First responders help woman honor murdered daughter

Nampa Fire Department members used a ladder truck to rescue balloons that got stuck in a tree when Tessa Carlson released them for her daughter's birthday

By Michael Katz
The Idaho Statesman

NAMPA, Idaho — For most people, they're just balloons. But for Tessa Carlson, they mean much more.

Carlson's daughter, Ashley Ann, was murdered in 1999 by then-16-year-old Patrick Lee Harned, who strangled her to death and buried her in his basement in Astoria, Oregon. Harned, who used to babysit the girl, was convicted on two counts of aggravated murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2000.

Ashley Ann's birthday is Jan. 28. Tessa Carlson said she used to visit her grave with flowers. Since moving away from Oregon, however, Carlson has started a new tradition: every year, she brings a few balloons into a park, wishes her daughter a "Happy Birthday" and releases them into the sky. Carlson moved to Idaho to be closer to her other daughter a decade ago.

On what would have been two days after Ashley Ann's 26th birthday, Carlson went on Tuesday to the Skyview Park near the Nampa Fire Department Station No. 2 on Greenhurst Road and sent the balloons into the air but encountered a problem. Three of them, to be exact.

Carlson's balloons got stuck in two separate trees that she was able to climb and free. On her third attempt to release the balloons, the balloons got caught in a tree that was a little bit too high for her to climb, she said.

"It went right into a tree," Carlson said with a laugh. "(I) let them go again, and they went into another tree."

Carlson's friend, Dick Goodman, was with her at the time. He went to the fire station, which is near his own residence. He went inside and pleaded his case.

The pleas did not fall upon deaf ears.

"(Goodman) just said that this lady had some balloons to honor her murdered daughter," said senior firefighter/paramedic David Alford. "(Helping people) is kind of what we do."

The fire department took a truck to the park and used its ladder to rescue the stranded balloons. Fire departments get a lot of strange phone calls and requests. Alford also noted this is not the first time someone has called about balloons.

This one, however, was different.

"We looked at it sand said we were going to need a ladder," Alford said. "It's a good feeling."

The willingness and generosity of the firefighters nearly brought Carlson to tears, who were there to witness Carlson's final release of the balloons.

"It's just amazing that they would do that," she said. "I don't think they would do that anywhere else."

Copyright 2018 The Idaho Statesman



McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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