Widow of slain police chief finds solace in signs of love

RAINIER, Ore. - It's been two years since Rainier police Chief Ralph Painter was killed in the line of duty and his family is still waiting for closure.

The courts are still deciding if the accused killer, Daniel Butts, is mentally competent to stand trial.

Painter's widow, Amy, says she's found stones in the shape of hearts that have helped her keep the memory of her husband alive.

The couple got married on the beach, and Ralph gave Amy a special gift on their wedding day seven years ago - a ring with a rock she had found. So rocks have a special meaning for her.

"I still hear him," she says. "I still hear his laugh and voice. I see him in my son. We miss him."

Weeks after he was killed, Amy found another rock in the shape of a heart during a visit to the beach.

"(I) asked him for a sign, and I went on the beach and found this rock," she says.

There is a hole completely through the rock that for Amy represents "the hole in my heart."

The hole may never close for her and the couple's son, Riley, who is now nine years old. But she believes a trial for the suspected killer could move them closer to peace.

"I know (Ralph) would be wanting us to get on with our lives and trying to heal, and it's just like you don't get that without the trial," she says.

So they must wait, but each delay is difficult and painful.

"(It's) just like it's hanging over our heads, waiting to happen and the not knowing," she says.

Carrying her through is the support from the community and balloons from a memorial on Saturday. And also, she says, the heart-shaped rocks that keep showing up at her feet in times of questioning or trouble.

"I looked down and I found this one so it was like he still answers," she says holding up another rock shaped like a heart. "To me he's still here with us. So everything I do I feel like we're still connected."

The next hearing for this case is set for February, but it's already been postponed twice in the past few months so the family believes there could be even more delays.