Police say they’ve caught Duffy Murnane’s killer. Now her mom is fighting cancer: ‘I’m going to be there at that trial.’

a woman sits on the beach
Homer resident Anesha “Duffy” Murnane. (Homer Police Department)

Two and a half years after Homer resident Anesha “Duffy” Murnane’s unexplained disappearance, her friends and family finally got some answers last week: Police had arrested a man for allegedly abducting and killing her.

Kirby Calderwood, 32, faces charges of kidnapping, murder and evidence tampering.

Murnane’s mother, Sara Berg, says the news has been bittersweet.

Berg says she’s glad to know what happened to her daughter and to have a chance at getting justice. But she says what happened was horrific, and now Berg is trying to hold off cancer long enough to see Calderwood taken to trial.

Listen:

The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Sara Berg: Every day is a unique experience. I never know, between the cancer and the agony of the loss, how I’m going to be. How you’re going to wake up, you don’t know. And some days are cry-all-day days. And other days, I’m in the kitchen singing, I’m OK, and then the thought hits you, and you’re down. You’re down crying again. But some days, it’s pretty good all day. But you never know. It’s like a guessing game. That’s it. It’s like you don’t have control.

Casey Grove: That sounds terrible. It sounds like you’re fighting cancer?

SB: Yeah, yeah. And I was in full remission when Duffy got taken. I was on no medicines at all. I was down in Mexico. I was feeling pretty darn good. Everything was great. Duffy was gonna join me down there. And then she was taken, and the cancer just went off like a rocket.

CG: Yeah. I’m sorry for bringing this all up again and appreciate you talking to me. And it sounds like, in just this recent news that we’ve heard about her case, that there was a lot of police work going on behind the scenes that members of the public didn’t know about. But did you? Did you have much of a sense of what was going on?

SB: We had a lot of hints. We knew that that tip had come in last May. We didn’t know it was a tip, we just knew that our detective was working very, very hard for many months. And he’s a man of few words and a lot of action. And then, early April, we started getting phone calls asking questions here and there, just little questions. So I was not totally shocked when they came to the door on Mother’s Day evening to tell us, because he knew it was going to hit the fan the next day, and he wanted us to be prepped. And the minute we saw them at the door, we knew that something horrendous had happened.

CG: What did they say? I mean, in kind of that initial explanation.

SB: Hardly anything. They just basically told me that they had apprehended somebody, they were in Utah. They gave us his name. They said that he had been a caregiver for my daughter at the Main Tree Supported Living. I had never met him, and I was there all the time. He must have been a part-time worker. I’ve never met him. And the detective told me not to read any papers or listen to much that was going on. And that’s all he said, pretty much. He kind of kept it basic. I asked him, “How was she killed?” He said, “I’d rather not say,” and he said he’d be in touch, which he has been. He’s called us every day since then.

But it was the next day that I read the paper. Which, you know, he told me not to read the paper. But, I thought, I don’t want to hear about this for the first time in the courtroom, or I don’t want some idiot coming up and saying something to me. And so I read it all. But, you know, after two and a half years with your daughter being missing, and having not a clue where she is, my mind was quite active. And I felt very strongly that she was not killed until the beginning of of December. And I thought she was being held and tortured all that time. So one day is a lot different than that.

But it still was absolutely horrendous. It was horrendous to hear what he done to her. She was the sweetest girl that ever lived. She was so kind and sweet. So I just want him gone from society, forever. I don’t want any other mother to ever suffer like this. And I certainly don’t want any girl to go through what my daughter went through. Yeah. So I’m gonna do everything I can do to make sure that this all happens. You know, they say it might be two years to the trial. And by gum, I’m going to stay alive for the two years, and I’m going to be there at that trial.

And the entire town of Homer’s fighting on this case, too. I mean, everybody is so upset by this whole thing. It’s just turned Homer upside down. They’re not going to give up either, they’re going to be right behind us helping us every single step of the way, as they have been, since the very beginning of this. The town of Homer has held us up and supported us in every aspect of our lives. I’m eternally grateful to them. It’s been great. At the same time, it’s kind of in your face all the time, because there’s not much escaping it in Homer. That’s the reality of it. So it’s OK.

I just know that I want this man put away forever so that this doesn’t happen again. And I don’t want my daughter to have died in vain. I want her to have saved the next several victims that he would have taken. And that’s the main thing. I’m just very upset that I’m not gonna get her body back. At least we’ve got him.

RELATED: Former Homer resident kidnapped, murdered woman missing since 2019, police say

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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