ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF
?In all this cold and hollow world, no fount of deep strong, deathless
love, save that within a mother?s heart.? ?From Siege of Valencia
* * *
Donna Klose can tell you precisely when her world turned
It was 7 a.m., Oct. 6, when she answered the phone that rang at
rural Hillsboro home.
Her daughter, Brenda, was calling from Colorado Springs. She was
almost hysterical, but Brenda?s first words are seared on Donna?s
?I?m at the Quick Shop. I just called the police. Rhonda and Brian
Rhonda was Donna?s 27-year-old daughter, Brian Whitney her
As Donna would soon learn, they had been killed the night before
fit of jealousy by Jason Tanner, 28, a man Rhonda had dated
while she and Brian were separated.
Police concluded Tanner shot the couple execution style with a
.357-caliber revolver, then turned the gun on himself.
A fourth person also died that horrible night: Rhonda was eight
pregnant at the time.
Neighbors told police later they heard shots, even screams, that
night. But no one called the police. Brenda discovered the grisly
scene when she stopped by the house that morning.
She also found one more thing that tore at Donna?s heart: Rhonda?s
sons, Tyler, now 5, and Devin, 3, who apparently had witnessed the
terrible act and were left alone in the house with the bodies of
parents the entire night.
Donna knew she needed to get to Colorado Springs as fast as she
for the sake of her two grown children who lived there, too, but
especially for her two traumatized grandsons.
She immediately and frantically called her husband, Mike, who was
working at Hillsboro Industries.
?He said he didn?t understand what I said to him, but he knew it
time to come home,? Donna recalled.
The Colorado Springs police called soon afterward to confirm the
news. As soon as Mike came home, the Kloses took off for Colorado.
Tyler and Devin were heavy on their minds and hearts.
?My grandkids and I were always real close,? Donna said. ?I was
just two weeks before it happened.?
Driving as fast as they dared, they made it to Colorado Springs in
only seven hours and went immediately to the house of Donna?s son,
Keith, where the two young boys were now staying.
When they arrived, Devin was sleeping. When he awoke, he first hid
under a bunk bed in the corner of a bedroom.
?When he finally saw who it was, he came to me and wouldn?t let
Donna knew immediately what she had to do, what she wanted to do:
care for those two boys, not only through this immediate crisis,
* * *
?Mother is the name for God
in the lips and hearts
of children.? ?Thackeray
* * *
For the next four months, Donna and Mike tried to rebuild Tyler
Devin?s shattered world. With the help of Mike?s coworkers at
Hillsboro Industries and friends, they added a bedroom to their
?We kept moving as fast as we could when we got here to make a
life for them,? Donna said.
They also sought professional help for the boys. In the weeks that
followed, the couple did a lot of talking, a lot of listening, and
lot of loving.
Donna believes progress was made. She credits the play therapy the
boys received at Prairie View in Marion for bringing an end to the
nightmares they endured in the weeks following the tragedy.
As best as they could, the Kloses tried to answer the questions
boys asked about their parents and let them talk freely about what
they witnessed that terrible night.
?I always wanted to say, ?Let?s talk about something nicer,??
said. ?But they say you?re supposed to let kids get it out, or
they get older it will really hurt them.?
It wasn?t easy to listen.
?I?m the last person who wants to know more about what happened to
Rhonda,? she admitted. ?It?s like, ?I don?t want to know any
But Donna?s burden would only deepen.
In late February, she and Mike went to court to contest an effort
Brian?s parents, who live in New York, to take custody of Devin.
The Whitneys, who had declined any interest in caring for the boys
the days following the tragedy, were asking only for Devin. He was
Brian?s biological son and Tyler was not.
The case was complicated by a letter Rhonda signed at Brian?s
while the two were separated. The letter stipulated that Devin
be raised by the Whitneys if anything were to happen to them.
Donna said she and Mike tried to challenge the validity of the
in court, and, in an effort to keep the boys together, even
let the Whitneys raise Tyler, too. But the Whitneys wanted only
and the judge eventually ruled in their favor.
?I couldn?t understand it,? Donna said. ?I told the judge, ?God,
lost their mom, their dad, a (unborn) sister they were all excited
about. And then they have to lose each other, too.??
The court ruled the Kloses could keep custody of both boys until
1. But when the boys learned of the decision to separate them, the
Kloses decided it would be better for all involved to expedite the
transition sooner than later.
The Whitneys picked up Devin and took him back with them to New
* * *
?Is mighty, but a mother?s heart
is weak. And by its weakness
* * *
Donna continues to work through the grief of losing her daughter
?Mornings are my worst because I think about her before I go to
and she?s the first thing on my mind when I wake up,? she said.
?Some mornings it?s like I don?t want to get up and do this, I
want to continue,? she added. ?I just don?t want to deal with
I hear that alarm clock and I know Tyler has to get to school and
have to get up and make him breakfast.?
Realizing the depth of his pain has helped her cope with hers.
?All three of my grandchildren (including Brenda?s young son) have
been through a tragedy,? she said. ?They have seen more evil than
we?re ever going to see in our lives.?
In addition to the death of her daughter, Donna helped bury her
recently and her mother has been diagnosed with a terminal
?Every time I start feeling sorry for myself, I think about what
kids went through, and it can get me going,? she said. ?I keep my
concentrated on them and on Mike and his kids. I guess I don?t
myself a chance to totally lose it. What good would that do
Others have helped her work through this time of crisis. At the
her list is her husband.
?The minute we found out about it, and through all we?ve gone
he?s been a rock,? Donna said. ?He stood right beside me, made
plans with me. It?s like I was numb and he would just keep me
She also is grateful for the kindnesses shown to them by Mike?s
employers and coworkers at Hillsboro Industries.
The Kloses have also received gifts of food and prayer from people
the Ebenfeld Church, located near their home.
?There are a lot of good people in Hillsboro,? she said.
But the road is only beginning for the Kloses. Aside from dealing
their own sense of loss, they face numerous challenges as ?new?
Most of all, they want to maintain a bond with Devin, and help him
stay connected with Tyler as the two boys grow up in separate
households hundreds of miles away.
On a day-to-day basis, they also face the challenge of helping
overcome learning disabilities as he begins his school career.
The responsibilities of parenting Tyler are myriad. Donna is still
adjusting to the change.
?I thought I was done raising children,? she said with a smile.
kind of different. It?s like I know I?m going to be raising him
and he?s going to be here forever. He loves it here, but in a lot
ways he?s still with his mom.?
And she, in a lot of ways, is still with her daughter.
?I feel like a piece of me is gone,? Donna said. ?But in a way,
has made me a smarter mom. My kids would call me and they?d need
stuff, and I?d always run to give it to them. But no matter what I
for them, I found out I can?t protect them from everything in this
?When something like this happens, you think the best,? she added.
?You know your child was good, you know she?s in a good place, and
know she?s watching over you. You make it a positive thing.?
She envisions a positive outcome for her grandsons, too.
?I want them to grow up to be happy, content, safe, secure, and to
have good values,? she said. ?I want them to grow up knowing that
everything in the world is evil.?
And that includes guns. She said Tanner would have killed her
through any means available to him.
?I do not want my daughter?s death blamed on a gun,? she said. ?He
could have stabbed them, he could have burned the house down.
could have saved my daughter.?
Except maybe one thing, she added: the willingness of neighbors
bystanders to g
ORIGINALLY WRITTEN DON RATZLAFF