No one has given up hope.
Tuesday will be the 17th anniversary of Kimberly Ratliff being found dead in a car in the parking lot at People’s Natural Gas on West Broadway. She was 22.
Since she was discovered with a laceration across her neck, no arrests have been made in the case, but no one from family members to Council Bluffs Police Department detectives have given up on finding Ratliff’s killer.
“Technology is on our side,” said Council Bluffs Police Department Sgt. Chad Meyers. “Each year, it takes less and less of a DNA sample for us to detect. We currently have some of the evidence that was submitted at the time at the state lab being retested, looking for a foreign DNA sample.”
While Ratliff was found at People’s Natural Gas – now Black Hills Energy – police don’t believe she was killed there.
According to iowacoldcases.org, Ratliff was last seen the night of Jan. 8 and likely killed one day later. Meyers said detectives don’t believe Jan. 9 was the day Ratliff died or, at least, they don’t have evidence that gives a definitive time of death.
Meyers did say that Ratliff’s body being moved from the original crime scene has made the case more difficult to solve, but he still believes it’s a solvable case. Meyers, who helps with numerous local cold cases, said unlike unsolved murders from the 60s, 70s and earlier, the person or people who committed the crime are likely still alive as are possible witnesses.
Ratliff’s father and stepfather both believe they know who killed Kimberly.
Jacque Ratliff is Kimberly’s father. He was married to Joyce for 10 years before they got divorced and she married Les Kennedy. Kimberly was their youngest child and was six when Joyce got remarried to Les Kennedy.
Jacque Ratliff, who lives in South Dakota, was living in Omaha when Kimberly was found dead on Jan. 12, 1999. He said he blames Les Kennedy. While he believes that Kennedy is responsible, he also knows why Kennedy isn’t behind bars.
“He could take a polygraph, look you in the eye and tell you whatever he wants,” Jacque Ratliff said. “I don’t trust him, and I never have. I can read people. My mom taught me how to read people.”
Council Bluffs Police Department Sgt. Doug Mann said there are no main suspects and that no one from the group of potential suspects have been ruled out.
While the police department has never ruled Kennedy out as a suspect, Meyers said they aren’t out to indict him either.
“Anytime something like this happens, you‘re going to look at family members,” Meyers said. “We have a pool of suspects, and we haven’t, so far, excluded anyone from that, but as far as naming someone our top suspect – we can’t do that.”
“We aren’t out to persecute Les,” Meyers said. “Like I said, we have a pool of suspects, and we haven’t excluded anyone yet from them.”
Jacque Ratliff said he still struggles to sleep at night because memories of taking Kimberly to the park pop into his head. He said he remembers her as a happy person, who deserves an ending to her story.
“I still believe justice will take place. I really do,” he said. “Either by the police or by me.”
When asked if he has faith in the detectives working on the case, he said, “I don’t have faith in them.”
Les Kennedy also said Friday that he knows who the people are behind Kimberly’s death. He said he has given the names to detectives. He said his attorney told him that he can’t share those names publicly.
Meyers said the department still gets tips from time to time even after almost 17 years. “We will get tips, and, if anyone one of those mention a specific place, we do extensive follow-up on that,” Meyers said. “Just recently, we have removed flooring from a potential murder site. We were looking for blood evidence.”
Anyone with information about Kimberly Ratliff’s unsolved murder is asked to contact Mann at the Council Bluffs Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at (712) 326-2507 or call Crime Stoppers at (712) 328-7876.
For years after Kimberly’s death, Kennedy worked with police and offered a reward for information. He said he stopped doing that because it has become a waste of time.
Kennedy said he hopes Tuesday will be a peaceful day for his wife, Joyce.
“This has been a major, emotional case for us from the very beginning until now,” Kennedy said.