by Jim Boyle
Funeral services will be held today for Daisy Jo Holland, a Zimmerman girl who would have turned 2 years old on Memorial Day had she not succumbed to the murky waters of the Elk River over the long and dreadful holiday weekend.
The young girl went missing last Friday, May 24, while her family set up camp along the Elk River at Wapiti Park in Elk River, according to Elk River Police Capt. Bob Kluntz.
Chelsea Holland, the child’s mother reported Daisy Jo missing about 8 p.m. that night, touching off one of the largest if not the largest, most sophisticated multi-dimensional search and investigation in Elk River history, Kluntz said.
Authorities had reason to believe the girl may have gone into the water, but they set out on a three-pronged effort that took into account all of the grim possibilities — ranging from wandering off into the woods or, worse, being abducted by someone from the campground.
“It was important for us not to get tunnel vision,” Kluntz said.
In the end, it was the river search that would uncover Daisy Jo’s lifeless body about a quarter mile downstream from where authorities believe she went into the water.
“The family was devastated when we told them the news,” Kluntz said, noting an incident like this takes a toll on law enforcement officers, too.
“We would have loved to bring that little girl home. There would have been nothing more rewarding,” he said.
Kluntz said the real heroes were members of the Sherburne County Dive team. Their concerns stretched from the Elk River to Lake Orono that it spills into before the Mississippi River-bound water goes to the Lake Orono dam.
“They did an outstanding job,” Kluntz said. “Those guys were worn out.”
A heavy contingent of law enforcement didn’t sleep for 40 hours straight, choosing instead to work straight through.
Daisy Jo also captured the hearts and minds of the community and the social media world as her story went viral and helped bring about a massive response of volunteer help.
News reports and social media fueled care and concern for the girl and her family in the community and beyond. The Elk River Police Departments had 45,000 hits over the weekend. So many volunteers came out to assist on Saturday that many had to be turned away.
The number of professionals who came alongside Elk River Police, Fire and Ambulance was also impressive. More than 47 investigators, including 22 FBI agents and 10 BCA agents, followed every lead and interviewed innumerable people. There were even representatives from Team Adam, of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, including on National Missing Children’s Day that has been commemorated in the United States on May 25 since 1983.
The group Daisy Jo was with had plans to camp at Ann Lake near Zimmerman, but when that was full, three adults and six kids came south to Wapiti Park.
As the adults set up camp, the kids played at their campsite which sat along the Elk River in the north end of Wapiti Park.
“Daisy Jo was fearless and loving and curious kid like all kids are,” said Keith Holland, Daisy Jo’s grandfather. “God has his hands full with her.”
Grandfather Holland said the family is leaning on prayer in this difficult time. Not only was this week Daisy Jo’s birthday, her Aunt Stephanie and her mother Chelsey also had birthdays this week.
It was at 2:34 p.m on Sunday May 26, when the body of a child of similar description to Daisy Jo Holland was recovered by dive team members downstream from the campsite where Daisy was last seen, Kluntz reported. The body was transported to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office for positive identification and determination of cause of death.
The active search for Daisy Jo Holland concluded with this discovery. At this time there is no indication of foul play; however, the investigation will remain open as a matter of course.
“Tragic ending,” Kluntz said. “Tragic results. No one is going to dispute that. If there’s a silver lining, it was truly a community effort. Not just the Elk River community but beyond that.”
The Elk River Police Department and the family of Daisy Jo Holland both extended their sincere thanks to the numerous community members, public safety agencies and other organizations who assisted this investigation and search for Daisy Jo Holland.
Daisy Jo’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. today at Christ Our Light Catholic Church, formerly St. Pius, 25929 Fourth St. W., Zimmerman. Friends may gather one hour prior to the Mass at the church.
A memorial fund has been established at The Bank of Elk River in Daisy Jo’s name to help with funeral and counseling expenses the family will incur.