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Norwich - When it is unveiled this week, police say a billboard with the photo of a 26-year-old Norwich woman and her two sons taken three days before her death will serve as a sobering reminder to anyone with information about her death.
Norwich Police Lt. Mark Rankowitz said the Dec. 14, 2011, shooting death of Jaclyn Wirth remains a "high priority," with detectives still tracking down leads and conducting interviews.
He hopes the billboard will jar someone's memory or prompt someone to call police with information, no matter how insignificant they may think it is.
"Auntie" Peggy Lufkin thinks the billboard will tug at the heartstrings of passersby when they read the words, "Can you tell us who killed our Mommy." Or, she said, maybe someone who knows who committed the crime will suddenly find a conscience and come forward.
Lufkin, Wirth's aunt, cherished the 26-year-old mother of two as she would a daughter of her own. Wirth's two sons, Sergio, 9, and Kymani, 4, now live with Lufkin and her husband, Ron, in Griswold.
"I want them to hurt like they hurt us. There are people out there that took something special away from us," Lufkin said. "Somebody has to pay for this."
Lufkin said her emotions still run the gamut from anger to sadness, and an arrest in the case would help answer some of the unknown questions that still badger her - who killed "Jackie" and why.
"It just breaks my heart," Lufkin said. "I can't tell you how much I miss her."
Wirth was shot at 1:42 a.m. Dec. 14 when someone sent a barrage of bullets through the door to her apartment at 6D East Baltic St., part of the Mohegan Common Apartments. She was struck multiple times, and first responders arrived to find her young son holding the phone used to call 911.
Sergio, known to family as "Junie," witnessed the last moments of his mother's life. Kymani, whose nickname is "KeKe," was just 2 and sleeping at the time.
"KeKe knows Mom's in heaven with the angels, but all of a sudden he's starting to ask more questions. I don't have all the answers," Lufkin said.
Lufkin said the aftermath has been a tough road for everyone, but she keeps the memories and spirit of Wirth alive for the boys through birthdays, Mother's Day and Christmas celebrations.
"What we really want is closure for the boys," Lufkin said. "They're very resilient for the most part but still have post-traumatic stress disorder. It's hard for them. It's hard for all of us."
The billboard, located in the area of Putnam Bank at West Main and High streets in Norwich, was paid for through money raised by benefits held by the Peniel Church and High Noon Saloon, both located in Norwich.
Police say billboards do work. One announcing a $50,000 reward was erected at a similar location when police were seeking information in the 2004 slaying of New Hampshire physicist Eugene Mallove. At least one person cited the billboard as a reason for going to police with credible information linked to Mallove's murder. Two people were later convicted in that case.
Donations for Wirth's boys are being accepted at People's Bank, care of the Jaclyn Wirth Children's Fund. Lufkin also waits for an official announcement about a reward being offered in the case.
POLICE SEEK INFORMATION
Norwich police and the New London County State's Attorney's office are seeking help from the public in obtaining leads in the case. Anyone with information should contact Norwich police Detective James Curtis at (860) 892-2892 or (860) 886-5561 ext. 500.