in Indiana during a day off from school. Their bodies were found about a half mile away from the hiking trail.
Michelle met Kelsi at CrimeCon 2018.
“I just had this passion to go and talk to her because her sister was brutally killed,” Michelle told Oxygen recently. “When I met her, it was just like an instant connection.”
Despite being years apart in age –– Michelle is 50, while Kelsi is 19 –– she said they bonded over the very specific pain they share. Michelle immediately began sharing the knowledge she gained while seeking justice for her sister, which included encouraging Kelsi to speak to the media about her sister.
“I didn’t want to be part of media or part of the case anymore at that point,” Kelsi admitted to Oxygen.com. “We connected because of her experience and that kind of helped me to break out of the shell and start advocating for my sister.”
“I just tried to tell her that she needed to do more,” Michelle told Oxygen. “[I asked] ‘Have you done radio? Have you done podcasts?’ And she said ‘No’ and I’m like ‘You need to go on Twitter and friend every podcast person and true crime person.’”
After CrimeCon 2018, Kelsi set up a Twitter account dedicated to maintaining awareness of her sister’s case.
“You don’t want to lose that [awareness] because you don’t want them [law enforcement] to take on other cases they find more important and in the process forget about yours. [...] If you keep it in the spotlight they can’t not work on it.”
Since Kelsi set up the Twitter account, she has racked up over 5,000 followers. There have also been some developments in the case. Kelsi, who had been studying criminal justice, will begin studying biology and forensics this fall, a career change she attributes to her sister’s murder.
She and Michelle speak on a regular basis. Michelle’s Twitter is full of retweets for Kelsi’s cause and encouragement for each other.
Kelsi told Oxygen.com the best piece of advice Michelle has given her is “to never stop trying and never give up hope because no matter how long it’s going to take, we’ll get the answers we want. I think that’s what really stuck with me and helped me to continue on even when I felt like the case is taking way too long and he [the killer] is already gone. I still remember every time I talk to her not to give up and we’ll find him and it helps me to keep pushing.”
Paul Holes, the retired detective that helped crack the Golden State Killer case and who worked on a book about it with Michelle, says what Michelle and Kelsi are doing is “bringing attention to the cases.”
More than that, they are a source of comfort for one another. Both now call each other their "sister."