Kimberly Ratliff

Kimberly Ratliff

Kimberly Marie Ratliff

Homicide

Kimberly Marie Ratliff
22 YOA
Residence: 1806 Tostevin St., Council Bluffs
Body Moved To: 1414 West Broadway
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Pottawattamie County
Investigating Agency: Council Bluffs Police Department
Body Found: January 12, 1999
Est. DOD: January 9, 1999

Case summary by Jody Ewing and Aaron Brilbeck

On Tuesday, January 12, 1999, Kimberly Ratliff, 22, was found in a car left in the parking lot of People’s Natural Gas at 1414 West Broadway in Council Bluffs, Iowa. She had been viciously mutilated and nearly decapitated.

Pottawattamie County in Iowa
Pottawattamie County in Iowa
Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie County, IA Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie County

A gas company employee clearing snow from the sidewalk spotted the 1988 Plymouth Sundance at about 10:40 a.m. and went to peer inside the vehicle, where he saw Ratliff sprawled across the front seat.

Ratliff, who worked at Airlite Plastics Co. in Omaha, Neb., was last seen alive when she got off work about 11:30 p.m. on Friday, January 8. She lived at 1806 Tostevin St. in Council Bluffs with her mother and stepfather, Joyce and Leslie “Les” Kennedy.

Police believe Ratliff was killed elsewhere because little blood was found inside her car despite multiple cuttings, and there also were indications someone else dressed Kim in different clothing — Kim’s own clothing — from what she’d been wearing when last seen alive. Authorities also believed the vehicle had been parked in the lot over the weekend.

More importantly, officials quickly concluded Ratliff’s murder was not a random crime. The brutal killing was personal in nature, and it wasn’t long before they had a prime suspect. Obstacles stood in the way of making an arrest, however, and they were big hurdles; the majority of evidence would have been left at the crime scene where the perpetrator killed Kim, and that crime scene was not the People’s Natural Gas parking lot.

Turning her life around

Kimberly parents, Jacque and Joyce Ratliff, split up when Kimberly was five years old. Joyce moved in with Les Kennedy when Kimberly was six.

In January 2011, Les and Joyce spoke with WHO-TV Channel 13 reporter Aaron Brilbeck about Kimberly’s life and the upcoming 12th anniversary of her unsolved murder.

Kimberly Ratliff Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Despite some struggles, Kimberly became the first in her family to graduate high school.

Kimberly had been trying to find her path in life, the couple told Brilbeck, after working hard to keep up her grades so she could graduate. It hadn’t been easy for her.

“She goes, ‘I did it. I’m the only one in the family,'” Joyce Kennedy said.

The couple alleged Ratliff then fell in with the wrong crowd and began hanging out with drug users and dealers. Les Kennedy said the last night they’d seen their daughter, he’d confronted her about what she was doing to her life.

“You might say it was like an intervention,” Les Kennedy said. “And when she left the house she kissed me and said, ‘Dad, I’ll be home tonight.'”

Kimberly’s biological father, Jacque Ratliff, and her brother, Matthew Ratliff, dispute what they call Les Kennedy’s “phony tears,” and told Iowa Cold Cases in a series of communications that Kennedy is a dangerous man not to be trusted.

“Don’t Believe Him”

Jacque Ratliff — who said he’d remained close to his daughter following his break-up with Joyce — told Iowa Cold Cases he found out about his daughter’s murder while at work at the Packaging of America box plant, a nationwide company specializing in constructing corrugated boxes.

Ratliff left work (the company has a plant in Omaha, Neb.) and headed to Council Bluffs to talk to officials and find out more about what happened to his daughter.

“When I got there, only the detective was there and I didn’t get to see my daughter,” Ratliff said.

Investigators had first gone to the Kennedy home, and Les Kennedy already had made the positive identification.

Ratliff said he’d known Kennedy prior to the time when Kennedy got together with Joyce, and had never trusted him. Kennedy, he said, was possessive with Joyce and also with Kimberly. And, Ratliff said, his daughter had confided in him long before her murder that Les “tried to get into her pants.”

Kim Ratliff's stepfather and mother, Les and Joyce KennedyCourtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Ratliff’s mother and stepfather, Joyce and Les Kennedy, said they feel if those with knowledge about their daughter’s death knew how much she suffered, they might come forward with information.

Other individuals, who wished to remain anonymous in this case summary (names on file and available to law enforcement) contacted Iowa Cold Cases independently to express concerns about Kennedy’s alleged possessiveness with Kimberly as well as the alleged sexual molestation at the hands of her stepfather.

Also alleged was that Kimberly’s earlier drug abuse was brought about by Kennedy himself, who allegedly dealt in drugs and introduced them to Kimberly and others in order to gain control over them. Some believed Kimberly’s attempt to break free from the drug use and her stepfather’s dominance may ultimately have led to her death.

Kimberly’s older brother Matthew, who told Iowa Cold Cases he also had been abused numerous times by Kennedy — was more forthcoming with what he believed happened to his sister.

“Leslie Kennedy, our stepdad, had his hands in her murder,” Matthew Ratliff wrote in an Oct. 29, 2012 comment left on a Jan. 12, 2010 ICC blog post. “It was because she was going to tell the police about him dealing drugs. He is a very dangerous man.”

Les Kennedy insists he never saw Kimberly after she left the house to go out that night.

Mr. Kennedy spoke freely with media in the days, months, and years following Kimberly’s murder, and has given conflicting accounts of his whereabouts the night his stepdaughter disappeared.

Mr. Kennedy also had very specific details about the way in which Kimberly was killed — details that police had never made public. Kennedy routinely told the media his [step]daughter had been “slaughtered,” describing the manner of her death as “nasty” and even referring to how much blood would have been present at the crime scene.

“One of the most violent attacks” ever seen

Police said Kimberly’s murder was one of the most violent attacks they’d ever seen. She had been stabbed and cut repeatedly and her head almost severed. Her frozen body made it difficult for investigators to determine exactly when she died, though it’s believed she was killed sometime in the early morning hours on Saturday, January 9.

When Council Bluffs police arrived at the Kennedy home to break the news to Les and Joyce Kennedy, they stepped inside the home and immediately noticed the 22-year-old’s picture.

“One of them looked up at the wall and looked at his partner and he said, ‘that’s her,'” Les Kennedy told WHO-TV in the January 2011 interview with Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck.

Kimberly Ratliff, right

Kimberly Ratliff, right

Les Kennedy said he found it painful revisiting the details of Kimberly’s death, but eagerly offered up details of how she was “slaughtered.”

In one surprising statement, Kennedy said he believed if those who knew something about Kim’s death and “understood how much she suffered before she died,” that they might come forward with information.

Given the numerous traumas Kimberly sustained (many singular wounds, each of which would have been fatal), Kennedy didn’t explain just how he knew how much Kim suffered before she died.  In ongoing media interviews, Mr. Kennedy brazenly went into further details of Kim’s slaying, reveling with precision all the particularities and bloody elements of her death — all but confessing to having been present as each visceral cut took place.

“Nobody has any idea how nasty our daughter died,” he told Brilbeck in the 2011 interview.

In 1999, Kennedy had placed a signboard outside his tire repair shop announcing a $10,000 reward for “solid evidence” in Kimberly’s death. He also told the press that more than $100,000 was available in a fund set up in her memory if the killer was found and convicted.

“Don’t believe him. He didn’t have any money…the liar,” Kimberly’s father, Jacque Ratliff said.

At the time of the WHO-TV interview, neither Iowa Cold Cases nor WHO-TV had the contact information for Jacque or Matthew Ratliff, though Jacque Ratliff later told ICC he is willing to speak to the media about what really went on inside the Kennedy home and wants the public to know the truth.

Les Kennedy’s sign is now gone, but he said the family hasn’t given up hope that someday, somehow, justice will be served.

WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on Kimberly Ratliff’s unsolved murder. Air Date: Jan. 6, 2011

“Out of leads”

Police told WHO-TV they have run out of leads, made all the more difficult by Ratliff’s body having been moved and later placed in her vehicle in the Council Bluffs parking lot.

“There wasn’t enough blood located in the car,” Council Bluffs Police Sergeant Chad Meyers told Brilbeck. “The crime scene where this probably happened — there would be an obvious large amount of blood there.”

Council Bluffs Police Sergeant Chad Meyers

Council Bluffs Police Sergeant Chad Meyers

More than one tipster later revealed to ICC the precise location of Kimberly’s slaying — information which ICC passed along to Council Bluffs detectives.

Officials remain convinced Kimberly Ratliff’s murder was not a random crime. They say the case was investigated but they haven’t gathered enough evidence to charge anyone with the crime.

“I carry her in my heart every day — think about her every day,” Kimberly’s mother told Brilbeck in one of the few opportunities she’d subtly been given by her husband to speak.

“Please help me get them” — A Final Twist

In addition to wanting closure in his daughter’s unsolved murder, Jacque Ratliff faced yet another showdown with his ex-wife and Les Kennedy; Kennedy, who for years allegedly had sexually abused his own daughter and sons as well as his stepchildren, was fighting for custody for all of his grandchildren.

Jacque Ratliff told ICC that Kennedy flat out lied in court about bruising on the ear of Matthew’s son — an injury that took place when the boy was under Les and Joyce’s care — and Kennedy told the judge his stepson had abused the child.

Jacque Ratliff told ICC’s Jody Ewing in late 2012 that when he contacted the Kennedys and told them he planned to fight for custody of his grandchildren, Les told him to back off or “he’d have him taken care of.”

“Like you did with my daughter?” Ratliff said he responded, at which point he said Kennedy hung up on him.

I need your help, please,” Ratliff wrote in his letter to Iowa Cold Cases. “I want them with me and my wife.”

Ratliff said if his ex and Kennedy succeeded in adopting the young children, he feared he’d never get to see them or know them, and also feared that they, like Kimberly, would be introduced to drugs at a very early age to facilitate their inevitable sexual molestation.

“Please help me get them out of that house,” Ratliff pleaded. “Please help me get them.”

Les and Joyce succeeded in gaining custody of Matthew’s children, though failed in subsequent attempts to also gain custody of their other grandchildren under similar false pretenses.

Iowa Cold Cases has on file communications from friends and neighbors stating that Kimberly suffered years of abuse at the hands of her controlling stepfather.

PLEASE NOTE: While we at Iowa Cold Cases have made it clear to Mr. Ratliff that we are not a law enforcement agency, we felt including the above information in this summary may prompt someone — perhaps a close friend of Kimberly’s or another family member — to reach out to Council Bluffs Police Department investigators and share what they know. Regardless of how insignificant the detail may seem, it might provide the one missing puzzle piece needed to solve Kimberly’s murder, ensure innocent children are protected, and/or even clear an innocent suspect.

On May 4, 2016, Iowa Cold Cases received a lengthy packet of information on Kimberly’s case — documents dated from the day Kim was found dead until the present time — and ICC has found numerous inconsistencies in the information Les Kennedy provided to both investigators and the media over the years. From the beginning, law enforcement officials outright disputed/discredited many of the assertions Mr. Kennedy made, but felt they still lacked enough evidence to arrest and charge Kennedy in Kimberly’s slaying.

On July 13, 2016, ICC’s Jody Ewing spoke with Council Bluffs police Detective Haley Bloom, who stated that other investigators had already reviewed the case and that there was nothing they could do at this particular time. Ewing inquired about the tissue sample and boards recovered from a hotel room that officials recently submitted to the state crime lab in Ankeny for DNA testing, and Bloom said she could not confirm whether or not officials had received the reports from the crime lab or, if they had, that she could not comment on DNA results due to the case’s status as an ongoing investigation.

About Kimberly Ratliff

Kimberly was born Sept. 26, 1976, to Jacque and Joyce Ratliff. The couple divorced when Kimberly was five, and Joyce moved in with and married Leslie Kennedy, where they lived in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

After graduating high school, Kim accepted a position at Airlite Plastics Co. in Omaha, where she still worked at the time of her death.

Kimberly left work at 11:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 8, 1999, and is believed to have been slain in the early morning hours of Saturday, Jan. 9, 1999.

In addition to her father and mother, Kimberly’s survivors included two brothers, nieces and nephews, her stepfather, Les Kennedy, and Kennedy’s daughter and two sons.

Information Needed

Anyone with information about Kimberly Ratliff’s unsolved murder is asked to contact Det. Doug Mann at the Council Bluffs Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division at (712) 326-2507 or call Crime Stoppers at (712) 328-7876.

Sources:

 

Copyright © 2015 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

22 Responses to Kimberly Ratliff

  1. jacque t ratliff says:

    Jody, I’m Kimberly’s father. I will not rest till he’s found. If the law can’t do it, I will. I call it a father’s revenge.

    I was at work when I found out. I have my ideas on who murdered her. In your video there was some things that weren’t said, and I may be able to do that. If you want to talk to me I’ll be willing to answer most of your questions. e-mail me wolf22158@yahoo.com

    • SHELLI HEISS says:

      I DO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO KIMBERLY…..AND I FINALLY CALLED THE POLICEMAN IN CHARGE OF THIS CASE….AFTER TELLING HIM EVERYTHING THAT I KNEW….HE SAID THAT THEY HAVE TO LOOK INTO ALL THIS AND THAT THEY WERE GONNA WANT TO TALK TO ME SOME MORE…..THIS WAS LAST YEAR….BUT WHAT I HAD TOLD THEM….WAS THE FOUR PEOPLE INVOLVED…..WHY THEY DID IT….AND WHERE IT HAPPENED AT….BUT FIRST THEY WILL NEED TO FIND THESE PEOPLE FIRST, CAUSE THEY DID LEAVE TOWN….

      • mail.com says:

        hi Shelli this is Matthew Ratliff Kimberly’s brother can you contact me with the information that you have I have a P.I. tracking down leads and we have bean at a dead end pls contact me at matthewratliff65@gmail.com

        • SHELLI says:

          HI MATTHEW…IVE SENT YOU A COUPLE OF EMAILS…BUT I DONT KNOW IF YOUVE GOTTEN THEM. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU ARE RECIEVING THEM…OR AM I JUST WASTEING TIME…

          • matthew says:

            I am receiving them and I thank you for all your help

            • Charlie Studebaker says:

              What drug/drugs is Les Kennedy dealing and getting his own children and step-children hooked on in order to continue molesting them? I’m just thinking it might be the way into (insight from different angle; maybe not as well covered by pedophile les kennedy) cracking this pukes defense. bubble that’s kept him from getting caught for this long. The police and justice system most definitely want to believe thaht one of there own is not involved any crime, esp. murder, molestation, or drug trafficking involving his own children and step-children! And have been known to minimize, justify, or deny such things in past just as all of us have to admit trying to do at one time or another probably for a friend or family member. He was a cop and may have been a good cop. But something changed for whatever reason and he has become a despicable pos that needs to be stopped and punished for what he has done to his kids n step-kids & who knows how many others including possibly currently his grandchildren! PLEASE ANYONE THAT KNOWS OR KNEW SOMEONE OR SOMETHING, NO MATTER HOW SMALL OR UNIMPORTANT YOU THINK IT MAY BE, PLEASE COMMENT ON HERE OR TO AUTHORITIES(even anonymously if need be to at least open door to be investigated properly) SO THIS MONSTER IS STOPPED FROM CONTINUING TO VICTIMIZE & RUIN ANYMORE CHILDREN’S LIVES!!!

  2. Shared! Went to school with Kim. So sad!

  3. josh says:

    He lived in malmore achres true wack job igraduated with her lived down there that guy had vameras putside his moble home it was said he was a dealer

  4. Chris says:

    This case will never be solved as no one will come forward. Considering the nature of the murder and the reason for it, it will go unsolved.

  5. Me says:

    If some of you know who did this, why don’t you just put the names out there? It’s not fear because you’ve already told everyone you know. Please just spit your theory out there

  6. matthew says:

    pls if anybody has info pls email me matthewratliff65@gmail.com

  7. BENTLEY says:

    HAVE YOU FOUND OUT ANYTHING YET MATHEW?

  8. Step dad should be in jail.

  9. Yes. The step father is so obviously involved. Why wasn’t anything done?

  10. Diana Wilson says:

    I just don’t understand how people can do this.

  11. Dear Heavenly Father,
    I pray Lord that you deliver this family and lay this case to rest. You are such a great and powerful and merciful God who knows all, please Lord deliver justice. In Jesus name. Amen

  12. Their are cruel people out there. And I pray for justice for this young lady. From what I’m getting from reading this the step dad is involved. And should be in jail.

  13. From what I’ve been told, the stepfather is a retired deputy sheriff and still has friends in law enforcement. There are many Council Bluffs PD detectives who’ve worked this case, but the case is complicated because the body was moved. An update: the CBPD have submitted/resubmitted tissue samples for forensic DNA testing, and also submitted new evidence for testing based on the suspected crime scene where Kimberly was killed. They *are* keeping constant tabs on this case. Kimberly and her brothers were all [allegedly] molested in the Kennedy home, and Kennedy’s own two sons have been sentenced to prison on child pedophile charges. One of Kennedy’s sons was recently released and the other is still behind bars. Matthew Ratliff is willing to provide a sworn statement to officials as to how Kennedy (allegedly) started drugging the children at early ages in order to better manipulate and molest them. Kennedy paints all his kids/stepkids as having drug problems and wants to emerge as the one who conducted the “interventions,” even though he is allegedly the one who introduced them into drugs and kept them hooked for his own nefarious reasons. What worries me most is that Matthew’s two young children were taken away from him and adopted by Les and Joyce based on falsehoods and lies. With five children (two biological and three stepchildren) already molested, what are the chances his young granddaughter and grandson will be the exception? Family services needs to get involved in this case even if police don’t yet have enough evidence to charge the suspect.

    • Rconsetta says:

      This is absolutely horrible!!! Why isn’t the authorities taking these kids away from Les Kennedy and throwing his old crusty nasty evil ass in prison for these nasty CRIMEs?! God with sentence him at his death, believe that!!! He’s going straight to HELL!

  14. I so agree with you. This is real sad. And sick.

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