11/18/14 09:54 AM ET
On a late afternoon in 2007, the day after Thanksgiving, Kimberly Schlau of O'Fallon, Illinois told her 8-year-old daughter Maddy to put on her coat so they could go for a drive. She was fighting to contain her growing alarm over the whereabouts of her two eldest daughters -- Maddy's half-sisters Jessica, 18, and Kelli, 13 -- who had gone to their father's to take family photos earlier in the day. She did not tell Maddy about the numerous times she'd already tried, unsuccessfully, to reach Jessica on her cell phone.
"I didn't want to scare her, but I needed to get out of the house. I needed to go find them," Schlau, 46, told The Huffington Post. "I thought, 'Maybe Jessica's cell died. Maybe she had a flat tire. Maybe she's sitting at a friend's house.' I was in the process of getting ready to leave when I heard car doors shut in my driveway and thought, 'Oh thank God, they're home.'"
But when she looked out the window, she saw two police officers, a chaplain and a coroner walking toward her home. Schlau's heart sank. "I didn't want to open my door," she said. "I did not want to hear what they had to say."
The police officers ran through their questions. Did Jessica drive a white Mazda? Who was she traveling with that day? Hearing Schlau's answers to these questions, the officers told her that that afternoon, both Jessica and Kelli had been instantly killed on Interstate 64 in southwestern Illinois when a state trooper lost control of his vehicle, crossed a median and slammed into their car.