|Gary McCullough and Lena Chapin are both missing|
Last week we reviewed the case of Gary McCullough who went missing in May of 1999.
McCullough's wife, Sandy, and her current husband, Kristopher Klemp have long been the primary suspects in the 34 year-old man's disappearance.
In 2006, McCullough's daughter's filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Sandy McCullough Klemp, Kristopher Klemp, McCullough-Klemp's daughter Liehnia "Lena" Chapin and Kristopher Klemp's former wife, Jennifer Brattin after McCullough was declared deceased in 2005.
Albert McCullough says he feels somewhat responsible for his brother's presumed homicide. It was he who was first married to Sandy Petersen Chapin.
Albert McCullough met Sandy when she and her daughter's moved across the road from his dairy farm in Stone County. They were married in November 1992 and for four years they were seemingly happy, says Albert.
Albert McCullough says it was Sandy's children who told him that his wife was having an affair with his brother. But it wasn't Sandra McCullough who reported her husband, Gary, 34, missing on May 13, 1999, it was co-workers of the man at George's processing who first alerted authorities.
Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly says when investigator's went out to the McCullough farm on May 13th to investigate a cattle call Sandy said, "We probably need to report Gary missing." Sandra McCullough told detectives that her husband had left the farm in his truck about 6:30 p.m. on May 11th and was headed to Diamond to buy a white fighting rooster.
It appears from court records that Gary McCullough was concerned about his well being as early as April of 1999. A former supervisor of the missing man says that "he was moving out from his residence and not to give his paycheck to his wife, even if she presented a signed note because if she did so, the note would be forged."
The marriage of Gary and Sandy may not have been valid because they obtained a marriage license in Arkansas but were married in Missouri, according to documents. That being said, a divorce was granted to Sandy in April of 2000 when Gary failed to appear in court.
Friends of Sandy say she has always "manipulated" her daughter's for her benefit and one, who wishes to remain anonymous says, "Lena was her partner in crime."
"She used them girls and made them lie for her," said Albert McCullough.
Liehnia May Chapin always tried to please her mother, according to friend's of the girl and Sandy. "She just always wanted to be her favorite."
In an alleged recording of Lena made by Albert McCullough which is the basis of the wrongful death lawsuit; Lena, who would have been 13 year-old at the time of Gary McCullough's disappearance, says when she and her sister's returned home from school on May 11, 1999, they were met at the door by Sandy. Sandy sent all the other girl's but Lena to the barn to do chores.
Sandy then led Lena to a bedroom where Gary McCullough allegedly lay dead, his body wrapped in plastic. "Sandra was spazzed out...crying...all she wanted to say was I can't believe this happened, I can't believe this happened."
Sandy told her daughter that Gary had been sitting on the couch eating scrambled eggs and that she came out of a bedroom on the opposite end of the couch and shot him three times in the head.
Over the course of the next two days Lena helped her mother clean up the crime scene, according to court records. "Floors were bleached and rugs thrown away. The body was burned in a brush pile all night; she helped Sandra dig through ashes looking for bone fragments, fragments found were put in buckets and scattered all over. There was nothing left....nothing." Another theory laid out in court document's is that Gary McCullough's remains were fed to hogs at the farm.
School records verify that Lena was kept out of school on May 12th and checked out early on the 13th. After being checked out of school, Lena and Sandy went back to the burn pile at the farm where they allegedly dug out several inches of dirt because Sandy said, "they could find stuff in the ground." The pair then planted grass seed at the site.
On May 12th Robin Chapin allegedly told a friend on the school bus, "Gary is gone," and on May 14th told another friend that "her family burned Gary's clothes and that her mother told her to tell anyone who asked "that Gary had gone to buy a chicken from a Mexican."
A former friend of Sandy's says that Gary's truck had been moved to different places on the 80 acre property but when Sandy learned that deputies were going to use a helicopter to fly over the property "she either moved the truck or had someone move it for her."
|Kristopher Klemp (mug shot BCSO)|
On May 14th Kristopher Klemp was interviewed at the Barry County Sheriff's Office. During that interview Klemp told investigator's that he and Sandy "were just friends...there was no sexual or romantic relationship." Within days of her husband's disappearance, Kristopher Klemp was living with Sandy McCullough at the farm.
When authorities went to the McCullough's farm on May 15th Sandy wasn't there but arrived shortly thereafter and was "upset" they were there and refused to let them search the property. She told investigator's that she and her husband were not having any problems and she had contacted family member's of the missing man to see if they had heard from him. Family members say that is a lie, Sandy McCullough never contacted any of them.
That same day Jennifer Klemp-Brattin told detectives that Sandy had called her and told her she was pregnant with Klemp's baby. When she confronted her husband, Kristopher Klemp, allegedly told Jennifer he "had no time to deal with her because he had to deal with killing a man."
In the early morning hours of May 16th Jennifer Klemp-Brattin told investigator's that she had dropped Kris off at the McCullough's property and returned about 3:30 a.m. to pick him up. "Kristopher came running out of the ditch and jumped in the car. He had a .22 rifle and said no one would be able to find the body."
Gary's abandoned distinctive flat-bed truck was found abandoned on a dead end road near Pulaskfield on May 16th. When Sandy viewed the inside of the vehicle she remarked, "Gary would never have beer cans in the truck because he didn't drink." She also noted, "those cans weren't in the truck yesterday....I mean last week."
|Sheriff Epperly at entrance to McCullough's farm (note the concrete slab where the house once stood)|
Jennifer Brattin-Klemp told detectives that she overheard a phone call on May 8th in which her husband allegedly told Sandy, "I'll be the one going to jail - you'll never have to worry about getting beaten again."
At one point during the investigation into her husband's disappearance Sandy McCullough told Sheriff Epperly, "You find a body and I'll take a polygraph."
An acquaintance of Klemp's, Steven Turner, told deputies that Klemp attempted to hire him to, "kill Sandy's husband," according to court documents. Klemp allegedly told Turner that Sandy had been putting Drano into food and beverages that Gary McCullough had consumed.
During a search of the McCullough property on May 15th, detectives found a half used box of Drano and a checkbook belonging to Kristopher Klemp. Court documents reveal that within 24 hours of McCullough's presumed homicide Kristopher Klemp purchased an $18,000 truck for Turner.
An acquaintance of Sandy's, David Symons, lent her a steam cleaner in May which was never returned. When Syemons went to the farm to pick it up he was ordered off the property by Sandy. Symons then went to the sheriff's office and made a complaint. Sandy replaced the steam cleaner with a smaller one, according to court records.
After the search of the property Klemp returned to the Barry County Sheriff's office and told deputies he had lied about his relationship with Sandy McCullough.
In June of 1999 the then prosecutor of Barry County, Stephen Hemphill, filed conspiracy to commit murder charges against Kristopher Klemp.
Hemphill dismissed the charges against Klemp in August of 1999 before the case was heard at a preliminary hearing. During a preliminary hearing the state must present enough evidence in court that shows a judge that they have enough evidence to proceed to trial. In this case, Hemphill anticipated that attorney's for Klemp would not waive the case (meaning that it would have automatically bound the case over for trial,) and he would have to lay out his case.
Instead of tipping his hand and showing defense attorney's the evidence that was compiled against their client, he dropped the charges as not to compromise an ongoing murder investigation.
"Sandy wasn't gonna settle for half of what they had, she wanted it all. I wake up everyday and think that it could have been me instead of my brother," said Albert McCullough
While it is hard to imagine having one family member vanishing, Sandy McCullough-Klemp now has two.
Her daughter and alleged co-conspirator, Lena, was reported missing in November of 2008...but not by her mother who had been caring for her missing daughter's son, Colter, since early 2006.
When Sandy Klemp refused to file a missing person's report on her daughter in Dent County, Sheriff Epperly, who had been made aware of the development by family members, took it upon himself to contact Lena's father to make the report.
Sandy told authorities that her daughter ran off to Florida with a new boyfriend, Jason Bryant. However, Epperly says there has been no activity for her social security number or phone and she has made no attempt to contact her son, whom Sandy and Kris have now adopted.
|Lena and her son Colter|
In late January human remains were found behind Wal-Mart in Salem, which is in Dent County. Authorities are awaiting final reports on the remains, but believe they belong to a male transient.
"There's still a little bit of hope out there," Sheriff Epperly said. "Knowin' that we could find her... or she comes forward. Tell me what's going on here, Liehnia."
Sheriff Epperly says he wants to re-interview several people involved in the case, including Lena. "It's a story you think...wow, it couldn't go down this way."
Epperly says that blood collected from a bedroom, that appeared to be in a human form was tested, "but it was at the beginning of DNA - we will be resubmitting evidence to the crime lab to see if we can get a DNA match this time."
Is it just a coincidence to have two family members vanish under very similar circumstances....or is it double murder. "I need to talk to Lena," said Epperly.
When contacted for a comment on the disappearances of her husband and daughter, Sandy McCullough hung up. Kris Klemp referred this reporter to his attorney, John Lewright, who said, "with the lawsuit this close to trial, "it would be inappropriate for me to comment."
A grand jury has not been convened in Barry County in almost a century. Former Senator Emory Melton says the last one seated was in 1923.
When asked to comment on the case, sitting prosecutor Johnnie Cox said, "Nothing has really changed in the last couple of years that I'm aware of. It's an open and ongoing investigation and until there is some sort of physical evidence proving that Mr. McCullough is deceased we're at a standstill. A grand jury can indict, but I would have to take it to trial and prove that the people charged killed Mr. McCullough. I would get one shot with a jury and I want to preserve that opportunity."
Attorney's for both sides must have their final motion's filed by May 25th, according to online court records. The wrongful death jury trial is scheduled to begin on exactly one month later, "They better bring extra seats, my whole family is gonna be there," said Albert McCullough.