Anguish and love intertwined as friends and strangers gathered in a Bellevue park Tuesday night to comfort Mary Nielsen, the mother whose two children were found dead at their father’s home over the weekend.
Nielsen, who lives in Illinois, watched the vigil via a cellphone video call. She talked individually with some of the 80 people in attendance.
Nielsen’s children, Emily Price, 5, and Theodore Price, 3, were found dead Sunday at 2716 Alberta Ave. in Bellevue, the home of their father, Adam L. Price. Nielsen had asked a friend to check on them after Bellevue police were unsuccessful in doing so.
The parents were in the midst of divorce proceedings, and the father was under court order to provide daily contact between the mother and children during their visits to his home, Nielsen has said.
Price, 34, was arrested Sunday night in California. He faces two felony charges of child abuse resulting in death. He was scheduled to appear Wednesday afternoon in a California courtroom for an extradition hearing after two delays.
Late Tuesday night, Nielsen posted a video on Facebook thanking people for their support. In addition to the vigil, she has received an outpouring of condolences. A GoFundMe fundraiser has generated more than $38,000.
“I’ve received more support than I could ever imagine,” she said as she thanked people for their donations and for coming out to the vigil. “I love you guys all so much.”
For some at the vigil, which was held at Twin Ridge Park, the grief was overwhelming. One woman, who had wanted to share memories of babysitting the children, broke down as soon she addressed the crowd. She could only sob to Nielsen, “I’m so sorry, Mary.”
Many of those at the Tuesday night vigil were mothers and children or former co-workers from the Nebraska Medical Center, where Nielsen previously worked as a certified nursing assistant in oncology.
The vigil was organized by a La Vista mother of four who had never met Nielsen but said she wanted to do something “mother to mother.”
“I can’t imagine how she feels,” said Lynnette Rohde. “I’d like her to know she has a lot of support. Her kids didn’t deserve this, and the community is here for her.”
Hunter Kruszka of Omaha was among Nielsen’s former co-workers in attendance.
Kruszka’s first thoughts of Nielsen were of how hard she worked to care for her kids after she left her husband.
“Mary worked overtime, she worked way more than she needed to as a CNA to support those kids so she could get a big enough apartment for them to live in,” Kruszka said. “Those kids were everything to her. “
Kruszka gestured to the crowd, which she said was an indication of how much Nielsen is loved.