A reward of $7,000 is being offered for information leading to the conviction of the person responsible for a 1995 murder in Johnson County. The announcement came at a news conference where several relatives of Susan Kersten pleaded the public’s help in solving the case.
"It has been 12 long years since the brutal mother of my mother," Jason Kersten, the victim’s son, said. "…Our family has been deprived of her love and companionship."
Kersten’s mother was 38 years old when she was found dead inside her burned car south of Iowa City. Authorities say she had been beaten to death. "Our family is here today to keep this unsolved murder in the public’s mind," Kersten said. "We know that someone out there does have information about this case."
Kersten is asking those who gave potential clues to investigators 12 years ago to come forward again as some of the original Iowa City police officers and state agents who worked on the case have retired. "We are confident that with the public’s help we can bring my mother’s killer to justice," Kersten said.
Kersten told reporters the past 12 years haven’t been easy. "You’ve just got to take it one step at a time. There’s a lot of times when, you know, you get lost in your own mind and you try to, you know, battle yourself basically and you’ve just got to think to the next day," he said. "The next day’s going to come no matter what happens and you’ve just got to look positive to it."
Kersten was 17 at the time of his mother’s death. His parents had divorced and Kersten was in the process of moving to Iowa City to help his mother with his twin sisters, who were one-year-old babies at the time. Kersten, who is 29 today, has created a page on "My Space" to display some of his mother’s artwork. "It included pictures of our family and just some words from our family’s on there also," he says. "We’re trying to get organized, putting up some of the artwork in local banks and having it on display with a little information about my mother’s murder. We’re just trying to keep it out there in the public’s mind."
A foundation established in memory of three women who were murdered in Yosemite National Park has donated $5,000 for the reward fund and Iowa City Crime Stoppers donated the other $2,000.
At first, authorities thought Kersten died in an accident but Johnson County Attorney Janet Lyness says an autospy revealed she’d been murdered. "While no one has yet been charged, the family and law enforcement believe we will be able to find those responsible for Susan’s death," Lyness says.
Having a reward may help bring out information that was not previously available to investigators, according to the county attorney.