For elder Kramer, past year has been 'longest of my life'

Grandfather misses grandson, stands by son

Harold Kramer Sr.'s past year has been a nightmare wrapped in heartbreak.

"The last year has probably been the longest year of my life," he said.

In the early hours of May 10, 1999, he discovered his beloved grandson, Kenny, 3, had been kidnapped from his bed in the rural Brownsville home he lived in with his grandparents Harold Sr. and Margaret Kramer. Ten days later, the boy's body was found and Kramer's son, Harold "Howey" Kramer Jr., was charged with the boy's death.

In the time since the initial charges and throughout their son's trial in Preston, the Kramers have maintained their son's innocence. They drove more than an hour each way every day during jury selection and Howey's trial, spending the noon hour lunching with Howey.


Twice called to the stand

They were called twice to the witness stand and gave details about their son and grandson, telling jurors of their son's love for Kenny.

Yet they didn't back off from telling jurors details that pointed to their son. One was that their dog, Poppy, barked at anyone that came close to, or into, their house, except for Harold Kramer Sr., Margaret Kramer, Howey Kramer and his girlfriend, Dawn Buroker. On the night Kenny was taken, Poppy never barked.

Both grandparents gave that testimony, though it pointed at their son, and they refused to soften the testimony. "Wouldn't do that," Harold Kramer said. "I'm not that kind of guy."

When talking about Kenny, Kramer has consistently talked of the boy's gentleness and loving nature.

"He was all boy," he said in an interview last week. When he talked about the boy, he started to smile. He told of how the boy learned to ride his trike and then a bike on the small road in front of their home; to show his grandmother, he put a plastic chair on the deck so Margaret could see him ride.

In a statement he read at the sentencing, Kramer talked of Kenny. "My wife no longer awakens to giggles and two little eyes peering at her from over the edge of the bed," he said. "No precious littler cherub in PJs awakens me with a big cup of coffee in his tiny hands." Kramer has also never backed off from criticizing the prosecuting attorney and the judge, though both have publicly said how much their admire the courage of the Kramers.

He said William Klumpp Jr., the prosecutor, twisted facts in a "bald-faced lie" in his opening statement to jurors. And he said Judge Robert Benson came close to slander in his remarks at the sentencing and he gave Howey the maximum sentence because of a personal vendetta.


Faith renewed

Despite the nightmare of the past year, Kramer said it has also been a time of renewed Christian faith and closeness with his wife. He said he had drifted from his faith when serving with the military in Vietnam and other places. The day Kenny was kidnapped, however, the Rev. Phil Williams of Zion Evangelical Church of Brownsville was visiting nearby. He stopped by and asked if he could help. The Kramers talked with him, "and he has been with us ever since," he said. "I think it made me relax a lot more. I was tight as a bowstring."

Also, the Brownsville community has been fantastic, he said, putting up a special bench and birdbath in Kenny's memory and working on an even bigger project for the boy.

Still, while some good things happened, the memories of that year don't vanish.

Kramer said it's still "up and down, you know." He can start to relax, and suddenly, boom, something will remind him of Kenny or Howey, such as looking in the boy's room where they have some of his toys and pictures.

Today, being the anniversary of the kidnapping, he said he and his wife will again visit Kenny's grave in one of the last rows in Oakland Cemetery where grass has not yet grown back as green and lush as that covering the graves of his relatives.

Perhaps the two will water flowers they planted in a plastic child's pail a few weeks ago.

Remembering Kenny and thinking of what has happened in the past year make it such a difficult time, harder than even combat in Vietnam, he said. "There, you could shoot back," Kramer said. "Here, you just have to take it."

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