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Child who survived family’s slaying put in custody of Swedish relatives

July 2, 1997

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A 2-year-old boy who survived a carjacking in which his parents and sister were killed will live with his aunt in Sweden, a chancellor ruled Tuesday.

Peter Lillelid was shot twice in the April 6 attack, losing an eye and suffering a spinal cord injury that has forced him to learn how to walk again.

Chancellor Fred McDonald said Tuesday that Peter should be raised by Randi Heier, a day care provider, and her husband, Ode Heier, a commuter airline pilot, of Stockholm.

``It was hard to believe that this is possible,″ Mrs. Heier said at the conclusion of the four-day hearing. ``Of course, I was very, very happy.″

McDonald said he chose the Heiers over the deceased mother’s American relatives because the Heiers’ stable family life and devout faith in the Jehovah’s Witness religion would give the boy a life most like what his parents sought for him.

Also, Peter will be treated at the Nobel Prize-affiliated Karolinsk Institute, where actor Christopher Reeve received treatment. Reeve wrote the court to recommend that the boy be treated there.

The Heiers had not met Peter before the slayings.

Peter’s family was returning from a religious conference when they were carjacked at a rest stop. His parents, Vidar and Delfina Lillelid, were found dead in a muddy ditch. His 6-year-old sister, Tabitha, died from gunshot wounds soon after.

Six young people ranging from 14 to 20, all from the Paintsville, Ky., area, were arrested days later trying to get into Mexico in the Lillelid’s van.

They remain in custody on murder charges in Tennessee.

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