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Decades without answers in Vernon cold case murder

The first article detailing the murder of Katheryn Kliewer in the Vernon Daily News was printed Thursday, May 20, 1976. A copy of that newspaper still remains in the Greater Vernon Musem and Archives.
September 18, 2019 - 7:30 AM

VERNON - Police investigate hotel murder.

That's the headline scrawled across the front page of the Vernon Daily News on May 20, 1976. Above the headline in all capitals and an underlined font are the words: "Twenty five-year-old woman strangled.” No photo accompanies the story.

Katheryn Kliewer, 25, was found dead in her Village Green Inn hotel room Wednesday, May 19, 1976 strangled, possibly with a pair of pantyhose. Multiple questions arose from the initial investigation – where did Kliewer go before she was found dead? Why was she murdered? Who was responsible for her death and why has it gone unsolved for so long?

It's been more than 40 years later and those questions remain unanswered. RCMP Const. Kelly Brett confirmed Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, that no charges have been laid in the murder case to date.

It appeared from newspaper stories that the investigation stalled within a few days.

“Police hunting the killer of Katheryn Kliewer are trying to track down her last movements before she went back to the hotel room where she was murdered,” the Daily News reported. “Sgt. Bill Rayson, who is coordinating the investigation, said today: ‘We have got some idea of where she went earlier in the evening, but we’ve still got a few blanks to fill in.’”

In 1976, Vernon had a population of only 17,984, the McCulloch Court building, which still stands in Vernon today was just announced and a different generation of Trudeau was commanding headlines.

The news about Kliewer however was confusing. 

One report said her body was found at midnight, another says it was found that Wednesday afternoon. An autopsy showed that Kliewer had been strangled more than 11 hours before her body was found. She was not sexually assaulted and was wearing her nightdress.

Kliewer, a former Kelowna resident, moved to Vernon Monday, May 17, 1976, after her promotion to accountant and a transfer from the Vancouver branch of CIBC where she worked for two years.

“She had worked just one day at the Village Green branch before her death,” Vernon Daily News reporter Lance Beswick wrote. “But a colleague at the branch said: ’She seemed very pleasant, outgoing type, and she wasn’t at all shy.’"

John Williams, manager of the Village Green Inn at the time of the murder, was called with the news after a hotel cleaner found Kliewer’s body.

“I checked the body and realized she was dead and had probably been murdered. I have seen lots of dead people in the past, so I wasn’t too upset, but it was still very unpleasant. I just hope they catch whoever was responsible,” Williams told Beswick.

At the time of the discovery, two RCMP officers were having coffee in the hotel. They responded and further officers were called to the scene. The nylons were found next to Kliewer’s body.

“We do not know for certain that the pantyhose was used, but it seems almost certain,” said Rayson at the time of the murder.

Four days into the investigation, the case was going cold.
Four days into the investigation, the case was going cold.

Police admitted they had little information only four days later. A May 25, 1976 article, Murder leads dry up, suggests that the police had Kliewer’s personal effects but no suspects.

A mystery shooting took the front-page headline the following day. Any connection between that shooting and Kliewer’s death was quickly ruled out by police after the gunman was named less than 24 hours later.

Kliewer’s case had gone cold.

To help find anyone who had seen Kliewer before she had been murdered, police released her photo to the press.

“This is a photograph of Katheryn Kliewer, the 25-year-old woman who was brutally murdered in the Village Green Inn last week,” the article reads. “It is not a pretty picture, but neither is murder pretty, and it is believed that by publishing it, the police will be helped in their investigation.”

Williams sought to help the investigation by offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever was responsible for the murder.

Save a scathing letter printed May 31, 1976, it was the last article found in the Greater Vernon Museum and Archives relating to Kliewer’s murder.

Other headlines came and passed as her murder slipped from the pages. A separate murder near Lumby in mid-June 1976 where a man’s body was found by an elderly couple on a path near Mabel Lake Road led to a short manhunt. Headline after headline followed, and those suspects were eventually found.

More than 43 years have passed since the investigation into Kliewer’s murder began. While the investigation has gone cold, the case remains open by the Vernon North Okanagan RCMP in hopes that one day, the answers to what happened to Kliewer will be found.

In an effort to find anyone who knew anything about Kliewer, police released a photo of the 25-year-old on May 27, 1976.
In an effort to find anyone who knew anything about Kliewer, police released a photo of the 25-year-old on May 27, 1976.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Parker Crook or call (250) 864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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