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Richard Berrelez keeping promise to God, slain granddaughter after surviving cancer twice

Alie Foundation provides bloodhounds to police
Posted at 6:08 PM, Mar 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-30 03:31:27-04

DENVER -- Richard and Leticia Berrelez know the feeling of helplessness.

It's how they felt on May 18, 1993, when their 5-year-old granddaughter, Alie, was abducted and killed.

Police, using a bloodhound named Yogi, found Alie's body 4 days later. It was wrapped in a duffel bag and dropped off in Deer Creek Canyon, 14 miles from home.

"Aurora police and Jefferson County had bloodhounds," Berrelez said. "But all of them were up in Casper, Wyoming. On the third day, they got called to come back."

Berrelez said he couldn't help but think that had the bloodhounds been available on day one, it wouldn't have taken investigators 18 years to officially name a suspect.

Berrelez said family members had long suspected that neighbor Nick Stofer kidnapped and killed Alie, but police said there was no direct evidence linking him to the crime. In 2011, advances in DNA technology made it possible to connect him.

Ironically, Alie's younger brother had pointed to Stofer's apartment the day she disappeared, but the brother was only 3 years old at the time.

Stofer died of an apparent drug overdose in Phoenix before he could be brought to justice.

Alie Foundation

In the days immediately after Alie's disappearance, the family suffered, wondering where she was.

After learning that Yogi was the one who found her, they decided to buy a bloodhound that could be kept in the metro area. That was the genesis of the Alie Foundation.

"We didn't have the money to buy a dog," Berrelez said. "So we asked for donations."

The first donation that came in was a check for $1.

"I thought, 'OK, we're off to a good start here,'" he said.

In time, the foundation received enough cash to purchase two bloodhounds at $500 a piece.

Berrelez said one of them was given to the Cherry Hills Village Police Department and was used to help find a girl with Downs syndrome, who walked away from a car crash that injured her parents.

"She got lost in a blizzard," he said. "The dog found her in 30 minutes."

Berrelez told Denver7 that over the past 26 years, the foundation has provided more than 600 bloodhounds to law enforcement, many of them donated by breeders.

"I take a lot of pride in being able to do something like this," he said.

Cancer survivor

The grandfather was diagnosed with cancer twice — once in 2004 and again in 2014.

"It was stage 4 lymphoma," he said. "I had three tumors in my head and two in my kidneys. I didn't have radiation but did undergo chemotherapy."

Berrelez didn't let cancer stop him.

"No I didn't, because I thought there's a reason that I didn't die," he said.

Speaking engagement, fund raising

Now, he and his wife have been invited to speak to citizens in Laredo, Texas.

"We've been asked to bring a bloodhound," he said. "I don't have one, so we're going to stop in (suburban) San Antonio and pick one up."

When asked what it's like sharing his story, Berrelez said, "Sometimes it's hard. Sometimes I stand before the crowd and get all choked up, and then I have a hard time getting started."

He and his wife are trying to raise funds on Facebook to help defray travel expenses.

Berrelez said no matter the cost, they will go to Texas and share their story.

"We not only promised God, we promised Alie," he said. "She's gone, but we still talk to her every day, in our thoughts and prayers and we've got a job to do."