Candles for ‘Jo’: Dozens gather at candlelight vigil for missing Easthampton woman Joanne Ringer

  • Marianne Winters, who is the executive director of Safe Passage, speaks during a vigil for Jo Ringer, Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A picture of Jo Ringer and her daughter, Savanah, rests on a table during a vigil for Jo Ringer, Wednesday, at Millside Park in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Savannah Ringer speaks during a vigil for her mother, Jo Ringer, Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Members of Bring Jo Ringer Home, including Jo Ringer’s daughter, Savanah, third from left, listen as Marianne Winters, the executive director of Safe Passage, speaks during a vigil Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. Below left, attendees hold candles during the vigil, while below right, Savanah Ringer speaks. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS PHOTOS

  • Bunny Williams, left, wipes a tear after hugging Ginger Plantier, right, during a vigil for Jo Ringer, Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Rebecca Lynn Wozniak, right, hugs Cheryl Lynn Sturges during a vigil for Jo Ringer, Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • People hold candles during a vigil for Jo Ringer, Wednesday at Millside Park in Easthampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

Published: 6/22/2017 12:12:22 AM

EASTHAMPTON — Nearly four months after a local woman went missing, dozens of family members, friends and supporters from the community gathered at Millside Park for a candlelight vigil Wednesday, coming together in support as few details emerge publicly in the case.

Joanne “Jo” Ringer went missing on March 2, the day she failed to show up for her first day of work as a taxi driver in Easthampton. In April, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless announced that investigators have from the beginning considered Ringer’s disappearance a homicide case. Ringer’s husband, Chad Reidy, is the sole suspect. On April 7, Reidy was found dead inside his garage, an apparent suicide, authorities have said.

The mood at the vigil was both heavy- and light-hearted, with tears and hugs one minute and laughter the next. Bring Jo Ringer Home, a group of loved ones including Ringer’s daughter Savanah, organized the event, which featured a bake sale and shirts to support their cause. They shared memories of Ringer over a microphone, urging attendees not to forget her story and to keep working to find her.

“To have this show of support for Jo really feels good,” said Ringer’s friend Teigh Brown, who baked whoopie pies and other sweets for the event.

Scattered throughout the audience were a handful of bikers clad in leather — members of local motorcycle clubs coming out to show support for Ringer, a fellow biker who loved taking a motorcycle apart as much as baking.

“We rolled in about 20 deep today,” Ringer’s longtime friend Erik Brown, 44, said. “We had both of Jo’s brothers leading the pack.”

Standing in the crowd with a candle was Reidy’s sister, Jennifer Carbery, who said she was there in solidarity with Savanah, her family and friends.

“I’m a party to this, I’m a witness to this,” she said, struggling for words to describe the mixed emotions she was feeling. “I don’t know what to do with it.”

Carbery said she hopes that authorities can get the answers they need to bring Ringer home.

“The questions have just been agonizing,” she said. “There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about it.”

The event began with a speech from Marianne Winters, the executive director of Safe Passage, an organization dedicated to ending domestic violence and relationship abuse. Several close friends and Ringer’s daughter have told the Gazette that Ringer complained of violent abuse at the hands of Reidy before she went missing.

“We know ... we might have a chance to one day find our way back to hope,” Winters said. “For now, however, we must rely on trust that we have the resilience to heal, that we can deepen the bonds of love and connection with one another. This is our task and our hope.”

For Winters, community events like the vigil are important for those struggling with sadness, frustration or a sense of hopelessness — emotions that often accompany situations involving domestic abuse.

“It just means an opportunity for people not to live with all those feelings in isolation,” Winters told the Gazette. “Those feelings are normal.”

Counselors from Safe Passage were on hand Wednesday to offer support for attendees struggling with those emotions or their own issues.

Ginger Plantier, a close friend of Ringer, served as the event’s master of ceremonies, coordinating everything from the lighting of candles to a group photo of Savanah with the bikers.

“Nobody is ever going to forget,” she said. “That’s what tonight is about.”

Little details have emerged in the case after the district attorney’s press conference in April, though Plantier did announce on Wednesday that a private investigator — Dr. Sarah Stein of the Center for the Resolution of Unresolved Crime — has taken on the case pro bono.

Authorities have charged Reidy’s ex-girlfriend, Laura Reilly, with three counts of misleading investigators at Reidy’s behest in the wake of Ringer’s disappearance, when authorities believe Reidy may have ditched Ringer’s car in Easthampton to misdirect authorities. Reilly’s attorney, Jesse Adams, has said Reilly has nothing to do with Ringer’s disappearance.

Once candles were lit and the sun had set, Ringer’s daughter took to the microphone with a brief message for those gathered.

“My mother was not allowed to make the choice to live or die,” Savanah Ringer said, reading a prepared speech. “A selfish man made that decision for her.

“I hope nobody, man or woman, ever have to endure what my mother went through,” she said, talking about the alleged abuse at Reidy’s hands.

She then moved on to praise her mother’s talents and personality.

“She helped everyone, including several friends of mine when they had nowhere to go,” she said. “She wasn’t just my mom, she was a mom to all.”

Savanah Ringer said her mother’s favorite thing to do was to be in the sun, which is why organizers chose the longest day of the year for the vigil.

After the speeches were over, friends and family were invited up to the microphone to tell stories about Ringer — some funny, some embarrassing, some touching.

They told the crowd about the Jo everyone knows: a never-dull friend who brings people together; a talented cook, scrapbooker and motorcycle expert who can make impressive costumes by hand; a listening ear for family and friends caught in a bad moment; a rebel riding her motorcycle 120 mph with a bikini on, or skipping class to have fun with friends in high school; and someone who is deeply missed by many who love her.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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