An arrest has been made in the 1999 murder of a Council Bluffs woman.
On Friday, Council Bluffs police detectives requested and were granted an arrest warrant for Matt W. Kennedy, accusing him of first-degree murder. Detectives allege that Kennedy was involved in the brutal murder of his stepsister, Kimberly M. Ratliff, the Council Bluffs Police Department said in a press release.
Matt Kennedy, 52, is a resident of Fairfield, Montana; he was living in Council Bluffs at the time of the murder.
Kennedy was taken into custody and is being held in the Teton County Jail, pending extradition to Iowa. The case remains an active investigation, police said.
Police also said no further information will be released regarding Kennedy’s arrest until he is back in Iowa.
The long-standing cold case has drawn a great deal of interest from the public over a two-decade span. In the year following the murder, police reported that they had a strong feeling about who the perpetrator of the crime was; however, charges were never levied.
“We have strong suspicions on who committed the crime or who was involved, but in a criminal case the prosecution has a tremendous burden of proof and, right now, we don’t have enough to back up our suspicions in court,” said then-Capt. Lindsay Andersen, head of the detective division, during a 2000 interview with the Omaha World-Herald.
On the morning of Jan. 12, 1999, Ratliff was discovered inside her white 1988 Plymouth Sundance, which had been abandoned in the 1400 block of West Broadway. After being missing for about three-and-a-half days, the 22-year-old’s body was found by a Peoples Natural Gas employee who was clearing snow from the sidewalk bordering the business’ Council Bluffs offices, according to World-Herald archives.
Ratliff’s body was found sprawled across the front seat, her throat slashed, according to archive reports.
She was last seen alive when she got off work from Airlite Plastics Co., an Omaha business, around 11:30 on a Friday evening. Her mother, Joyce Kennedy, and Matt Kennedy both worked for the company at the time as well.
Prior to her death, Ratliff lived with her mother and stepfather, Les Kennedy, near Third Street and 16th Avenue. Ratliff was a 1995 graduate of Lewis Central High School and took courses at the Nebraska College of Business to become a paralegal but dropped out after about a year, according to archive stories.
Jacque Ratliff, Kimberly Ratliff’s father, told the Nonpareil in 2016 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 deserved an ending to her story.
“I still believe justice will take place. I really do,” he said at the time.
Joyce Kennedy told the World-Herald in 2008 she didn’t want to discuss the case at length because it was too painful, saying, “It gets harder and harder every year.”
Messages from the Nonpareil to the Council Bluffs Police Department and Pottawattamie County Attorney’s Office weren’t immediately returned.