The phone rings a few times before Laura Dimery picks up for our interview. In those last few seconds before our call my mind races.
I am prepared, but I’m having last minute doubts. Knowing you are about to discuss a massive tragedy with someone you’ve never met is nerve-wracking to say the least. I’ve done a few interviews so far but I haven’t gotten comfortable yet. I don’t think I ever will. I take a deep breath and the line clicks.
The warmth of Laura’s voice washes over me, putting me at ease. Immediately I know she is not a stranger, she’s a friend. Laura has a heavy southern drawl that sounds like homemade pie and hospitality. Her voice wavers slightly at first then grows stronger.
I think she’s just as nervous as I am.
Laura starts to tell her story and I am on the edge of my seat. I could easily Google the survivors and read all the news stories surrounding their case, but I prefer to listen to their side of the story first. I want to feel the rawness of what they have gone through and portray their journey with authenticity. I settle in to listen to Laura.
Laura has lived in Texas her whole life. She was the middle child and grew up with her four sisters. Later in life, she shared a dark secret with one of these sisters. She just didn’t know it.
“I was in an abusive relationship for about 13 years and he ended up going to jail [for 40 years] on unrelated charges, but that was my way out…I used to pray every day God would take him away and I thank Him every day that He took him out of my life permanently.”
Though she tried to keep the abuse to herself, Laura says her family knew her husband was not treating her right. Her sister, Jennifer Krieger, often tried to take a stand.
Laura describes Jennifer as a bubbly, bright, and opinionated woman who always worked hard, took care of everyone else, and was a wonderful mother. She laughs as she recalls their childhood memories together and how, being the older sibling, Jennifer would take Laura with her on late night car rides and escapades down to Houston to visit their father.
“We had a lot of adventures. Jennifer always took me everywhere with her. She really was my best friend.”
After the passing of her first husband due to a heart attack, Laura says Jennifer went a little “wild,” drinking and “not being herself.”
“We still talked, you know, but I distanced myself from her at that time. I loved her and she loved me…I did not judge her, I let her go through it but I did not agree with some of the things she was doing and she knew it.”
After that period, Jennifer met Kirk, who she stayed with for about seven years. Laura says at the time she was optimistic that things had really turned around for Jennifer and her family.
“She was happy at first. And I mean they seemed happy. They were always laughing together,” Laura said. “And you know, [they] came out and spent the weekend here with me and my husband. And then things kind of just…I don’t know exactly if he was being abusive to her during the whole [relationship]. I knew there was a control issue but we didn’t know the extent of it. She wouldn’t tell a whole lot because she didn’t want her pride to get hurt.”
Laura chokes up at this point, obviously still struggling with the fact her sister never disclosed the pain and hardship she was enduring.
“I’ll never understand why she didn’t say anything, especially knowing that I had been through it myself.”
One day, out of the blue, Laura got a call that Jennifer and her daughter were missing. After a few tense hours of being unable to reach them, police broke into Kirk and Jennifer’s family home and discovered the bodies of Jennifer and her fourteen-year-old daughter Kelsie. In an instant, Laura’s entire world was shattered.
“He beat them to death with a baseball bat…they found Jennifer in her room and he had thrown all the bedding on top of her and left her there.”
I gasp as she tells me all of the details from the police report. It all seems so surreal. I watch true crime shows all the time, but listening to someone who has really gone through something like this is otherworldly. I am amazed the woman on the other end of the line is still standing. Somehow, she manages to carry on.
But I shouldn’t be too surprised. All of the survivors I have spoken with are beautiful and resilient. They deal with an ugly aftermath that cannot and should not be romanticized, but through BTS, they have found a community and a voice.
“I posted my story on different [web] pages, and BTS was the only one that responded,” Laura said. “The one thing I can say is that through this tragedy in our family it has given me a purpose to speak out more and to make something good out of something bad. And that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Laura emphasizes the importance of speaking out and not pushing the issue of domestic violence under the rug.
“It’s hard, but we need to talk about it. It happens more than any of us know.”
Jennifer and Kelsie will never be forgotten, and it is important that we remember them for who they were. Unfortunately, the crime of domestic violence and the actions of the abuser have the tendency to eclipse the people who were affected. Part of why these stories are so necessary is because they bring intimacy to the cause. Every loss is personal. These people are not just a statistic. They are our co-workers, our family and friends.
“When we were together we laughed, we cooked together, we just had a good time. The thing I miss the most is just being able to call her when I need her. Jennifer was always there for me. I just miss her.”
You can learn more about Jennifer and Kelsie’s Angel Run team here and donate to BTS in their honor.