Saturday, April 27, 2024

"The Silent City of the Dead"

A Twist of Fate

By Robert A. Waters


On April 16, 1960, a mild spring day in middle Tennessee, a seventeen-year-old girl walked toward the Duck River (pictured below) carrying a fishing rod and a can of worms. Given the nice weather, fish should be biting, she thought. Bass, perch, catfish, maybe even a rainbow trout might be tempted by her bait. But while fishing would be fun, she had confided to friends her real motive was to get a suntan.

In a twist of fate, her brother had planned to drive her to the river, but the family's car wouldn't start. So the shy country girl decided to hike the four miles to the river. 

She never returned home. Late that afternoon, her mother reported her missing. As the investigation began, three residents who knew the girl reported seeing her walking toward the river. They told investigators she wore red shorts and carried a rod and reel. 

"Searchers beat through miles of rugged backwoods near here yesterday," the Nashville Tennessean reported, "without finding a trace of a pretty blonde teenage girl who vanished Wednesday. More than 50 persons searched on the ground and from the air for Anna Kelnhofer...National Guardsmen also checked an empty house at Devil's Backbone, a ridge along the Duck River a few miles east of Riley Creek Road. They also checked a burned house in a small field spotted by a CAP plane."

Coffee County Sheriff Dan Daniel seemed perplexed. "You can't help but think there was foul play," he said. "You look at it any way you want to, and you come up with the same thing." In addition to the sheriff's department, the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Identification joined the search.

The area Anna walked was sparsely populated. A few houses lay scattered along the road, but as it neared the river, craggy outcrops appeared in the heavily forested terrain. 

According to friends, Anna seemed happy one day and depressed the next. A few days before, she'd broken up with her boyfriend. Then she decided to quit school. Friends told cops she could be "moody" at times. Years later, someone would coin the term teenage angst, but in the early 1960s, her attitude seemed relatively normal.

Anna's father, Harold Kelnhofer, employed by the U. S. army corps of engineers in Seattle, Washington, was said to be flying back home to join the hunt.

For two days, the search continued. In frustration, Daniels called in the Tullahoma National Guard, the Civil Air Patrol, boy scouts, and dozens of volunteers.

The Rod and Reel

On the second day of the search, Fred Hickerson, of Tullahoma, a city of 12,000, reported to police that Arthur Roger Ivey, a local insurance salesman, had given him a rod and reel. Detectives soon determined it was the same one Anna had carried. Hickerson said Ivey had first attempted to sell it for $2.00 at a pawn shop, but was unsuccessful.

Cops quickly descended on Ivey.

As they interrogated the suspect, he quickly broke. The Tennessean reported that "Ivey said he hit the girl accidentally, then panicked, piled her body into the trunk of his car, and drove to the old military reservation." (Camp Forrest, one of the army's largest military bases during World War II, had long been abandoned and was now undergoing new forest growth.) Investigators went to the location where Ivey said he ran into the girl, but saw no skid marks or disturbances on or near the road. In addition, they found no damage to Ivey's vehicle.

Ivey led cops to Camp Forrest, eight miles from Tullahoma. There he pointed out the gravesite where he buried the girl. She lay in a shallow grave, covered by brush and trash. After finding the victim, detectives charged Ivey with first degree murder and ordered him held without bail. 

Dr. W. J. Core performed the autopsy. He stated that in his opinion "the pretty young girl died as a result of a fractured skull caused by repeated blows on the head by a heavy, jagged instrument...Dr. Core, who said he examined the body six and a half days after death, said he discovered brush and thorn marks on Miss Kelnhofer's legs which strongly indicated to him that she had been running through heavy brush just prior to her death." Dr. Core found no broken bones or other injuries to her body, except for the head area.

He said he could not tell if she had been sexually assaulted because of decomposition. 

The Trials

At trial, Special Prosecutor Walter "Pete" Haynes stated that only two people know for sure what happened. One is Ivey, he said. The other is Anna Kelnhofer, who now "sleeps in the silent city of the dead."

The prosecution theorized that Ivey was driving his insurance route when he saw Kelnhofer walking toward the Duck River. He offered the pretty teen a ride, which she accepted, then drove her to Camp Forrest. There, according to the prosecution, he likely made sexual advances toward Kelnhofer and she resisted. At some point, she escaped from his vehicle and fled through the woods. Ivey chased her down and struck her with a tire iron or possibly a rock. Then he hastily buried her.

Jurors convicted Arthur Roger Ivey of the first degree murder of Anna Kelnhofer and he received a sentence of 99 years. 

But in 1963, the State Supreme Court overturned Ivey's conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the presiding judge in the first trial "erred in allowing testimony on Ivey's moral character to be introduced." In the first trial, two women testified that they'd had affairs with the defendant. This testimony was meant to convince jurors that Ivey wanted to have sexual relations with Kelnhofer and her rejection was the motive for he murder.

In the second trial, Ivey's attorneys convinced a new set of jurors that he had indeed accidentally hit Kelnhofer with his car and, in a panic, hid the body. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to one-to-five years. 

Ivy was released from prison  in 1966.

He died in 2001, a free man. 

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Be Careful, It's Dangerous Out There

True Stories of Robbers Who Faced Instant Justice

By Robert A. Waters

California Robbers Learn a Hard Lesson

So two career criminals from California thought it might be a good idea to travel to Springdale, Arkansas and rob a gun shop. What could go wrong?

On one frigid morning in December, 2014, Marcus Gould and Leon Roberson entered C & S Gun and Pawn. As they walked in, the duo leveled down on shop owners Clint and Shirley Cornett (pictured above). Holding a semi-automatic handgun, Gould leaped over a glass case to get behind the counters. As he did so, Shirley pulled a .38 caliber revolver from her pocket and fired three rounds. Gould, hit in the shoulder, turned and fired at Shirley as she took cover behind the counter. The robbers, deciding the heist was not such a good idea, fled.

The Californians jumped into Roberson's car and took off for Fort Smith. There, he deposited Gould at a local hospital. But he soon returned to check on his buddy and both were arrested. Shirley, who was grazed by one of Gould's rounds, was not charged with any crime. Both men faced Attempted Capital Murder charges as well as Aggravated Robbery counts. At trial, each got 37 years in the Arkansas State Prison system.

Uber Driver Kills Armed Robber

Early on the morning of December 18, 2016, Uber driver Namique Anderson picked up a fare from a condo in Miami, Florida. Driving a Toyota Carolla, they headed toward Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. The Sun-Sentinel reported that "as they headed west on Northeast 192nd Street, the Toyota was cut off by someone driving a newer model Dodge Caravan."

Just an hour earlier, the driver of the Caravan, Kevin DeVincent Johnson (pictured above), had committed an armed robbery. Now he jumped out of his car and walked toward the Uber driver. Holding two handguns, Johnson announced he was robbing the occupants of the Toyota. That's when Anderson pulled his own licensed firearm and fired four shots. Johnson, hit by all four rounds, crumpled to the asphalt and died. Anderson was not charged, but since Uber policy prohibits drivers from carrying firearms, he faced termination. In response, Anderson said, "Honestly, it doesn't matter if I lose the job. I have to protect my life. That's all I did."

Shotgun-Toting Robber Learns a Painful Lesson

It's amazing that Gabriel Gonzales and his two cohorts didn't notice the firearm. Maybe their masks got in the way, or maybe it was the darkness. The gun hung in plain sight, inside a holster on Zane Friend's hip. The night clerk (pictured above) at Chip's Quick Stop in Joelton, Tennessee stood outside the convenience store, taking a smoke break. A former Marine, he'd worked there for 19 years.

With Gonzales holding a stolen shotgun, the three robbers rushed Friend. Two thugs sidled up behind their intended victim while Gonzales aimed his firearm at the clerk's chest and ordered him to go back inside the store. It was over in a second. Friend pulled his weapon and fired one shot, hitting Gonzales in the abdomen. The others fled. Friend moved the shotgun to a safe place, then helped two customers who had just arrived provide first aid for the robber. Gonzales, in critical condition, was transported to Skyline Medical Center.

The robbers were suspected of several other armed robberies in the area. According to WZTV in Nashville, "A Clarksville teen who tried to rob a Nashville store with a shotgun but was shot by the clerk now faces federal charges." 

Monday, April 8, 2024

The Dollar Tree Murder

Random Machete Attack Stuns Law-Abiding Citizens in Middle America

By Robert A. Waters

Twenty-two-year-old Keris Riebel (pictured above) died on the cold floor of a Dollar Tree store in Upper Sandusky, Ohio on New Year's Day, 2023. She'd been slashed numerous times with a machete. As far as investigators could tell, she had no relationship with her killer.

Below is a partial transcript of the 9-1-1 call that came in at 4:25 P.M. As happens often in a state of panic, the caller seems confused, or maybe even in denial.

Dispatcher: 9-1-1. What is the address of your emergency?

Unidentified female caller: The Dollar Tree in Upper Sandusky.

Dispatcher (to responding officers): They're saying there is a guy there with an axe.

Dispatcher (to caller): Did he hurt the cashier?

Caller: She fell straight to the ground. He hit her in the back of the neck. I didn't know if it was for real or not because he walked in and said something to her and hit her and she fell to the ground and he ran out. But he didn't like try to come after us. It didn't look like a real machete.

Dispatcher: Is the guy still there or did he leave?

Caller: He walked out and is wearing all black...

The Dollar Tree where the murder occurred sat on the corner of River's Edge Lane and East Wyandot Avenue. In 2023, Upper Sandusky had a population of about 7,000 souls.

According to police, Bethel Bekele, 27, (pictured below) entered the store and "struck Riebel numerous times with the machete." She fell to the floor and Bekele continued to strike her. Within minutes, police arrived and found the young cashier dead.

Police arrested Bekele within an hour of the attack. Detectives said he quickly confessed to the crime. In addition, the murder was captured on surveillance video cameras.

What was the motive for the attack? Cops don't know. The crime seemed to be about as random as you'll get. It was likely not robbery, since no money or goods were taken. Investigators said the killer had no known criminal record. Maybe he just wanted to kill somebody. Anybody.

For many years, Dollar Tree sold all items in the store for a dollar. It was the go-to place for many working class citizens. Customers could shop for silverware, greeting cards, dinnerware and dish sets, pottery, groceries, washcloths and towels, party supplies, as well as thousands of other goods. Alas, in today's economic climate, the store has been forced to raise prices to $1.25.

Keris Riebel was well-known and well-liked in her community. According to her obituary, "Keris was a 2019 graduate of Wynford High School who actively participated in cheerleading. Her classmates remember seeing her walk through the halls with a huge smile and a Bible in her hand. Keris attended Cedarville University and later transferred to Franklin University where she received a BA in [Human Resources] Business Management." She was a member of the Antioch Christian Church.

Keris met her husband, Jordan Riebel, while working at Rural King, a retail hardware store. They had been married for only two months when Keris was murdered.

Bekele was indicted on six felony charges, including aggravated murder, and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Court documents state that he was placed in the Twin Valley Behavioral Health Care Hospital. A judge issued the following statement: "The court finds the defendant is competent to stand trial insofar as his ability to understand the nature and objectives of the proceedings against him; however, the court finds the defendant is incompetent to stand trial at this time due to his inability to assist in his own defense." 

Whatever that means.

The killer will be evaluated every six months to determine whether he has improved enough to stand trial.

The victim had a full life in front of her. She set goals and worked hard to achieve those goals--only to be savagely murdered by a random killer.