BANGOR, Maine — Katrina Hutchinson held Eli Richcreek in her arms Saturday and adored how the 9-month-old was fascinated with the tiny light he held.
Those minutes of simple delight were among the few Hutchinson said she has had since her friend, Maine native Danielle Bertolini, was reported missing to Fortuna, California, police on Feb. 19, Hutchinson said.
“Every day, every single day, I think about Danielle,” Hutchinson said Saturday. “I think about her whole family. It’s awful. I hope Danielle is found.”
Friends and family members held a vigil in honor of Bertolini at Cascade Park at dusk on Saturday. The 23-year-old Maine native last had contact with her family on Jan. 29, according to her mother, Billie-Jo Dick of Plymouth.
Friends and family members fear that Bertolini was murdered and if that’s so, they suspect that a man she knew has killed her. They held the vigil on the same day that one was held for Sheila Franks of California, another woman missing in what family members fear is an incident connected to Bertolini’s.
Dick told the 40 people at the Cascade Park vigil that she wanted everyone to know that her daughter’s disappearance “is not going to go in vain while this monster gets to walk around freely.”
“We know who he is,” Dick said. “Hopefully we will have some closure soon.”
Dick said the case is among several missing persons incidents police in Fortuna are investigating. The family identified the man, but the Bangor Daily News is withholding the name because he has not been charged with a crime.
Dick said that she hoped that the vigils would draw attention to the cases and help police solve the missing persons mysteries.
Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Wayne Hanson told a California news outlet on Wednesday that the investigation into the disappearances is active, but lacks new leads or information to report.
Police have told Bertolini’s family that they believe the two missing persons cases are linked because Bertolini and Franks are believed to have last been seen with the same 43-year-old Fortuna man before they vanished, family members have said.
“We’re still asking for the public’s help, and if people want to report information anonymously they can,” Hanson told the Times-Standard of Humboldt County.
Humboldt County sheriffs can be reached at 707-445-7251, the office’s crime tip line at 707-268-2539 or the Fortuna Police Department at 707-725-7550.
Friends and family said Bertolini is a bright, feisty and effervescent spirit who speaks plainly but gently. Bertolini, a former Nokomis High School student, usually maintained daily contact with her sister, Mariah Bertolini, before her disappearance.
“You could be mad at Danielle for one minute and the next minute she would make you smile,” said her younger brother, 18-year-old Tristan Brooks. “I hope she is found.”
Billy-Jo Dick expressed gratitude during the vigil for the members of Down East Emergency Medical Institute who returned last week from California, where they, with help from a search dog, found evidence that police said contributed to the investigation.
The find occurred at a spot where Bertolini was last seen, said Richard Bowie, DEEMI’s director.
Bowie, who attended the vigil with several members of the volunteer group, declined to elaborate. He said group members were glad to help Bertolini’s family and friends with their work.
“They are very solid people,” Bowie said. “I admire them. When you get involved in situations like this, sometimes families run from the fight.”
“This family,” he added, “leads the fight.”
BDN writer Dawn Gagnon contributed to this report.