SIOUX FALLS, SD -
He says it was a request he had to fulfill. And now the man responsible for creating the image detailing what slain nine-year-old Becky O'Connell would like 22 years after her death is telling us how he did it.
Phil Toft was a Minnehaha County Sheriff's Department investigator when O'Connell was murdered in 1990. He worked on the case and drew some of the initial sketches of the then-suspect, Donald Moeller.
After years away from the craft, at Tina Curl's request Toft dusted off his sketchpad and sat down to create one final composite of O'Connell.
“There's feeling going into this because I know her and I know the scene,” Toft said.
And like so many, Toft has spent more than his share of time thinking about the horrific crime that took O'Connell's life.
O’Connell’s family has been left with only questions of how she would be today. Most of them will never be answered.
With some help from Curl, Toft embarked on his own labor of love, taking images of Curl, mapping them out and slowly creating a sketch of what O'Connell would look like today.
“To me it was amazing when I went through and actually plotted out the photographs how similar in age how they matched up between mother and daughter,” Toft said.
Eighty hours of work was guided by what Toft calls divine inspiration resulting in an image Curl proudly showed the world following Tuesday night's execution of O'Connell's killer, Donald Moeller.
“To see the anguish and try and help if there's any way you can, that's what this was for. It wasn't for anyone but her,” Toft said. “To have all your hopes and dreams taken away from you when you're in your 30s, when you lose your little girl.”
It's a small token created from a big gesture by a man who was closely connected to the case for a mother who's life was forever changed by it.
“I hope she finds some solace and some peace. That's my hope and prayer and if this helps, great,” Toft said.
Toft is retired from the Sheriff's department. He now works for the Division of Criminal Investigation.
He worked on O'Connell's portrait on his own time and says it was a gift from him to the Curl family.
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