Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Two Years Gone, But Not Forgotten

This post is in memory of eight people, ranging in age from two to ninety-three years old, who were killed two years ago this week. When these people died they were going about their everyday lives, they weren't committing crimes or engaging in risky behavior, they just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. This could have just as easily been you or me, or someone we love.

All eight were killed in an alleged week-long killing spree that spanned Illinois and Missouri. One person has been charged for all of their deaths, but this post is not about him. When these cases go to trial, as is often the case in our legal system, the eight people will be memorialized as victims. I want to share a little bit about who each of  these people were when  they were living, the way they should be remembered.

I found most of the information for this post at a website for The Major Case Squad of Greater St. Louis although this story was originally published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch (online edition), on July 04, 2008. I listed the people in the order (by day) that they are believed to have been killed, even though all but Mr. Reed were found on the same day.

Russell Reed
Found June 26, Sterling

Nearly every morning, 93-year-old Russell Reed drove his Buick 10 miles from his farm outside Sterling, Ill., to the town hangout, the Red Apple Restaurant. He always sat in the same booth, between the cash register and the pie safe. :)

Reed farmed and lived on the same land for 70 years, and he and his wife Evelyn reared two sons, Lyle and Donnie.

Reed liked the outdoors and gardening. He didn’t bother to use the few working locks on his century-old farmhouse. “It wasn’t important to him,” Donnie said. “At his age, with his mentality, why would you have to?”

Ronald Randall
Found June 30, Galesburg

Ronald Randall, 65, known as “Ronnie,” worked at the Maytag refrigerator plant for nearly 31 years before retiring in 2004, when the plant was closed. He has one daughter, Cari and three sisters.

 He loved the Dallas Cowboys and enjoyed playing paintball. 

Randall was known for decorating his yard  with lighthouses. Shortly before his death, he told friend Connie Clague of bigger plans.“He found a carpenter who was going to build a 6-foot lighthouse for his front yard,” Clague told the Galesburg Register-Mail.

“He was just a wonderful person,” Clague said.


Brock Branson
Found June 30, Rock Falls

Brock Branson, 29, loved life on the road. He had been a trucker for five years, running routes between Illinois and California, said his mother, Connie Branson.

“He didn’t want to feel tied down to a job,” she said. “It was kind of a freedom thing.”

At a Utah truck stop, he met a cashier named Kilynna Blake. He moved to Utah to be with her and her toddler son, Dayan. In April, they moved to Rock Falls, Ill., to be closer to Branson’s family and
his daughter, 10.

They rented an apartment and talked about marriage. Branson took a job as a roofer to have more time with Kilynna and Dayan. 
“He was really getting it together,” his mother said. “We were really proud of him.”


Kilynna and Dayan Blake
Found June 30, Rock Falls

Kilynna Blake, 20 - Ki to her friends -  was the life of the party, said her sister, Gleniecia Lewis.

Kilynna gave birth to her son Dayan, at age 18. She had to quickly adjust to being a single mom but managed it with grace, Lewis said: “We all knew she was going to be able to handle it herself.”

When she met Branson at a southern Utah truck stop, Lewis was skeptical of her sister’s new beau. But Branson won her over. “He was just a sweet guy. He was different than anyone else,” Lewis said. “I could tell they were going to be good for each other.”

Dayan Blake, son of Kilynna Blake,  celebrated his second birthday in his new home in Rock Falls shortly before his death. He was growing closer to his mom’s boyfriend and had recently started calling Branson “Dad,” said Branson’s mother.

“He was a happy boy,” said his aunt, Gleniecia Lewis. “He was always running around, wanting to do this, this and this all at the same time.”

Daniel Jones, Dayan’s father, told The Salt Lake Tribune his son’s death, “has left me in a daze.”
no photo available
Kenneth Ulve
Found June 30, Rock Falls

Kenneth Ulve, 25, grew up in Milledgville, Ill., about 20 minutes from the apartment where he was killed.

Described as “the kind of kid who kept to himself,” Ulve continued his family’s carpentry tradition, said his uncle, Rick Ulve.

Ulve enjoyed spending time with his toddler son.

A roofer, Ulve was living temporarily with Branson and Blake. He was days away from moving to a new place, his uncle said.

“He was just a nice kid who was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Rick Ulve said.


Tom and Jill Estes
Found June 30

Tom and Jill Estes, both 54, married 35 years ago in St. Louis. They have family in the St. Louis area, but built a happy life in Sherwood, Ark., a suburb of Little Rock.

He worked for the Union Pacific Railroad. She worked with special-needs pupils at an elementary school. Together, they groomed their immaculate front yard.
After retiring, they wanted to travel more in Tom’s red 2007 Corvette.

“They were a happy little couple who enjoyed each other’s company,” said Kristine Rodgers, a former co-worker of Jill Estes. They have a grown daughter and son in Arkansas, and a grandson.

“Tom was the Wizard of Oz, the man behind the curtain, who kept everything in working order,” the family said in an obituary.

Friends recall Jill Estes as compassionate to people, animals, even bugs — which she released outside. “If it breathes and moves, she was pretty much trying to take care of it,” Rodgers said. 

Please let me know if there are any corrections or additions that need to be made to this post.         
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  1. Hello Dear Kat

    Thank you for the poignant reminder of why we follow these cases and the tragedy left behind in the wake of these monsters.

    I hope you got to spend some time with your sister, even tho the reason for her visit is sad - glad it seems to be working for the right reason.

    So sorry to hear about the loss of your friend (LL), but glad her family got to spend some time with her before she passed.

    Take care dear friend. (((HUGS))) Cath

  2. Katfish,
    As a family member of one of the victims; I'd like to thank you for the remembrance of all of the victims. Still unbelievable..........and sad. "Enjoy each day as it is a gift from Above"

  3. Anonymous 7/21

    Thank you for stopping by.....you all remain in my heart and prayers.

  4. thank u for the rememberance of them I greatly miss my good friend ki and dayon and will never forget anything and not a minute i had with them i love you guys

  5. alexis c, I can't begin to understand the depths of sorrow felt by all who are survived by this group of people....all I can say is you and they remain in my thoughts and prayers.
    A friend of Ki's sent me a group of pictures of Ki and Dayon a while back in the hope that they will be remembered as they lived and not how they died...I treasure those pictures to this day....Ki had a wonderful smile and a sparkle in her eye that showed her zest for life....I don't know what to say about Dayan....but that he was a typical 2 year old boy who no doubt lit up the room around him. So sorry for your loss...I hope time and your wonderful memories will be able to wash away some of the pain.