Slain wife warned friends of her fears
The Grand Rapids Press
Posted by By John Agar and John Tunison
January 15, 2008 10:19AM
Categories: Breaking News, DeKleine case
HOLLAND -- The end for Lori DeKleine came just as she feared.
Days before her estranged police-officer husband, Ken DeKleine, allegedly slipped into her Holland Heights home and strangled her, she told friends: "You know, if I come up dead, if something happens to me, make sure Ken's investigated."
Her attorney, Holly Verde, recalled the haunting words Monday. She thinks Holland police should have done more to protect her client after Lori DeKleine chronicled allegations of abuse and a break-in at the home the couple once shared on Calvin Avenue.
In a statement she wrote nearly a year ago, Lori DeKleine said: "I have become increasingly terrified and afraid for my life."
Verde said she shuddered when she heard her client apparently killed herself Thursday. She called prosecutors. Ken DeKleine was arrested the next day and was arraigned Monday on a charge of open murder.
As the couple's marriage crumbled, police twice investigated allegations he violated a restraining order, but prosecutors did not find evidence to charge him. Police investigated the break-in, but it was viewed as a civil dispute because the officer, at the time, was not barred from the home.
"If there would have been alarm signs, we would have done something," Chief John Kruithoff said. "I didn't see there was a significant event that went on in his life that would have triggered this. Ken was a very talkative person, everyone's friend. He didn't suppress the fact he was having marital troubles. But, obviously, he suppressed something enough where he committed this."
Verde said Lori DeKleine felt isolated, and she did not think the police would protect her. She believed her husband had convinced friends, including those at Holland Heights Christian Reformed Church, where they both worshipped and she worked, that she was the problem.
A mutual friend told her that Ken DeKleine had falsely told others she had a relationship with her therapist, records showed. DeKleine also said his estranged wife suffered severe depression and was suicidal. She has a "well-established pattern of blaming others for her mental and emotional problems," he wrote in court documents.
The couples' private lives -- including Lori DeKleine's written allegations that her husband was a "sexual and emotional bully to me throughout our marriage, beginning on our honeymoon" -- contrasted sharply with their public image.
Retired Holland Police Officer Darryl Raterink wasn't the only one to find the homicide allegation unbelievable. "I just can't see that with Kenny. I can't imagine what it would take to make Kenny snap."
DeKleine led church trips, coached his son's lacrosse team and changed his work schedule to travel with his daughter's drama team. His wife once taught elementary school and published the church newsletter.
Their children, Breanne, 18, and Christopher, 16, excel at Holland Christian High School.
But court documents show the reality behind those idyllic appearances.
In a letter written to her father after he filed for divorce in late 2006, Breanne said her father's filing "shattered my world and my heart. ... You would not cry in front of the family, for this family, that you created, invested in, laughed with, got angry at, and loved deeply for the past 20 years. Sitting at that table was like a business meeting. You were the CEO, telling your board of directors that the company has just gone under. You were just that cold."
Her mother "put up with more than she should have, and more than most people would have," she wrote. "We've, I've, put up with your bull ... for a long time, but this goes too far."
Still, she said: "I love you, Daddy, with all my heart, and that will never go away. I am, however, more pissed off than I have ever been. ..."
Mental health accusations
Almost a year ago, Lori DeKleine, 43, obtained a personal-protection order, with a judge's provision that allowed her husband to carry a gun on the job.
Ken DeKleine, 44, who initially contested the order, said his wife's "severe depression" and suicide attempts left her too unstable to care for the children.
He was particularly concerned in 2005, while training Iraqi police officers overseas. In an e-mail, she said their son had asked if she was OK.
"This is a very poignant reminder to me that both Breanne and Christopher are very aware of Lori's several suicide attempts (once by overdose) and of her struggle with severe depression when she is under stress. ... Most people have become wise to her manipulation, but the children have grown up with this and do not recognize it for what it is," Ken DeKleine wrote.
He said he had "complete support" from police commanders who had "full knowledge of all of Lori's mental health issues and have discussed her suicidal behavior ...," he wrote.
Some say Iraq changed him. The week after he returned, he "walked out in a rage of anger," his wife wrote. But the chief said the officer was affected by marital troubles, not Iraq. DeKleine trained police for a private contractor -- not Blackwater, as some have alleged -- and returned in early 2006.
Break-in left blood, papers
Beyond filings in the protection order and divorce case, Lori DeKleine called police in early 2007 over a break-in at her home. Someone broke into her locked bedroom downstairs. She found blood, and papers had been copied. Ken DeKleine acknowledged to police he broke in, but it happened before the restraining order had been filed, and he had a legal right to be there.
The couple had a Feb. 7 bench trial scheduled. She looked forward to ending the marriage, but was anxious, too, because of her husband's anger toward her, her attorney said.
Hours before his wife was found dead Thursday evening, a friend saw Ken DeKleine at the Meijer Inc. store on East 16th Street. DeKleine did not seem agitated or out of sorts. They chatted about work, and DeKleine's time in Iraq.
"He was smiling, laughing, and you'd never know anything was wrong," said the friend, who didn't want to be identified. DeKleine was not wearing his wedding band. The friend didn't ask. Saturday morning, he got the news.
"It blew my mind."
-- Press staff writer Nate Reens contributed to this story.