MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minnesota woman who had struggled with addiction and moved to California last fall for work had emailed her grandmother in February, saying she was coming to visit her in Phoenix because she needed money.
But Jamie Lea Harmer never showed up.
Police found Harmer’s dismembered remains in plastic bags scattered along railroad tracks on April 27. On Tuesday, 28-year-old Christopher Marcus Brown was arrested in her death after authorities searched his apartment for 18 hours and found physical evidence related to Harmer’s killing. Brown, who lives in Riverside, California, was formally charged with murder Friday.
“We have a blessing in the fact that she was found. We will have her and we can put her to rest,” Olive Pinske, Harmer’s paternal grandmother, said Friday. “If we had to go the rest of our lives wondering, ‘Where’s Jamie? What happened to her?’ That would have been so difficult.”
Authorities had released few details by Friday afternoon, and they have not told family members how Harmer died, Pinske said. Police have described Harmer as a transient, and Pinske said Brown lived near a corner where her granddaughter hung out, but she doesn’t know if they knew each other.
Brown was scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon in Riverside County Superior Court, but it was delayed for a week at his public defender’s request. He remained in custody Friday.
Pinske, of Plato, Minnesota, said her granddaughter was a strong, kind little girl who grew up to love puppies, crocheting and four-wheeling. But she also became a troubled young woman — struggling for years with drugs and never quite recovering from the loss of her older brother, who died about 12 years ago. Harmer dropped out of high school as a sophomore, but eventually got her GED, Pinske said.
Harmer lived in several Minnesota cities, including Minneapolis, according to an online obituary with Johnson Funeral Service. She moved to Thief River Falls in northwest Minnesota to live with her other grandmother in 2010, then moved to Ramona, California, last October. Pinske said Harmer went to California for work.
Pinske, who spends winters in Phoenix, said she received an email from Harmer on Feb. 26, saying she was coming to Phoenix because she needed money. But when she didn’t show up, Pinske reported her missing.
Pinske said family members spent years trying to help Harmer, but they felt helpless as she kept falling back into her addiction.
“She was just a lost, little mixed-up girl,” Pinske said sadly. “Different people tried so hard. But it was not meant to be.”
The family is planning a memorial service in Grygla on June 8.
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