105 | “He Murdered My Aunt”

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Hey guys, this is an episode where I interview one of our Talko Supremos Abbie and she tells me about how she had to grow up living with a murder in her family.

I hope you enjoy!

The following are Abbie’s words.

Just 9 days ago ( September 24th) was the 24 year anniversary of my Aunt, Susan Pearl Kersten’s murder. I was barely 5 years old when she was killed. Some of my very first memories are of her. She was a very caring, loving, patient, down to earth woman. She was an EXTREMELY talented artist.

I can remember going to stay the night with her. She had this Felix the Cat clock hanging in her kitchen. The cat tail and eyes would move side to side, like a pendulum. She was a vegetarian and would cook the most amazing quiches (sounds like “keesh”) for breakfast. At night, she would turn on a night light, play a sound track of rain forest sounds and lay in bed with me until I fell asleep.

Being only 5 years old, I don’t know if my parents told me about what was going on. All I can remember was everyone was very somber and that was the day that my family dynamic was forever changed. 

We all gathered at Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa and we buried an urn. I knew that she was never coming back and I don’t think that I ever really processed this whole situation until I was about 16 or so. 

My emotions are all over the place. They did a beautiful job with how they portrayed her story. And the best part is the moment that they read the Miranda rights and slapped those cuff on that piece of human filth is forever captured on video. Made my damn heart skip a beat!

Steve Klein arrested and serving 15 years for the murder of Susan Kersten.

Here’s the story in a nutshell.

Sue was 38 years old and was a single mother of 4. My cousin Jason was 17, my cousin Sandra was 19, and my identical twin cousins were 15 months old. *fun fact, I have 3 sets of identical twin girls in my family.

There’s no comfortable way to tell this story so I’m just gonna go for it.

There were 2 suspects in this case. Bob Gump, her neighbor. Steve Klein, her estranged ex. boyfriend. Bob was a very mean, nasty man who was an abusive alcoholic. It was reported by one of Bob’s ex’s that he hit her so hard in the face that her jaw was broken. My Aunt had, at some point, called DHS on him, and he apparently found out. Steve was  the father of the 15 month old twin girls. Since they were no longer together, he was supposed to provide $300 a month in child support. Bob was drinking at a bar about 15 minutes away from his house until about 10:30 that night. And Steve, well he was the last person to see Sue Alive. 

I’m absolutely at a loss for words that the tipping point for this case was as simple as “then the phone went dead”. No one had ever heard about the phone going dead. The detectives and the investigators from Cold Justice re-interviewed people. My second cousin, Pam Kutcher (Yes, I’m related to Ashton Kutcher by marriage) was talking to Sue on the phone at 8:15 when she heard Steve get mad and my aunt whispered something and THEN THE PHONE WENT DEAD. Because of this new development, they know that Bob was drunk, sitting on a bar stool and that Steve was the only suspect left. That piece of flaming shit killed my aunt over $300 fucking dollars a month.

July 17th, 2015, almost 20 years later, Steve Klein was arrest, on camera, at his work. After the typical long, delayed judicial process, we got “a twisted form of justice” -quoted from my cousin Sandy- This asshole was offered an Alford Plea. He was given a 15 year sentence (plus time served) for: arson, willful injury causing serious injury and suborning perjury.

My cousins, Jason, and Sandy, still to this day haven’t seen their little sisters. After my aunts death, Steve obviously got custody of them. Since they are grown up now, to the best of my knowledge, they have heard nothing but bad things about our side of the family and essentially, we don’t exist. I do remember hearing that they were asked if they wanted to meet us and they didn’t have any desire to. Which is incredibly sad. Maybe one day they will become curious and want to meet their mother’s side of the family.

I think my cousin said it best. This really is a twisted sense of justice. We all knew the entire time that Steve was guilty, we just didn’t have the evidence to prove it. I had faith that the truth would come out in time. I think that everyone did. 

A big life lesson that I’ve come to live by is to find the blessing in every burden. As hard as it is to see my mother, my cousins and other family members have their lives flipped upside down, I always try to look at the brighter side. Jason is married with a beautiful family and is learning how to live again. He like photography and creates artwork, just like his mom did. Sandy has by far been the strongest person through all of this. She has become an advocate for victims of violent crimes. She speaks to crowds of people and helps them find hope again. She’s created a make-up line, called Beauty Decree, based off of her personal life experiences. She even worked with he former detective who helped solve the case, to have a law written in to help victims of violent crimes in Iowa. Senator Kevin Kinney invited her to share her story with the senate subcommittee at the Iowa Capital. Her story helped get the Crime Victim Compensation bill passed. I believe she even plans on writing a book. She is a true inspiration to anyone who has gone through any kind of tragedy.

-Abbie

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