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Today’s guest blog post is written by Cindy Kraft-Chevalier, the niece of Council Bluffs Police Officer John L. Stephens. Stephens, 32, and Paul J. Rayer, 51, were shot and killed on Tuesday, December 5, 1967, during a robbery of “Club 64,” an upscale steakhouse about a half-mile east of Council Bluffs’ city limits where Stephens moonlighted as a plain-clothes security guard. Robbery appeared to be the motive.
Many thanks to Cindy for sharing this with Iowa Cold Cases.
By Cindy Kraft-Chevalier
Today marks the 48th anniversary of my mom’s half brother, Officer John Stephens’ homicide.
A few years ago, my mom talked about her brother’s death. I remember her saying, “That was terrible what happened to Jacki.” Sometimes he was called by this name.
She began to talk of him being a police officer in Council Bluffs, but that he also had another job at Club 64. She told me about the Club 64 robbery on Dec. 5th, 1967 and how he had been shot and whoever did it, sat him up in a booth to make it look like he was just sitting there.
I said to her, “My God, that’s horrible!”
She proceeded to tell me, they never caught who did it. She showed me a newspaper clipping she had saved all these years. Then she said “I remember when he came knocking on our door when I was a teenager.” She said she answered the door, “and there stood this nice looking 17-year-old kid wearing a suit, looking just like my dad!” He asked if his dad was there. She replied, “Who’s your dad?” He said my grandpa’s name and my mom ran to get my grandma who invited him in with opened arms. Mom said he was such a nice kid and the only one who looked like Dad.
They had contact for a while and then time stepped in. She remembers her mom telling her about his death and how much my grandma cried because she loved him as one of her own.
As I looked at his picture, something told me he can’t be forgotten. I know someone somewhere must know something or heard something over the years. Looking at his picture compelled me to try to keep his case opened to find who did this so we can have closure.
I have so many questions about this case. Mom and I visit his gravesite often. We even put flowers on his daughter’s headstone, who is buried next to him.
I never met Officer John Stephens, but I feel like I have known him for so long. I will keep remembering him and do my best to have the public remember him. A few weeks ago, we went to his site and Mom talked to him. We prayed for him. As we walked back to the car, a white butterfly flew around us several times. Mom and I stopped walking. The butterfly flew right on my mom’s shoulder for a second and then off it went. We took that as a sign from Officer John letting us know he thanks us for keeping his memory alive.
We got in the car and Mom said, “I think that was Jacki.”
I said, “It sure was Mom” as tears came to our eyes.
Officer John is survived by my mom, Patty (Stephens) Kraft, Jackie (Stephens) Sporcic, Joyce (Stephens) Sojka, and John Stephens of Emerson. Robert Stephens preceded him in death.