In Memory of Melissa Ann Poepping

We love you and miss you forever!

I had a friend named Melissa Poepping. But she died on November 13th, 1995. She was in a car wreck. Her and 15 year old Catie Modin were just driving around here in Helena, Montana. Norm Sleed, a business man was just driving too, totally drunk. They were on the highway going one way and he was going the other. Unfortunatley, he crossed into there lane and hit them head on.

Norm was driving a Cadillac and Catie was driving a small car. The damage was horrible. They had to get the Jaws Of Life to rescue Melissa and Catie, and even then it took over 30 minutes. Norm suffered a broken ankle, I think. Catie's legs were both completely shattered. But Melissa had very bad head damages. They rushed her to a hospital in Great Falls, where they did a lot of surgery, furthering her life for just a week.

We will all miss her. Catie is just beginning to walk again, although her track is over. I am glad that Catie's life was spared, but Melissa shouldn't have died. I hate Norm Sleed. He supposedly had other DUI's. He is now in Jail, for the next five years.

My question is, why do people have to drink and drive? I lost my uncle in the same way. And the guy that killed him only had one year in jail. Well, Norm may have lost his freedom for awhile, but I have lost my friend forever...

Paige (written April 22, 1996)

Newspaper Clippings

Three seriously hurt in head-on collision - November 5, 1995

Three people were seriously injured Sunday evening in a two-vehicle accident on Highway 12 E. near East Helena.
According to a Highway Patrol officer at the scene, one of the injuries appeared to be critical.
From preliminary information to the accident scene, it appeared that a west-bound Cadillac crossed the highway's center line on the viaduct just west of East Helena and ran into an east-bound economy car, the officer said.
The accident happened about 8:40 p.m.
The cars were so seriously damaged the extrication equipment was needed to remove the passengers from the vehicles.
More than a dozen emergency responders from Helena and East Helena were at the scene, but even with all the help and the Jaws of Life, 30 minutes after the accident, they were still working to remove the victims from the wreckage.

Teen-age girl dies from wreck injuries

Charges Pending against driver of other car - November 14, 1995

A Helena girl who was injured in a two-car collision near East Helena on Nov. 5 died Monday evening at Deaconess Medical Center in Great Falls.
County Coroner Mickey Nelson said Monday that Melissa Poepping, 15, died just before 7 p.m. of complications from injuries sustained in the wreck.
Deputy County Attourny Mike Menahan said Poepping's death will prompt a negligent homicide charge against the driver of the vehicle that crossed the center line on Highway 12 and struck the compact car Poepping was riding in.
Local Realtor Norm Slead, 47, will be charged at Justice Court today.
If convicted of the crime, Slead could face a maximum of 10 years in Montana State Prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
Menhahan said his office believes alcohol was a factor in the accident. Eye witnesses at the scene of the wreck said Slead appeared intoxicated, Menahan said.
KTVH television news, quoting unidentified sources, reported last week that Slead had a blood alcohol level of .25. A person with a blood alcohol level of .10 is considered legally intoxicated in the state of Montana.
Menahan said once chareges are filled against Slead his blood test results would be available to the county attorney's office.
Poepping's friend and the driver of the car, Catie Moden, 15, was also injured in the accident and remains in stable condition at St. Peter's Community Hospital.
Poepping was a sophmore at Helena High.

Negligent homicide is charged

In accidental death of teen - November 15, 1995

Helena man accused of causing a car wreck Nov. 5 that killed one Helena High student and seriously injuired another was charged with negligent homicide in Justice Court Tuesday.
Realtor Norm Slead, 47, faces a maximum of 10 years in Montana State Prison and/or $50,000 fine in connection with the death of Melissa Poepping, 15.
Poepping died Monday evening in the Deaconess Medical Center in Great Falls of massive head injuries sustained when Slead's Cadiillac slammed head-on into a compact car in which Poepping was a passenger.
Slead, who appeared in court Tuesday on crutches with a cast on his leg, also was charged with negligent vehicular assault, a misdemeaner, in relation to the injuries substained by Catie Moden, 15, driver of the vehicle Slead's car hit. Moden remains in stable condition in St. Peter's Community Hospital.
In addition, Slead has been charged with driving without automobile insurance. His policy apparently had expired one month before the accident occured.
Judge Wallace Jewell told Slead in court that he had been "laboring" over whether to slap him with a high bond or to allow him to remain in the community on his own recognizance since he read about the accident shortly after it happened.
Jewell said his heart led him to want to set the maximum bond the law would allow, but reason took over and he considered Slead's close ties to the community and determined he isn't a flight risk.
"This has been the most difficult decision I have ever made since I have been a judge," he said.
In order to avoid incarceration before his trial, Slead must adhere to several rules, Jewell said.

For example, he will not be allowed to drive a car or use alcohol or drugs without a prescription.
In addition, Slead must be at home between the hours of 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The judge said he would personally call and check to make sure the defendant is complying with the terms of his release.
Slead's attorney, Nick Jacques, said Slead, a member of the Optimist Club and other volunteer orginizations, is "just devastated" by what has happpened.
He said Slead, who has a 15-year-old daughter of his own, "wishes he could tak e it all back" and is "just trying to search his way through this as best as he can."
A Preliminary hearing date has been set for the case of Dec. 1 at 3 p.m.
According to court documents, Slead's vehicle entered the east-bound lanes of Highway 12 about one mile west of East Helena heading west and crashed into the compact car carrying the two teenagers which was traveling east in the proper lane.
Court documents say that the county attorneys office has not yet received results of a blood test done on Slead to determine his blood/alcohol content from the state crime lab.
However, the document said that one of the Highway Patrol officers present at the wreck said Slead appeared intoxicated and other witnesses said Slead smelled of alcohol.
In addition, Slead had left an East Helena bar where he had apparently sat for several hours shortly before the accident took place.
He was convicted of a DUI, and a hit-and-run in City Court in November 1989.
Families of the girls were unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon.

Deaths - November 16, 1995

Melissa Poepping

Melissa A. Poepping, 15, of 3470 Weston Street, Helena, died Nov. 13, 1995, at the Deaconess Medical Center in Great Falls as the result of a car accident on Nov. 5, 1995.
Melissa was born June 2, 1980, in Butte to Rob Poepping and Debbie Boes. She was adopted by her paternal grandparents, Will and Joyce Poepping on April 3, 1984. They resided in Helena. Melissa attended the East Helena Grade School and then Helena High School where she was a sophmore at the time of her death. She participated in several school activites including band, student council and sports.
She was involved with the Assembly of God Chruch in Helena and was active in the Missionettes and youth groups.
Melissa is survived by her birth parents, Rob Poepping and Debbie Boes of Washington State; her adopted parents, Will and Joyce Poepping; her maternal grandmother, Shirley Sullivan and her husband James of Butte; maternal great grandparents, Helen and John Hettick of Albany, Ore; her paternal great grandparents, Georgie and Dean DaVault of Helena. She is also survived by many aunts, uncles, cousins and friends.
Melissa was truly loved very much by family and friends, she will be greatly missed.
Visitation for Melissa will be Friday at Retz Funeral Home from noon to 8 p.m. Funeral services will be Saturday, Nov. 18, at 2:30 p.m. at the First Assembly of God Chruch, 2210 Dodge Avenue with Pastor Scott Walberg officiating. Interment will be Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery. A memorial fund has been set up in Melissa's name, c/o First Assembly of God, 2210 Dodge, Avenue, Helena, 59601

The Famly of

Melissa Poepping

wish to express deepest and most sincere appreciation to the Helena community and individuals who reached out to us in our time of sorrow.
Due to the overwhelming amount of condolences we received, it is immpossible to respond to each one personally.
Our heartfelt gratitude is extended to you all.
Thank You & May God Bless each of you.
Will & Joyce Poepping

Fatal car wreck brings 10 year sentence - April 18, 1996

Melissa Poepping's adoptive mother said in District Court in Helena Wednesday all she has left of her daughter are photos and memories.
Highway Patrol Officer Mike Swingley testified he never knew Poepping, but he will always remember her and the absolute devastation he discovered last year when he responded to the car wreck that took her life and seriously injured her friend, Catie Moden, both then 15.
Norm Slead, 47, the man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to drinking and driving and causing the accident, which took place on the overpass near East Helena, said that every time he looks at his own daughters, he will be reminded of the wreck and the sorrow he caused for the families of his victims.
"I'm responsible for this accident," he said tearfully. "I am responsible for all the pain that is in this room today."
District Court Judge Dorothy McCarter sent the message to the community that she doesn't want anyone to forget the tragedy that can result when people drink and get behind the wheel of a car.
She sentenced Slead to 10 years with the Department of Corrections with five years suspended for his involvement in the death of Poepping and to one year in the Lewis and Clark County Jail suspended for causing the injuries of Moden.
But, she said the real sentance is going to be that Slead will have to live with these tragedies on his mind.
"Being a prominent member of this community doesn't minimize the seriousness of this offense," McCarter said to Slead, who was a local real estate agent and a member of various service clubs.
McCarter said she believes it is important Slead remain under the supervision of the Department of Correction services after he is released from prison, prerelease or whatever program the department deems apropriate, so he can have help maintaining his sobriety, thus protecting the public saftey.
She said that on release, Slead must follow some very strict rules including no drinking, no going to bars and no driving unless absolutly necessary.
Several witnesses, including Slead's wife, testified they believe Slead is up to the challenge and has, in fact, made several strides toward controlling his alcoholism and putting his life back together.
The state probation and parole officer who interviewed Slead before his sentencing, Lori Moore, had a less positive out look on his progress.
She said she believed that while he had started along the road to healing, he sometimes slipping into taking responsiblity for the accident out of his hands and putting it into the realm of God's will.
Moore testified she believed a period at Montana State Prison would serve as a "reality check" for Slead.
Deputy County Attorney Carolyn Clemens said she hoped the case would act as a reality check for the entire community.
She said in a society that has decided a fourth drinking and driving conviction a felony, Slead should not go unpunshed for ending the life of a teenager and dramatically changing the life of another in a drunk driving accident.
Clemens said she at least hoped Slead would be punished so Moden, who was completely innocent in the wreck, could stop blaming herself for the death of Poepping.
Family members of Moden, Poepping, and Slead cried alike in court Wednesday, and perhaps it was the words of Poepping's grandfather, Jim Sullivan, that were the most telling about the entire tragedy.
"I know that when we walk out of the courtroom there will be no winners here," he said.
The court gave Slead until Monday to get his affairs in order at which time he will turn himself over to law enforcement.

Funeral Papers


My most fondest thoughts, and tenderness dreams. Oh how I'll miss you, and mourn to the deepest reaches of my soul for the loss I feel.
The love we share is so pure and true... found only once in a lifetime.
I am so hurt I fear I will never recover from the loss
I feel right now.
I want to thank you, sweetheart, for being such a wonderful daughter, and closest friend.
The love we share is so special; you will always be so very near to me.
Thank you for always being so patient and so understanding with your love so unconditional.
You were always my proudest moments, my deepest tenderness.
You've made each and every day brighter, every tomorrow worth waiting for.
You've made my life, and the lives of so many others, a very special place to be.
You have always given me such joy, and now, my deepest sorrow.
I have always welcomed and enjoyed the wonderfully special and loving feelings you've given me.
That is why I have welcomed this deep, deep, pain of losing you.
It will always remind me of how very much you are truely loved, and greatly missed.
The greatest pain, and deepest regrets in my life is, and always will be, losing you.
I'll miss you forever and ever Princess!
Love, your Daddy

In Loving Memory of
Melissa Ann Poepping

June 2, 1980 November 13, 1995
Butte Montana Great Falls Montana

Funeral Services
First Assembly Of God
Saturday, November 18, 1995
two-thirty o'clock p.m.
Clergyman: Pastor Scott Walberg

Solo: "On Eagle's Wings" Faith Kemp
Solo: "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" Jill Guthrie
Organist: Michele Walberg

Matthew Barrey Pat Songer Bill Kemp
Joe Miller Cory Schwenk Amanda Schwenk

Please join the family and friends in fellowship for a
luncheon being served in the social center of the
chuch immediatly following this service

"Eternity's Kiss"

Even though my whole life, was but a small piece of yours,
I'll be with you always, on each mornings shore,
I will always hold each, and every memory dear,
and greet each one, as they follow me here,
PLEASE, -Hold your heads up, don't do it like this.
A new star will be born, "My Eternity's Kiss."

Rick Poepping 11/14/1995

A Treasure within your heart.

If you're alone and feeling low
There's somewhere special you can go.
Even though it's small in size
It's safe and quiet, please realize.

Look inside the depths of your heart
For that is where the healing will start.
Within your heart is where we treasure
The untold memories without measure.

We reminisce days gone by
Quietly we begin to cry.
With sorrow now, we bow our head

Don't stop those tears you now shed.

Let them flow down your cheeks
Listen close as your heart speaks.
Think of the special times you've had
Ponder them, not the sad.

Remember the twinkle in her eye
Remember the sound of her little sigh.
Remember the way her smile she'd send
Remember the way she'd call you friend.

Don't think one day you might forget her
Whenever your sad, lonely, remember
You have a place set apart
It's that special spot within your heart.

Her memory will live on in there
For now, she's in God's great care.
Through this poem may you find
That only God gives PEACE of mind.

Written in loving memory of Melissa Poepping
by Connie Jerome

Friends Contributions

The question of life,
So be it, or let it be?
Only given one then,
Sent off to be free.
Again the question of life,
Is this how it's supposed to be?
Or is my critical condition
Just a fantasy?
I ask these questions
Because my life is at stake.
On account of maybe.
Some of my mistakes.
My precious thing
Is almost gone
And I'm in misery,
Because I'm afraid
My life may not go on.
Only fifteen and everything
Has happened so fast.
Now my eyes are open wide to the world
And I want my life to last.
Once more and maybe the last,
The question of life,
Do I just lay here
And let it pass?
God I'm trying to fight
As hard as I can.
I hope everyone
Can understand.
Well it's done now
My time is up.
Perhaps maybe,
It was for the best.
I tried so very hard
I put myself to the test.
I'm happy now
And I'm free.
But still value
Your life
Because you only get one,
Not two.. not three.

In loving memory of Melissa Ann Poepping 1980-1995
By Angie Susag

You had many dreams,
dreams of this night,
dreams of this wreck,
you knew it was coming,
you told me.

I could have done something,
I could have prevented this,
You should have left with me,
but an argument kept us apart,
apart forever!

Leaving you minutes before,
not knowing what was in store,
If only I'd known,
I would have said so many things,
I would have told you I loved you.

I passed him on the road,
but I didn't know,
I looked in my rearview mirror,
You were there,
And then you weren't.

I lie in bed thinking of you,
Thinking of the many memories we shared,
Is this all I have left?
How could this be!

In disbelief,
I stood and watched you in Great Falls,
Waiting for you to wake up,
Thinking you may never,
Watching you slip away.

I would have helped you if I could,
I prayed to God to let you live,
To take me instead,
You didn't deserve this,
You did nothing.

I watched a tear run down your face,
You squeezed my hand and moved your elbow,
was that a sign?
Were you saying goodbye?
Or was God taking you at that very moment?

Why your life,
Why not his,
that's all I want to know,
Why? My question will be left unanswered.

Friendships with stand the most greatest tasks,
so I will meet with you again,
someday in Heaven,
But until then, I will say goodbye,
You will never leave my most precious thoughts,
You're in my heart to stay,
but, how long is Forever?

by: Kari Langley.

Well, I'm sorry to all of you if you found this story sad =/ It is a very very sad story.. and I still miss her lots.. I don't think of her as often as I used to.. and I almost feel guilty, which I know I shouldn't.. But like now, when I'm thinking of her.. I just cry... and reading all this stuff is making me cry :) But.. it's a good cry in a way.. I remember all of our good times together.. At her house.. while skipping school *Sad smile* She was a great person.. She really was.. Fun loving, and very cool to be with.. *smile* I miss her. And I probably always will. And I've always wanted the world to know about her. She's in my signature in my emails. And she's now on my webpage. I have a folder full of newspaper clippings and stuff. And she's in my heart. From now and forever.. If you have any comments on this page, please let me know. Email me. I hope to hear from people. And another thing.. don't drink and drive please.. Thanks for taking the time to read this.. I hope in some small way Melissa can touch your heart like she did mine.

And to let you know about Norm.. he spent a very short time in prison.. He was there about one year before they let him go.. the only satisfaction one can have, is he lost his business.. Actually.. two days after Melissa died.. i was late to school.. and I had to walk.. and 4 houses down my street.. was a sign.. "Norm Realities" I lost it.. I kicked it as hard as i could, and I ripped it out and threw it in a dumpster.. *laugh* sounds funny now.. But i was so mad. I couldn't think. And that was the last thing I needed to see at that time. Oh well.. if I ever run into Norm.... Well, he just better hope I never do.

Paige Mandera 4-3-97

Well it's been a long long time now. Over 2 and a half years. Life goes on, and people get over things. Even to the point where some of the people most upset over Melissa are now themselves out drinking and driving. Will it ever end? I don't know. I just hate to see it happen again. I don't think about Melissa as often.. we talk about her sometimes, when something comes up about the old days.. sometimes she just slips into normal conversation. I guess we'll always have that, forever. Though as time passes it seems to be less and less that I think of her. But I'll never forget her. Anyhow, I just felt the need to write. I think I'll try to get some pictures scanned of her and Catie =)

5/28/98 Paige Mandera

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last updated: 5/28/98