Brother of Waterloo murder victim reacts to killer's death in pr - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Brother of Waterloo murder victim reacts to killer's death in prison

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After 43 years, a grieving family is breathing a new sign of relief. The former Waterloo family is resting easier knowing the convicted killer of their two-year-old has died in prison. 

Authorities say 71-year-old Russell Fitz died Sunday while serving a life sentence for killing Michelle Day in June 1974. The Iowa Corrections Department said Fitz died Sunday at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center in Coralville. He'd been assigned there because of his chronic illness.

Fitz was charged with first-degree murder for the slaying of Michelle Day in June 1974. A detective found her body in a crawl space over Fitz's apartment bathroom. She'd been strangled.

The Day family now lives in Rockford, Illinois. Roger Day, Michelle's brother, was just four years old when his sister went missing. At the time, Day was too young to comprehend what was happening.

"I didn't quite understand what was going on," said Day. 

As he grew older, his parents told him what happened. 

"I just couldn't believe how somebody could do something like that," said Day. 

Michelle's body was found in a crawl space over Russell Fitz's apartment bathroom. Fitz was later convicted with first degree murder and since then has been serving a life sentence in prison. Day says the murder ripped his family apart, causing his parents to eventually divorce. 

"Alone, and left to fend for myself, and left to figure out life by myself," said Day after his parents divorced. 

When Day was in his twenties, he wrote to Fitz in prison. 

"How somebody could murder a two year old, that's all I wanted to know," said Day

Months later, Fitz wrote back.

"It was a pretty thick envelope, so I opened it and it was just three pages of made up garbage," said Day. "He was in denial. He was framed and he knew the person who did it."

Day knew he wasn't going to get an answer, so he cut Fitz off and he tried to move on. 

More than 40 years later, the apartment complex where they found Michelle's body still stands, but Day says what gives their family closure is knowing that Fitz is gone. 

"It brings a sigh of relief to me-that I'm glad that now, you know, he has to face his real judge," said Day. "That's what feels good, my sister's going to get real justice."

Since then, Day has used his story to help other who are grieving. He's worked with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Over the years. Day has become close to the Collins family, after Evansdale cousins Lyrics and Elizabeth went missing. 

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