Mother of slain teen pleads with media on evidenceThe mother of a Fargo teenager who was killed by her brother is asking news organizations not to report on “horrific details” available to the public about the killing. Sergei Carlson was sentenced last week to life in prison with the possibility of parole for killing his 16-year-old sister, Whitney, in her Fargo home last year. Sergei Carlson pleaded guilty charges of to murder and a deviate sexual act.
By: By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press , The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — The mother of a Fargo teenager who was killed by her brother is asking news organizations not to report on “horrific details” available to the public about the killing.
Sergei Carlson was sentenced last week to life in prison with the possibility of parole for killing his 16-year-old sister, Whitney, in her Fargo home last year. Sergei Carlson pleaded guilty charges of to murder and a deviate sexual act.
The Carlsons’ mother, Penny Ripplinger, called a press conference Thursday after she learned reporters asked for such evidence as crime scene photos, the 911 call she made to authorities and videotape of 16-year-old Sergei Carlson’s confession. The information became public after he was sentenced.
“I would like to ask all of you to stop a moment, close your eyes and relive that morning, July 14, 2007, with me,” an emotional Ripplinger told reporters, reading from a statement. “Walking into that room, my daughter Whitney’s room, opening up Whitney’s shades, walking over to her bed and pulling back the covers.
“Now replace that image I see every single day with your daughter, your sister or your friend. Maybe — just maybe, you will feel for a brief second the depth of pain and grief that I feel every day,” she said.
Ripplinger singled out The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and KFGO radio of Fargo for asking for the information. KVRR-Fox TV news director Jim Shaw said his station made a similar request, but planned to honor the family’s wishes.
“We’re not going to run anything, even if we get it,” Shaw said. “Their request today was very moving and very compelling, I don’t want to do anything to add to the pain they’ve already suffered.”
Shaw said he “can’t imagine anything in the report that would trump” the family’s request.
Matthew Von Pinnon, editor of The Forum, said the newspaper is sensitive to the family’s feelings, but it would review the documents, photographs and tapes.
“We’re certainly not interested in printing anything that’s salacious about this,” Von Pinnon said. “It’s routine practice for news agencies to look at the complete set of information to see if there was anything that hasn’t been reported.”
KFGO News Director Paul Jurgens said the station would contact the family ahead of time if it planned to use any of the evidence in a story.
“We have made no decisions. We haven’t seen any of the material,” Jurgens said. “There are some things I have not asked for. I did not ask for crime scene photos. I did not ask for videotape of the crime scene.”
Sergei Carlson was adopted from Russia when he was 7 years old and moved with his father to Wisconsin in 2002. Whitney Carlson lived with her mother in Fargo.
Authorities said Sergei Carlson told police he went into Whitney Carlson’s bedroom while she was sleeping, strangled her with his hands, put pillows over her face to muffle her sounds, then had sexual contact with her.
Ripplinger gave a statement to reporters after Sergei pleaded guilty last month. She said at the time it was her final statement, but changed her mind after she heard about the media requests.
“No one in this community needs to be subjected to seeing those crime scene photos. No one in this community needs to be subjected to hearing the 911 call I made,” Ripplinger said. “By the media obtaining and possibly using this information, my pain and privacy and my baby girl would be exploited for the sake of selling newspapers and gaining listeners to your airwaves.”
Tena Haraldson, chief of bureau for The Associated Press in the Dakotas and Nebraska, said reporters seek original documents for information and background.
“Requesting original documents or 911 tapes does not mean they are going to be published. It’s part of the reporting process and news organizations like the AP weigh these decisions carefully,” Haraldson said.