Summit County friends find peace in party honoring murdered mom
October 4, 2012
Since Stephanie Roller Bruner’s brutal murder in Silverthorne in 2010, dozens of court hearings and trial proceedings have been focused on her death. With her killer – her husband, Dale Bruner – convicted and headed to prison, Roller Bruner’s friends and family decided it was time to do something to honor her life.
Roller Bruner’s life and love of dancing were the inspiration for the Oct. 12 event, “Turn the BEAT Around,” a dance party organizers say will be so loud, it will silence domestic violence. The event will benefit local nonprofit Advocates for Victims of Assault.
“I was just trying to think about Steph,” event organizer and friend of Roller Bruner’s Laura Pearson said. “I wanted to do something that she would love, that would be a positive, life-affirming type thing. This popped into my head.”
Intended to be an annual event, the party will include dancing, appetizers, a wine wall, silent auction and a “Steph Corner” paying tribute to Roller Bruner’s memory. Advocates staffers will also be on hand to provide information about domestic violence.
Bruner was convicted of Roller Bruner’s murder in July after a two-week trial and sentenced to 112 years in prison, the maximum sentence on all the crimes of violence, last week.
“We’re done with Dale having any kind of a voice,” Pearson said. “He doesn’t get a voice any more. This is a way for her voice to really shine through.”
Roller Bruner had been missing for three days when her body was discovered in the Blue River near her Silverthorne home just before Thanksgiving 2010. Bruner was indicted on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault the following summer.
But before all that, friends and family remember Roller Bruner as a vivacious, happy person, a devoted mother to her three young children and a talented dancer.
Her love of dancing inspired the upcoming dance party.
“It’s a way to have a good time in Stephanie’s honor, to know we had a good outcome to the trial and sentencing and a way to start the healing process,” Roller Bruner’s cousin Ann Forte said. “This is something that Steph would love, that we’re celebrating dancing.”
Tickets cost $25 regularly, and $20 presale. Proceeds from both ticket sales and the silent auction at the event will support Advocates for Victims of Assault.
The organization takes a four-pronged approach to assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Programs include a safe haven for women and children who have been victims of violence, a 24-hour crisis hotline and counseling services.
At Bruner’s trial, experts called his wife’s murder a classic case of domestic violence.
Prosecutors presented evidence the couple had been having marital and financial problems in the weeks leading up to Roller Bruner’s murder. Testimony indicated Roller Bruner had tried several times to leave her husband, but always relented. She finally filed for divorce just weeks before she died.
It is a common cycle in abusive relationships, Advocates executive director Amy Jackson told jurors at the trial. And victims are in the most danger when they are trying to leave an abusive relationship, she said.
After the verdict, several jurors said Jackson’s testimony offered the information that sealed the case in their minds.
“She knew nothing about the case and described to a tee everything that happened,” juror Brent Love said. “It made sense.”