Holland cop arrested in wife's death
Saturday, January 12, 2008
By Nate Reens
The Grand Rapids Press
HOLLAND -- A Holland police officer was arrested Friday for the alleged murder of his estranged wife, who was discovered dead in the couple's home while he was at a department training session, Holland Police Chief John Kruithoff said.
Kenneth DeKleine, 44, is accused of killing 43-year-old Lori DeKleine in the couple's Holland Heights home, Kruithoff said Friday night. She was discovered dead by a relative Thursday night in the basement of the home they once shared on Calvin Avenue.
"Ken and Lori had a strained relationship and had been separated," Kruithoff said. "It was a troubled marriage. The problems, I don't know, and we'll never know what happened to bring this on."
Ken DeKleine was at the department headquarters downtown when a 911 call was placed by a family member, Kruithoff said. The chief contacted the Ottawa County Sheriff's Department to conduct the investigation.
DeKleine, a 13-year member of the force who was assigned to a community policing position, remains in the Ottawa County Jail. He is expected to be arraigned Monday on an open murder charge in Holland District Court.
As police arrived on the scene Thursday about 6:50 p.m., the indication was that Lori DeKleine's death was not natural, nor was it a suicide, Kruithoff said. He would not disclose how the mother of two died, but said an autopsy had determined it to be a homicide.
"From the very beginning, it just didn't look good. There were a lot of things that didn't make it appear a natural death," Kruithoff said. "It's been a very emotional day here, a very hard day.
"Everyone's stunned, shocked and in disbelief. Ken's been everybody's friend and a very recognizable part of this community."
Kruithoff said inconsistencies in his officer's story raised suspicion.
"It's tough when it's one of your own," he said. "As law enforcement officials, we have to put that aside and we did that. It doesn't make it easier."
Kruithoff deferred other comment to Ottawa County Sheriff Gary Rosema, who could not be reached Friday night.
Popular in the community, DeKleine had been lauded by residents for his work in the department's community policing program.
A few years ago, he took a leave of absence from the department and went to Iraq, working for a private security contractor and serving as an international police liaison officer. He supervised those who trained Iraqi officers and also mentored a provincial police chief there.
In an alumni profile with Calvin College, DeKleine, a 1987 graduate, said differences in the mind-set between Americans and Iraqis continued to baffle him during his time there.
"They do want to make their country more secure," DeKleine said in the profile, "but their tribal mentality is very difficult to overcome. If a crime occurs within a tribe, it doesn't get reported, but if a crime occurs across two tribes, they consider it a blood debt. Tribes have been killing back and forth for 50 years over a stolen horse."
During Ken DeKleine's stint overseas, the community rallied around his wife and children. In May 2005, Lori DeKleine and the couple's two teenagers were invited to ride on a city float in the Tulip Time festival's famed Muziekparade.
Lori DeKleine is survived by her children, Breanne and Christopher, both teenagers. She was the publications editor at Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church. A church leader there declined to speak about her death, and her family could not be reached for comment.