The executive board of the Carole Sund-Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation on Friday voted to end a decade of offering rewards and victim advocacy in missing persons cases, shifting its support to the Laci & Conner Search and Rescue Fund, which it sponsors.
The foundation no longer will post new rewards or provide victims services, said Philip Trompetter, the board's chairman. It will honor outstanding rewards until they expire.
"It is our intention to take our assets and establish an endowment for the Laci & Conner Search and Rescue Fund," he said. "It's a program that is already within our foundation (Sund-Carrington)."
The change is contingent upon meeting the Internal Revenue Service's rules and regulations involving nonprofit groups, Trompetter said.
The foundation suffered a blow last week when founders Francis and Carole Carrington announced they no longer will give money to the foundation they started after the murders of their daughter, Carole Sund, granddaughter Juli Sund and family friend Silvina Pelosso of Argentina during a sightseeing trip to Yosemite National Park in 1999.
The Carringtons, both well into their 70s, are retiring and moving from California to southern Nevada. They've provided nearly half of the foundation's income for the past decade, including a $120,000 contribution in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Their investment holdings include shopping centers, some of which are experiencing vacancies because of the recession, Francis Carrington said.
Replacing the Carringtons' contributions in this economy would be extremely difficult, if not impossible. So their decision enables the foundation to keep its name, board structure and nonprofit status, leaving open the possibility of someday resuming its original functions. At the same time, it spares Sharon Rocha who started the search and rescue foundation to honor Laci and Conner Peterson, her slain daughter and unborn grandson the headache of having to find a home within another nonprofit organization or bear the legal expense of starting her own.
The search and rescue arm provides financial assistance to law enforcement agencies and nonprofit groups involved in searches and rescues, with the purpose of better equipping and training personnel who respond in missing persons cases.
"This is a rather elegant way of dissolving the services that created the financial liability we could no longer support," said Trompetter, adding that the board vote was 10 to 1. "We'll be able to use our assets for a very important program that will help people."
It's a bittersweet solution for Rocha, who is a member of the Sund-Carrington board and relied on the agency and former head Kim Petersen throughout the case that led to the murder conviction of Rocha's son-in-law, Scott Peterson, in 2004. She abstained from Friday's vote.
"I'm a little overwhelmed right now," Rocha said. "Since (search and rescue) is a program of Sund-Carrington, it's one way to keep it going. It's a very generous offer and idea. But it's also very sad. (The foundation has) been there for 10 years and they've done wonderful things."
The foundation has posted rewards in 48 states, paying 47 rewards totaling $250,000.
During an interview last week, Francis Carrington said Amber Alerts and agencies such as the national centers for missing children and adults now get the word out quickly whenever someone is reported missing. And with numerous cable TV shows dedicated to covering crime and cases, the media play the very role he envisioned when the Carringtons formed the foundation.
"If something happens, everybody's all over it right now," he said.
But what set the Sund-Carrington Foundation apart was the way its staff supported the families of missing persons emotionally and in dealing with law enforcement, the court system and the media. The foundation also staged candlelight vigils to draw attention to the cases.
"They have definitely helped lots of families, lots of people who didn't know where to turn," Rocha said. "That was me, and I have seen and met so many just like me since. I can't say enough for the Carringtons, not only for their financial support but for their moral support."
Jeff Jardine can be reached at 578-2383 or firstname.lastname@example.org.