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Family grieves for slain child

Grandparents struggle to cope with boy's loss

By Charles Tombarge

The Post-Bulletin

CALEDONIA -- Kenny Kramer loved breakfast time.

He'd wake up early with his grandmother and make coffee and breakfast for his grandfather, Harold Kramer Sr. "They really enjoyed the breakfast meal every day," said Elmer Kramer, Kramer Sr.'s brother.

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Breakfast at the Kramers' Brownsville, Minn., home will never be the same.

The body of Kenny, 3, was found Tuesday in a heavily wooded area about 150 yards from the Kramers' home. Houston County Sheriff Mike Lee said he suspects Kenny suffocated.

Kenny's father, Harold Kramer Jr. was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in connection to the death. He's being held in the Houston County jail here on $50,000 bail.

The Kramer family left their home with a chaplain when investigators found Kenny's body. They and other family members are staying with Elmer Kramer in Onalaska, Wis.

Elmer said that Kenny's disappearance May 10 left Kenny's grandparents distraught. But news of their son's alleged involvement crushed them.

"They have their bad moments when they see something in the paper or on the TV," Elmer said. "The grandparents thought the world of (Kenny). You might as well say they were his parents since they brought him up."

Kenny and his father had lived with Kramer Sr. and Margaret Kramer for at least several months, since Kenny's father broke up with his girlfriend.

Elmer last saw Kenny only two days before his disappearance, and Kenny was his usual cheerful self.

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"He was a nice little boy," Elmer said. "He was talkative for a 3-year-old. I think he was pretty bright."

Elmer said that the closeness of his family has helped the Kramers cope.

"It's been tough," he said. "We just kind of hang together. That's about all you can do.

"I'm afraid it's going to take a little while because things like this don't disappear overnight," Elmer said.

The events of the past two weeks have also hit the Brownsville community hard. Though some feel relief at the closure of this case, others still cannot believe what has happened in this small river town.

"We're all pretty much devastated over the whole deal," said Marge Kjos, whose family owns the Riverview Inn restaurant in Brownsville. "Everyone's in shock right now. It hasn't quite sunk in."

People here also feel badly that this news has brought so much attention to this town, to which many move for the scenery and the privacy.

"The town has been tainted by a horrible crime," Kjos said.

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She said it's been particularly difficult to explain this week's news to her 7-year-old son. "He is confused and just kind of in shock," she said.

But children and residents here are not the only ones who have taken the news hard.

"If you think law enforcement is tough, you should have seen them when we found the body," Sheriff Lee said. "There was a lot of hugging and trying to console each other up there."

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