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April 30, 2008
BY MAGGIE O’BRIEN
WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER
Former Council Bluffs Police Sgt. Jerry Mann wishes he could have retired knowing who killed Kimberly Ratliff.
He knew finding the killer was a long shot. Still, it would have been nice to walk away with the answer to who is responsible for slaying the 22-year-old plant worker on a cold winter night nearly a decade ago.
The case is like many cold cases: After a few years, all of the leads simply dried up.
Because of the city’s size, the Council Bluffs Police Department doesn’t have an official cold case unit. The city averages about three homicides a year.
In the past 20 years only two cases, including the Ratliff homicide, have gone cold. The other is the shooting death of Robert Scott Hatcher, 38, whose body was found in March 2007 on the Iowa Riverfront Trail near Playland Park on the western edge of Council Bluffs.
Ratliff, who worked at Airlite Plastics Co. in Omaha, was last seen alive when she got off work about 11:30 p.m. Jan. 8, 1999.
Her body was discovered 3½ days later by a People’s Natural Gas employee clearing snow from the sidewalk at 1414 W. Broadway in Council Bluffs.
The employee peered inside a white 1988 Plymouth Sundance and saw Ratliff sprawled across the front seat. Her throat had been slashed.
Ratliff lived in Council Bluffs with her mother and stepfather, Joyce and Leslie Kennedy. For several years, Leslie Kennedy had a picture of Ratliff and a plea for information on a signboard outside his tire repair shop. The sign is gone, but the family hasn’t given up hope that someday, somehow, justice will be served.
Joyce Kennedy didn’t want to discuss the case at length, saying it was too painful. “It gets harder and harder every year.”
Police believe Ratliff was killed elsewhere because there was little blood inside the car, and there were indications that someone else had dressed her. Police think it wasn’t random.
“I’d say the probabilities are that the person who did this to her probably knew her,” Mann said.
Even though he’s retired, Mann and other detectives who worked the case remain haunted by the crime.
“I don’t think most of us can forget some of the things we’ve been involved in,” Mann said. “There is no way.”
Got a tip?
Call Sgt. Dave Dawson at 712-326-2509 or Council Bluffs Crime Stoppers at 712-328-7867.
Copyright ©2008 Omaha World-Herald