Northeast Kansas town reeling after 4 young people die in crashes

VALLEY FALLS — Residents of this rural community in northeast Kansas are trying to deal with the loss of four young people who were killed in recent traffic accidents.

A 19-year-old woman died in a one-car crash Monday. Less than 48 hours later, another crash left three young sisters dead. All the victims were from small towns in Jefferson County.

"This whole community is numb," Valley Falls resident John Shipley told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Beverly Bledsoe, 19, of Valley Falls, died Monday about two miles northeast of Rock Creek, after the car she was driving entered a ditch and struck a tree.

Then early Wednesday, a vehicle driven by Stephanie Spencer, 33, collided with a sport utility vehicle at an intersection in Jefferson County. Katelynn Spencer, 8, and Alissa Spencer, 5, died at the scene. Their sister, Madelynn Spencer, 4, died Thursday at a Kansas City hospital.

Stephanie Spencer, the children's mother, is hospitalized in Topeka.

Beverly Bledsoe, who graduated in 2008 from Valley Falls High School, recently completed cosmetology school and worked in Topeka. Valley Falls has about 1,200 residents.

Jody Lockhart, of Valley Falls, said she remembered the special relationship Bledsoe had with her grandparents, who were longtime Valley Falls residents. Her grandfather was the town's police chief for many years, and her grandmother was a seamstress.

The Spencer family lives in Meriden but attended school in the Valley Falls school district. Meriden has about 700 residents.

Loren Feldkamp, the school district superintendent, said it was easy to tell the three were sisters, not only with their equally bubbly, friendly personalities, but by their looks.

"Truly the thing I'll remember about the girls is their smile," he said.