The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[Features], continued

by Chris Wright

Just as distressing, Tim says, was telling his 10-year-old daughter, Jenna. "She just sat there, pounded on my chest, and said, `Why, Daddy?' And how do you answer that? I always told the kids that I would never let something like that happen to them."

THE NASHUA POLICE spent hundreds of man-hours compiling a report the size of a telephone directory. "We did everything we could," says a detective, "but nothing's going to change this."

The Remsberg home is ill-suited to its role as the epicenter of a nightmare. The ranch house is tucked away on a quiet cul-de-sac -- a faux wishing well in the yard, a WELCOME sign hanging near the door. It is the picture of suburban serenity. Yet it doesn't take too long to feel the anxiety below the surface.

I arrive for an interview with Tim Remsberg on an oppressively hot morning, already the kind of day that lulls the birds into silence. At first I have trouble finding the Remsbergs' house, and neighbors call them to warn of a "strange car" prowling the area. When I finally pull up outside, I am met by Helen.

Helen is dark-haired, with a friendly face that has been etched with lines of grief, bewilderment, and sleepless nights. She shows me the "Garden of Love" that she and Tim created in Amy's honor -- a
flower-filled memorial to the lost daughter. We stand looking at the garden for a few minutes, making small talk. Occasionally Helen will say something like "Ever since I lost Amy . . . " or "Since Amy died. . . . " There is an awkward commonplace quality to the words, as if she were struggling to fit Amy's murder into the family chronology.

"It's a tough situation over there, I know that," says a family friend, describing the mood at the Remsberg home. "Amy was the spitting image of her mother. Helen has the biggest heart. If anyone needs help, she will be there for them. Her daughter was becoming that woman. This thing has ripped Helen's heart right out."

Everyone deals with grief differently. Helen, for one, seems intent on piecing her life back together. As Tim and I talk, she busies herself with domestic chores, finding solace in the ordinary. And yet she moves about the house in a mechanical way, deliberate as a drunk. It's as if she were recovering from a kind of paralysis, as if her body were re-learning the motions of daily life.

Tim, meanwhile, has emerged from his grief swinging. "Someone has to be responsible," he says. "If the Internet did not play a part in this, no one would have heard from us. We would've stayed in our home and grieved for our daughter. But that's not how it happened."

Remsberg, a salesman for a building-supplies firm, spends most of his free time these days as a sort of anti-Internet crusader. In the months after Amy's death, he hired a lawyer and began writing letters to congressmen, calling state representatives, and just, as he puts it, "banging on people's doors and making noise."

And now this blue-collar man who barely knew how to turn a computer on a year ago finds himself debating Internet lawyers on CNN, meeting with Vice-President Gore. Besides CNN's Burden of Proof, Remsberg has taken his story to 20/20, 48 Hours, and Court TV. He has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. While I am talking to him, he takes a call from a French TV station.

In March, Remsberg stood before a Senate subcommittee: "We must show Amy that we care about what happened to her and that we are going to act to see it doesn't happen to another. . . . Remember, Amy Boyer is listening! The time for action is now!"

Within days of the speech, New Hampshire senator Judd Gregg announced he was co-sponsoring legislation that would outlaw the sale of Social Security numbers online. With the Social Security Administration and the White House on board, the Amy Boyer Bill is expected to pass.

But the Remsbergs weren't content with don't do it again. In April they filed a wrongful-death suit against, claiming negligence and invasion of privacy.

Remsberg is also taking on Geocities and Tripod, which hosted Liam's site. What got him seething, he says, was when Geocities representatives went on CNN after the murder and tried to wriggle their way out of culpability. "These guys say, `Gee, we didn't notice the author's intent to do harm' -- well, he said he was going to kill her!"

If Tim Remsberg has his way -- and he may -- service providers like Tripod and Geocities will be compelled to police themselves. "They should be monitoring sites where the word `kill' is used," he says. "Bring up every site that has the word `murder,' the word `rape,' the word `bondage.' " They should, he says, have someone "sitting in front of a computer all day, doing nothing but hunting for the people who're hunting for us."

Finally, he has entered into battle with the domain-name company, which refused to free up after the murder. To this day, Liam Youens owns the name, and he will until June 2001. "Even in his death," Remsberg says, "he still has a hold on Amy."

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Chris Wright can be reached at cwright[a]