MONETA - The flames started to subside, and Sheila Kimmell walked toward a firetruck to remove the protective yellow suit she had borrowed. She stopped to exchange a hug with Grayce Keller, who with her husband is one of Moneta's only remaining residents.
"You don't have to look at it anymore, Mayor Grayce," Kimmell said.
"That's a good thing," Keller replied.
The derelict trailer and barn stood next to where the car of 18-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell was unearthed nearly three years ago. On Monday - what would have been the younger Kimmell's 36th birthday - family, friends and a host of others watched the buildings burn to the ground.
Dr. James Thorpen, Natrona County's coroner, examined Lisa Marie Kimmell's body after fishermen found her floating in the North Platte River on April 2, 1988. Thorpen shook his head as the buildings smoldered on Monday.
"To think back, 17 years ago, about what horrific things happened here," Thorpen said.
On her way from Denver to visit her boyfriend in Cody and then her family's home in Billings, Lisa Kimmell was stopped for speeding the evening of March 25, 1988. The state trooper who wrote her a ticket that evening was likely one of the last people to see her alive.
When her body was found eight days later, Kimmell had been raped, stabbed and beaten. The murder went unsolved for years before DNA evidence collected from her body was matched to Dale Wayne Eaton, who was then a federal prisoner in Colorado.
Eaton was convicted last year of kidnapping, robbing, raping and murdering the young Montana woman before throwing her from the old Government Bridge east of Alcova Lake. Eaton was sentenced to death, and now awaits execution in Rawlins.
Kimmell's family also was granted a $5 million civil judgment against Eaton after he failed to respond to a wrongful death suit filed against him. Eaton's property in Moneta, a plot of about 6,000 square feet that was valued at $1,400, was awarded to the Kimmells.
For more than a year, Sheila Kimmell said, the family has been planning to burn the buildings and then clear the land of everything Eaton left there.
"We will return it to the prairie dogs and the sage brush," Kimmell said.
Ron Kimmell gently rubbed his wife's back as the barn started collapsing shortly after it was ignited around 9 a.m.
"It looks a lot better down like that than it did," he said, exhaling sharply as he finished his statement.
Al Lesco, who retired from the Wyoming Highway Patrol in 1996, said he can still hear Lisa Kimmell's words from the night he caught her speeding in her black Honda CRX with its "LIL MISS" plates.
"If I hadn't stopped her …" he said, his thoughts unfinished as Ron Kimmell patted his shoulder.
"You're just like her," Kimmell said. "You were in the wrong place at the wrong time."
A conversation shared by Lesco, Thorpen and Ron Kimmell turned to Eaton and his apparent lack of emotion during his trial. Kimmell said he was unmoved by accounts of how Eaton may have had a difficult youth.
"I know people who went through harder," he said. "It's choices. It's their choices. We're all responsible for our own actions."
Volunteers with the Fremont County Fire Protection District stood in readiness during Monday's burn, which went smoothly. Plumes of smoke went skyward, easing a concern that the burn could create a hazard for drivers passing nearby on U.S. Highway 20-26.
Sheila Kimmell wished her daughter a happy birthday as she used a flare to ignite the trailer. As the fire grew, the parents commented that it served as a sort of giant birthday candle.
Ron Kimmell embraced Fremont Deputy Chief Craig Haslam as he thanked him for helping to make the burn possible.
"That felt good," Kimmell said. "That really felt good.