Rose Twp. — A group of 40 runners gathered under a tree, surrounding Franz Brueger, father of Alexandra “Ally” Brueger who was murdered nearby just one week ago. They laid caring hands on Franz as they all prayed.
The event was coordinated by the Facebook group, “Holly Area Runners.” The runners and walkers of all ages met Saturday afternoon at Rose Oaks County Park to honor the memory of Ally, and to show support for the family with a memorial run/walk on Fish Lake Road.
Brueger, 31, was shot by a rifle, and left to die on the front lawn of a home on Fish Lake Road on July 30. The Michigan State Police are still investigating.
Speaking for the runners’ group was Anita Harless of Holly Township. “We’re on this road every week. How did we not know her? We had to finish a run for her,” she said after the event.
Harless said that runners are a tight-knit community. When a runner passes away, used running shoes are often hung or placed near where they were killed. They all brought an old pair of running shoes, which were laid near the spot where she died.
Following a group prayer, some shared their thoughts about the tragedy. “I was shocked, angry,” said one woman. “I feel connected to her, because we runners do that. She’s a year older than my son. She’s little, like me. She ran on dirt roads, like me. It could have been any one of us out here. I’m so, so, sorry,” she said to Franz, her voice breaking.
But Franz didn’t know any of these people. He learned about the memorial second hand. “Those were total strangers,” he said, surprised. “It’s fantastic.”
Franz also spoke, and said that his daughter was dedicated to her work as a nurse, but she also wanted to get her masters in creative writing. Following her death, they found some of her work hidden between the mattress and bedspring.
Those that knew her shared memories, but most of the 40 or so there didn’t know Alexandra personally.
Franz was in good spirits and overwhelmed by the support he’s been given from total strangers, members of the media, and people who knew his daughter.
“I don’t even know how to take this,” he said, as a frequent volunteer who prefers to give rather than take.
Ally’s mother Nikki was not at the event. Nikki said she wanted her daughter remembered for how she lived, not how she died.
Later during a phone interview, Nikki firmly urged the public to share any information with police. “If they would try and reach down and find some courage…and do the right thing, and not be afraid,” she said.
“I want the public to think about the most important person in their life … everybody’s got one... and if this had happened to their most important person … they would hope that if someone had some information, that they would contact the police.”
Another member of the runners’ group is Lacey Randall of Holly Township. She noted how often the group ran up and down this very dirt road. When Ally’s death was announced, these runners were urged not to run here anymore by friends and family. Some event attendees expressed concern at being on the road alone. Randall said, “We won’t run in fear, we’ll run in a group and keep running.”
Even after the initial group of 40 took off running at 2 p.m., others showed up to the park entrance off Fish Lake Road for 30 minutes after that, all carrying extra pairs of shoes.
By the end, a pile of shoes and some bright flowers bathed in sun-dappled light marked the spot near where Ally was killed.
To contact the MSP
Michigan State Police Tip Line: 855-MICH-TIP
Metro North Post: 248-584-5740
MSP Dispatch: 313-237-2450
Crime Stoppers: 800-SPEAK-UP