Monday, July 28, 2003

Family of slain pair wants answers

Investigation by Hamilton city police continues daily

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

HAMILTON - Sharon Caldwell got down on her hands and knees. She bit her lip, so she wouldn't scream or cry. Then she scrubbed away the dried blood from the bedroom where her mother and stepfather, Helen and Donald Riley, had been slain.

And on that sunny Wednesday morning in late April, Caldwell shuddered to think of the violence that had befallen the couple two months earlier, on a cold Sunday in February.

"We picture my mom crying and screaming for her life," says Caldwell, 31, who lives in Northern Kentucky. "We know my mother fought them as long as she could. There was proof of that on her and in the house...They butchered my mother. Nobody deserves to die like that."

Each day since then, Caldwell and the Rileys' other loved ones have been unable to escape terrifying images of the couple's last moments.

While Hamilton city police say they've been working diligently on the case, Caldwell said she is frustrated that no one has yet been arrested for strangling her 44-year-old stepfather, who was frail, and repeatedly stabbing her 55-year-old mother, who was physically disabled. She bled to death.

"You learn to live with it because it doesn't go away," Caldwell said, "but just knowing the truth, I think, would help a little bit."

Lt. Scott Scrimizzi, Hamilton police investigations commander, said "a tremendous amount of work is being done on a daily basis" on the case.

Further, Scrimizzi said he thought most of the Rileys' surviving relatives were "very satisfied, and they know where this investigation is headed, and they're actually assisting us in that." He said he couldn't reveal more on Friday.

Caldwell's brother, George Hurst Jr., is agitated. The 29-year-old Northern Kentucky resident thinks the investigation suffered because detectives quickly focused on Donald J. Ketterer as a possible suspect.

Ketterer, 53, is accused in the robbery and torture-murder of Lawrence B. Sanders, 85, who lived a few houses away from the Rileys. Sanders, who had been attacked with knives, forks, scissors and other household implements, was found dead 20 hours after the Rileys' bodies were discovered.

Police had said they thought there was a good chance the three slayings were related because they happened in the same neighborhood, around the same time.

Hurst is skeptical. "That doesn't mean nothing," Hurst said. "I want to know who did this...I think someone out there knows."

So far, Ketterer hasn't been charged with killing the Rileys; neither has anyone else.

Caldwell said she would like to see a criminal profiler or private investigator get involved; she wishes America's Most Wanted would broadcast the case on national TV to generate more leads.

Her stepfather loved bluegrass music and was in poor health; the 116-pound, 5-foot-8 man spent much of his time watching TV.

Her mother was a church-going woman who collected angel figurines and loved caring for two pairs of birds: cockatiels and finches.

Her mother was considered disabled because of problems with her hands and legs, and had undergone multiple surgeries, Caldwell said.

"She was a foster mom, and she'd take care of kids that had disabilities of their own," Caldwell said.

Caldwell can't figure out why anyone would attack either victim.

"What did they want? Why did they do this? If they wanted something, all they would have had to do was ask her, and she would have given it to them," Caldwell said.

Caldwell wants answers, not only for the couple's relatives but also for the sake of those who live near the Rileys' modest white house in the city's Five Points area.

"Her neighbors up there were like family to her," Caldwell said, "and a lot of them are elderly - and whoever did this could kill them as easily as they killed my mother."

Anyone with information is asked to call Hamilton police at 868-5811.


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