A small group gathered in front of the Douglas County Courthouse on Monday, April 19, to remember Brianna (Vande Venter) Holecek.
The Superior woman died June 11 at age 36 from an overdose caused by the combined effect of fentanyl and ethanol. A Duluth man, Jeffery Paul Linder, has been charged with first-degree reckless homicide for allegedly providing her with the fentanyl.
Organized by Brianna’s mother, Barb Vande Venter, the gathering was a cry for justice.
“Justice for all the people that this happens to and the young Native girls, how unfair it is that her life is gone because of this,” Vande Venter said.
Family friend Jerry Gaylord said it was important to raise awareness about addiction, as well.
“A lot of people look the other way until it hits close to home,” Gaylord said.
Mostly, it was a time to remember Holecek, who was a daughter, mother, sister, friend. She can no longer tickle her niece, lend a helping hand to others or take her son, Killian, 5, to the park.
“She was my only daughter. She came out and she looked at me, and it seemed like she smiled,” said Vande Venter, who lives in Duluth. “Ever since then we’ve been so close. As she grew up she came to be my best friend.”
Holecek grew up in Ashland, where she was a high school cheerleader. She married a Minnesota man, Adam Holecek. He died in a car crash when their son, Killian, was just a few months old.
“She was having a hard time coping,” Vande Venter said. “She hid a lot from me and I put her in treatment just before she died.”
She said Brianna went through treatment twice, but was pulled back into drug use by people around her.
“She fought with it but she covered it up so good," Vande Venter said. "It was her life but addiction’s so hard.”
Brianna loved her son more than life, she said.
“We see her every day in him,” Gaylord said.
Vande Venter has attended Linder’s court cases. The Duluth man was scheduled to appear in Douglas County Circuit Court on Friday, April 23, but his attorney filed a request Thursday, April 22, asking for a different judge to hear the case, according to online court records.
“I definitely want justice and more peace. I think of her every day and night. It’s getting better, but all of this is kind of bringing it up,” Vande Venter said.
She said she wanted her daughter to be remembered.
“I want to be open about it. I think Brianna, it would make her smile, because she doesn’t want to see me sad the rest of my life,” Vande Venter said.