RIPLEY, Ohio — Three months after his pregnant daughter was killed in a still-unsolved shooting on a quiet country road, Dave Dodson wakes up every morning still thinking she's alive. He cries every time he sees the four-wheeler she grew up riding and he can't bring himself to finish fixing a truck they'd been working on together.
His wife, Mary, still hasn't gone into the room where she sewed baby clothes with her daughter. She hasn't decorated the house for the holidays.
On Aug. 28, police responding to what they thought was a car crash instead found the Dodsons' daughter, 22-year-old Brittany Stykes, shot dead in her car in Ripley, about 45 miles southeast of Cincinnati. Stykes' 14-month-old daughter, Aubree, was still strapped in her car seat, bleeding from a gunshot wound to the head.
Stykes was five months pregnant, and her unborn baby died. Aubree survived the shooting, and four surgeries later, is largely the same little girl she was before.
Investigators with the Brown County Sheriff's Office have made no arrests and have not found the murder weapon or any shell casings. They still don't know whether Stykes knew her killer or where the shooting occurred, just where her car ended up.
"I was hoping this would be done before the holidays but the way things are going, I'm kind of afraid this is going to go on forever," said Mary Dodson, 46, crying in her kitchen just before Thanksgiving. "We're in limbo. We can't do anything. We can't move on because we don't know who did this and why."
Stykes, the second oldest of five children, was a stay-at-home mom who spent all day with her family while her husband, Shane Stykes, 37, worked a factory job in Cincinnati, Mary Dodson said.
"We're the Waltons," she said, speaking of how the family has dinner together every night and spent weekends playing board games. "She did nothing to deserve this. She was innocent and she was good."
Sgt. Buddy Moore, the lead detective on the case, said it's the department's top priority.
"In this case, time will tell the truth," he said. "I'm very confident that we will solve this."
Moore said the killing is extremely rare, not only because there's usually just one to two homicides in the area a year but also because of all the still-unanswered questions.
Investigators have been following up on hundreds of tips, interviewing anyone who knew Stykes and trying to keep the case in the public eye. A $10,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to her killer.
Most recently, Moore has been focused on trying to force three reluctant people to answer questions through grand jury subpoenas, including one of Shane Stykes' ex-girlfriends.
The identity of the other two witnesses has not been released, including one who ignored the subpoena and failed to show up to court. Moore said he's working to compel that person to be brought in for questioning, calling it "the biggest key we have right now."
"There's got to be a damn good reason why you ignore a grand jury subpoena and don't show," he said.
Dave Dodson talks daily with Moore about the case, while Shane Stykes said he's not in contact with the sheriff's office and that "they don't tell me anything."
Stykes criticized the investigation and said it might be time for an agency more experienced with homicides to take over.
"By now they should know something. They don't know anything," he said. "It's three months later, they don't even have a crime scene, they don't have any leads, they don't have any suspects — I think that's pretty obvious that it's time for someone else to step in."
He said his wife's death has been devastating.
"I'm a mess. I can't hardly even talk about it," he said. "I miss her every day and I don't understand this."
The Dodsons said they just want justice for their daughter.
"I know for the rest of my life there's going to be a time of day I think of her and cry," Mary Dodson said. "Somebody took something they had no right to take. God didn't do this. This was evil."
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