Thirteen years have passed and Sandy Keck is still waiting.
Waiting for someone to come forward with any information that might help investigators determine who killed her mother.
Waiting to see whoever killed her mom brought to justice.
And waiting for closure.
Almost a decade and half has passed since Jeanne Feyerherm Kassebaum was found dead in a Jacuzzi in her West Point home. She was only 54.
“She was very young to be taken from us, that’s for sure,” said Keck, who lives in Omaha.
Keck describes her mom as a creative person.
“She had a knack for decorating and designing. Her home was impeccable. Everybody said it looked like a page out of a magazine,” Keck said.
Feyerherm Kassebaum was also particular about her appearance.
“She had a great sense of style … she always looked fabulous,” Keck said.
Years before her death, Feyerherm Kassebaum was married and living in Iowa. After that marriage ended in divorce, Feyerherm Kassebaum moved to Omaha where she worked as a manager at Mangelsen’s. Keck said her mom helped that business grow, but wanted to move back to her hometown.
So she returned to West Point and began working at the Scribner Bank. She married Gary Kassebaum, someone she’d known for years and who was a good friend of a relative. Keck said they were married for about five years, during which he bought Boomers Lounge, a strip club in Fremont.
Keck said her mom hadn’t wanted him to buy the business and their relationship began to deteriorate. They were estranged at the time of her death in August 1999.
Feyerherm Kassebaum lived in Cottonwood Chimes, a lake development north of West Point. On Aug. 21 -- a Saturday — she didn’t show up for work at the bank.
“She was never late,” Keck said.
So when she didn’t arrive, bank employees called a relative. Family found Feyerherm Kassebaum in the Jacuzzi.
At first, local police thought she must have slipped and fallen into the tub.
“We knew it was more than that,” Keck said. “We knew it was not an accident.
“I know my mom,” Keck continued. “She never used that tub. She hated cleaning it.”
What’s more, her mother had just had her hair done the night before in Omaha, Keck said. She wasn’t one to take a bath the next day after an appointment -- and if she did it would have been in regular tub in the guest bathroom.
“Within 24 hours, we got the State Patrol involved,” she said.
A couple days after her funeral, authorities told family members that Feyerherm Kassebaum’s death was a homicide.
That was no surprise to Keck who saw marks on her mother’s neck that a mortician had respectfully tried to cover with makeup.
Years passed. The investigation ended up in a cold case file. Each time a new investigator took on the case, he’d have a stack of files to go through.
“I’ve worked with a number of investigators,” Keck said.
Most recently, Nebraska State Patrol investigator Melanie Lueders has taken on the case.
“We continue to press on and hopefully continue to follow leads and eventually get the person responsible behind bars,” she said.
Lueders thinks many people may not realize the case hasn’t been solved. Enough time has passed that people who didn’t want to come forward with information years ago may decide to do so now.
“Some people might think the information they have is so minute that it wouldn’t help anyway. We just want them to know that any information could be what it takes to solve the case,” Lueders said.
Lueders wants to solve the case.
“Jeanne deserves justice,” she said. “She and her family deserve to have justice for what’s happened to her.”
Feyerherm Kassebaum’s death has been tough for her family members, which include grandchildren, siblings, godchildren and Keck’s cousins.
“She was the glue in our family,” Keck said. “She made every holiday an event … Everything was a special occasion. She knew what everyone was doing and made everyone feel special. It’s never been the same without her.”
Keck has missed being able to pick up the phone and talk to her mom. She thinks about holidays they didn’t get to spend together and trips they never took. Her mom wasn’t around to see grandchildren graduate from high school. She won’t be here to help Keck plan her daughter’s wedding someday.
“She’s missed so many things and we’ve missed so much of what she was to us,” Keck said.
Keck hopes people come forward with information. The family is offering a $30,000 reward to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and conviction. The State Patrol is offering a reward of up to $1,000.
Those who have information that might help in solving this case are asked to call the statewide Crime Stoppers number at 1-800-422-1492 or log onto the Nebraska Crime Stoppers website at www.nebraskacrimestoppers.com. People can remain anonymous.
In the meantime, Keck continues to wait.
“There’s a hole in my heart that won’t ever go away,” she said. “And as strange as it sounds, the anger is what keeps me going. You get sad and you just want to give up, but the anger isn’t going to go away. She was wrongfully taken from us and we’re not going to quit until we have justice for her.”