Dream dies with daughter

Tragedy compels Brownsdale restaurateur to move to Ariz.

By Aleta Capelle

The killing of his pregnant 19-year-old daughter has prompted the owner of a Brownsdale café to close the popular business and sell it at auction.

Will McElroy has returned to Mesa, Ariz., to be closer to family members and his 2-year-old grandson, Chase, who was left motherless after the death of Amanda McElroy on Jan. 23.


The Route 56 cafe will go on the auction block at 2 p.m. Saturday, cutting short a lifelong dream of McElroy’s to open a restaurant before he turned 40.

Amanda died from a gunshot wound to the back after a man carrying a gun forced his way into the Mesa condominium she shared with her boyfriend, Richard Kantorowski, 23. Amanda was 7 months pregnant and had planned to name the child, a girl, Payton. Police have a composite sketch of the intruder, but so far have no leads.

"I came here to keep the story out there," McElroy said from Mesa this week. "There are 5 million people in the valley, and people will forget if I don’t keep it out there."

He’s gone on TV and granted newspaper interviews asking for the public’s help in finding the person who killed his daughter and granddaughter.

McElroy moved to southeastern Minnesota after several of his wife’s relatives moved to the area. McElroy, long employed in the food industry, had dreamed of opening his own restaurant before his 40th birthday. About that time, events started changing that would force his hand. First, McElroy, a huge poker player, had a $50,000 win. Next, the couple received an offer of $325,000 on the home they had purchased for $132,000. The time seemed right.

When he and wife Debra decided to move, McElroy explored what restaurants were on the market. He flew to the area in October 2005 and toured 10 different restaurants.

The Brownsdale restaurant won when he learned "the people in Brownsdale really wanted the restaurant reopened," McElroy said. Plus, the owners were willing to reduce the price so that he could afford to remodel the building.

The restaurant officially opened Jan. 2, 2006. The grand opening was Jan. 7, his 40th birthday. During the ensuing year, the restaurant became very successful, McElroy said.


And while it’s hard to leave behind his dream, Amanda’s death changed everything. "After this happened, I realized what family I have is (in Arizona)," he said.

"I miss it. But I would really miss not seeing my grandson every day," McElroy said.

Aleta Capelle is a freelance writer from Spring Valley.

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