Witness: Evidence pointed to Kramer
By John Weiss
PRESTON -- In the first six days that law enforcement agents looked for 3-year-old Kenny Kramer they thought they would find him alive and healthy.
But on May 15, the boy's father told his ex-fiancee "that the victim, Kenny, was never coming back," Houston County Chief Investigator Brian Wetterlin testified Thursday in the murder trial of the father, Harold "Howey" Kramer, 27, of rural Brownsville.
When he heard Kramer say that, he believed the boy was dead, Wetterlin said. The boy, who was taken from his grandparents' rural Brownsville mobile home May 10, was found May 18. He was in a large plastic bag that was duct taped to a tree on a steep hillside within 300 feet of the mobile home. He had suffocated.
Kramer faces five felony charges, including first-degree murder, in connection with the death. He has pleaded not guilty, and his defense attorney said Kramer's confession during an interrogation was coerced.
In his testimony, Wetterlin said the first six days were geared to finding the boy alive. But when investigators had Dawn Buroker, Kramer's ex-fiancee, talk with Kramer while she wore a microphone, they heard Kramer say the boy would never come back. It was then the investigation began to switch to looking for a body.
Wetterlin who, along with FBI Special Agent Dan Craft were the final two prosecution witnesses, gave jurors a picture of what the prosecution believes happened as well as of a videotaped interview with Kramer hours after the body was found.
Wetterlin said he was one of the first Houston County officials to go to the Kramer mobile home. Five hours after the boy was discovered to be missing, Wetterlin talked with Howey Kramer for an hour. It was in that interview that he said he began to suspect that Kramer was involved with the kidnapping. Later interviews reinforced that. "I told the defendant what he was telling me did not make any sense whatsoever and I offered him help if he needed it," he said.
Kramer's story was that he was in Wisconsin at the time, and was stopped by two men who beat him up and said they had his son. But the clothes Kramer was wearing didn't seem to be soiled by dirt or tar, even though the road on which he said he was stopped was freshly paved, Wetterlin said. The knees of the jeans, however, did have some green stains on them, he said. At first, Kramer said he couldn't think of anyone who would want to take his son. But later on May 10, he said he thought one of the two people who beat him was a friend of Buroker. A check of the friend found he had been sleeping in his parents' home at the time of the kidnapping, Wetterlin said.
For the next four or five days, investigators talked with people who knew the Kramers or the boy and asked the media to broadcast a request for information about where the boy was. They got two tips, Wetterlin said.
Another thing that pointed to Kramer was that the word "different" was spelled "differant" both on the ransom note and in letters Kramer had written to Buroker or others, he said. Also, Kramer used "gonna" instead of "going to" in his letters; the same phrase was used in the ransom note, the officer said.
(Defense attorney Candace Rasmussen, in her cross-examination, noted that some agents and Buroker also used "gonna" in their letters or reports and suggested using "ant" instead of "ent" at end of words may be a common error.)
On May 17, investigators called in dogs trained to find scents or bodies, he said. The animals searched in Wisconsin and some places in Minnesota but didn't find the boy that day, he said. On May 18, they were prepared to search by the mobile home when an FBI agent saw the body.
Two hours later, officials asked Kramer to come to the La Crescent Police Department to have a palm print taken. Instead, Craft and Ken McDonald of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, asked Kramer to step into a small interrogation room and told him his son had been found dead. Kramer howled and wailed with grief and denied having anything to do with the death. But in the course of the 31⁄2; hour interview, he said he was responsible for his son's death.
In a question-and-answer session at the end of the interrogation, Kramer calmly gave details of how he placed the boy in the plastic bag feet first, how he duct taped it to the tree and left, even though the boy was crying.
When Kramer stepped out of the interrogation room, Wetterlin was there. "After Agent McDonald (said) the defendant had made a statement about the death of Kenny, I made an arrest," he said. Kramer was taken to the Houston County Jail.
BOX: This note was submitted as evidence in the murder trial of Harold "Howey" Kramer, who is charged in connection with the death of his 3-year-old son, Kenny. The spelling and grammatical errors in the letter have not been corrected.
Well now that you didn't listen to what I had to say before I am gonna put this a differant way. I have been watching everything you do and I don't like it you are gonna have the change your ways. I happen to know that Dawn still wants to marry you but she can't find a way to get it through to you. Now we are gonna do things my way and if you do evrything right noone will get hurt.
I will give you one week to get ahold of Dawn and get married or you will never see your son again. You will not hear from me until after you are married but the sooner you two marry the sooner you will see your son. Remember you only have one week so you better get ahold of Dawn as soon as possible and don't think about involving the cops too much or you will never see your son again. When you do see her have her say one thing to you it will make a big difference on your memory and your relationship "I love you and Kenny and I want to set a wedding date"
I hope for your sons sake you hury
You will find out where he is after you are married good luck..