30 years later: Medora teacher’s murder still unresolved


Thirty years have come and gone, but the pain still feels new.

In some ways, it feels like a lifetime ago, while in other ways, it feels like only yesterday when Jacki Hall and Duane Freeman lost their sister at the hands of a murderer.

Keyla Weddel was murdered sometime on the night of Aug. 17, 1988, or early morning of Aug. 18 in her mobile home behind her parents’ house in Medora.

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Her mother found her body the morning of Aug. 18.

Weddel, the mother of a 6-year-old son and 3-year-old twins — a girl and a boy — was murdered as they slept.

The case remains unsolved, and police say there are no definite suspects.

Weddel was preparing for her 12th year of teaching at Medora Community Schools and had been working part time in the auditor’s office at the Jackson County Courthouse in Brownstown.

The murder shook Medora in fear and changed the way people lived in the close-knit community in southwestern Jackson County.

Reports from The Tribune show people began locking the doors they used to leave unsecured at night after Weddel’s murder.

The pastor who conducted Weddel’s funeral, Stan Thomas, installed a security light on his porch as the town was on edge in the aftermath, according to a news account in The Republic.

Police covered the scene of the murder for days searching for clues, conducting interviews and trying to determine who would have killed the popular, friendly teacher and mother of three.

There was no evidence of forced entry, and nothing was stolen from the home, police said.

Since then, there have been countless tips and hundreds of police interviews, and multiple detectives have been assigned to the case.

Still, no arrest has been made, and no suspect has been identified. Police aren’t sure what the killer used to bludgeon Weddel to death in her mobile home as her children slept.

“The last 30 years have been an emotional roller coaster, and it’s been that way since Day 1,” said Hall, who lives across the street from where her parents lived and where Weddel was murdered. “It’s still a nightmare, and as more time passes, it feels more like a dream — nightmare.”

Her brother, Duane, still lives in town, too.

Both of their parents, Glenn and Wanda, have passed away. They spent the rest of their lives thinking about who killed their oldest child and trying to help police.

“It’s constantly there and on your mind,” the late Glenn Freeman told The Tribune in 1998 on the 10th anniversary of Weddel’s death. “You never forget, and you keep wondering what will give or if anything will give. Her kids are constant reminders.”

Hall can remember the highs and lows after the murder and in the years thereafter.

The family would get hopeful when police would discuss a lead, but clues would always leave the police and family empty-handed.

“We’d be hopeful, but then it would always lead us nowhere,” Hall said. “I can’t believe it’s been 30 years, but we live with it every day. Duane and I will always long to have the family that should have been had someone not only brutally taken our sister that day but also quite possibly could have been the aid to our parents passing, as well.

“Together, we continue to live through their love and strength, hold the memories close and pray that someday justice will be served. Gone but never forgotten … those words and Keyla’s image, as tattooed on her kids, will live through each of us forever.”

After the murder, Hall said she remembers her father taking the family upstairs at home and telling them they would have to lean on each other and their faith to make it through the difficult times to come.

“I remember him saying, ‘I don’t know how in the world we’re going to get through this, but with the love of each other, family and friends along with our faith in God, we will make it,’” she said. “That’s how we have lived our life, and they always wanted justice for her.”

Indiana State Police still works on cold cases, and Weddel’s is no exception.

Detective Chris Howell has been assigned to the case. He was in high school when the murder took place.

“I have the case file. It’s large, and I’m trying to go through it, study it and just try to think of something that was missed,” he said. “There are binders and binders of interviews.”

Howell said he had never been to the small town of less than 700 people, but he visited the scene when he was assigned the case.

“I have used my working hours going over the file and have taken it home,” he said. “I don’t know when that big break will come through, but hopefully, it will, and we’ll pursue it when it comes.”

Hall said she believes Howell puts in effort to resolve the case and hopes there will be a conclusion with an arrest.

“I believe they work hard on the cases,” she said. “You have to trust them. The police have always been good to me and my brother and my parents.”

But as the days have added up to 30 years without an arrest, it’s difficult to hold out faith for a resolution.

“I’ll never lose hope, but it just gets a little dimmer each day,” she said.

Recent developments in other cold cases in Indiana offer hope for Hall and Freeman.

On July 15, police in Fort Wayne arrested John D. Miller after DNA testing conducted in May was used to determine he kidnapped, raped and murdered 8-year-old April Tinsley on April 1, 1988, more than 30 years ago.

Miller terrorized the community and taunted police by leaving notes in mailboxes and public spaces saying he would strike again.

That is an example that Hall looks to to keep her faith it will be resolved.

“Hearing about any new technology and things that are solving cold cases nowadays does make me hopeful,” she said. “Honestly, that is all we have had to hang onto through the years. Even though this will never change my life back to the way it was supposed to be — with her in it — I will never stop hoping and praying for her justice, no matter how long it takes.”

Howell said some of Weddel’s clothing and household items are at the Indiana State Police Laboratory in Indianapolis for testing in hopes that something will be discovered.

He said science has advanced in the years since the murder, and the district will wait on the results to see if it reveals anything. Testing could be vital to the whether the case is ever solved, he said.

“I think it may come down to science, and if something breaks, it will have to come from DNA or science,” Howell said. “The advancement in science helps us.”

Hall said she thinks about whether the case will be resolved a lot.

“I hope so, and I pray that it is,” she said. “For me, the most important thing is justice for Keyla, whether it’s in this lifetime or in God’s hands.”

For Hall, it’s easy to picture what her sister would be doing if she was still here today.

“I think she would still be teaching school and doing the exact same thing she was doing then — taking care of her kids and grandkids and the rest of the family,” she said. “She’d be the rock that she always was to her family, all of her friends and to anyone that loved her and that she loved.”

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Anyone with a tip or information about the 1988 murder of Keyla Weddel should call the Indiana State Police Versailles Post at 812-689-5000 or 800-566-6704.


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