Teri Lee’s husband died in an auto accident in 2001. She and her 4 children ages 6 to 12 had to go on with their life without their husband and father.
After about a year, later Teri Lee was ready to begin a social life. She started going out with Steven Van Keuren, a man she had known for some time, as she worked with him and he had played softball with her late husband.
Relatives say that Mrs. Lee tried to break off the relationship several times, but that Van Keuren wouldn’t ‘allow’ her to do so. Then in July after another attempt to break up, Van Keuren allegedly broke into her home. Allegedly he told her that if they couldn’t be together in life, then he would kill her and himself so “they could be together forever” and he attempted to stab her with a couple of butcher knives.
Police arrested Van Keuren and he was charged with making terroristic threats, 2 counts of first degree burglary, and 2 nd degree assault.
An investigator remembers Mrs. Lee telling him of her fear: “she was very afraid that the defendant would make bail and come to her house and kill her,”. At a hearing Van Keuren was given bail which he managed to raise. A condition of his bail was that he not have any contact with Mrs. Lee, her home or her family.
A few weeks ago Mrs. Lee received an email purportedly from Van Keuren’s father, asking her to meet with Van Keuren. Mrs. Lee turned the email over to police and a warrant was issued for his arrest however he had not been arrested as yet. On Wednesday, Van Keuren reportedly was seen at the 12 year old daughter’s volleyball game. She told school officials and they took her to the office and called Mrs. Lee, and she advised them to call police.
Mrs. Lee was not idle. She installed a security system on her home. She reached out to neighbors and asked them to contact police if they saw Van Keuren within a mile of her home. Mrs. Lee had a new boyfriend, relatives have said it was Tim Hawkinson who had been very helpful at this time. She had also known him for a long time as they had grown up in the same neighborhood and they also worked at the same company. Tim Hawkinson was at her home on Thurs. night and stayed over.
Allegedly Van Keuren broke into the home about 4:30 Fri. AM. The 12 year old daughter saw him and tried to call 911 but he ripped the phone from her hands. Though Van Keuren had reportedly shaved his goatee and head, and painted a red X on his head she recognized him. The 12 year old got her 6 year old sister and tried to find her brothers, but they had taken refuge in a closet. She and her sister rushed across the street to wake a neighbor, but reportedly they heard the shots.
Police were called, then a SWAT Team. Attempts were made to call the home but no one answered. The two girls told police what they saw. And they described the home and its layout for police. Police had their concerns. It wasn’t known who all was shot. It was known where the two boys were. And it wasn’t known what Van Keuren was doing.
After 90 minutes police rushed the home. Authorities say that Van Keuren was still armed and that he confronted the SWAT Team. Police opened fire and Van Keuren was shot. Authorities found Teri Lee and Tim Hawkinson dead in a bedroom of the home. In another bedroom they found the two brothers. They were physically unharmed. Police say there is no indication that Van Keuren intended any harm to the children.
Mrs. Lee was proactive. She told the court of her fears and begged that they not give him bail, she installed security, she reached out to neighbors, and she had someone stay at the home with her. She did what she thought was best to protect herself and her family. And she tried to get the court to do the same. She tried to tell how plainly Van Keuren had stated her intentions to her.
Some reports say the security system did not go off when Van Keuren entered the home yet it did go off when SWAT entered the home.
Now 4 children are motherless. A twelve year old left the protect her sister, to call police and recount what happened, to help them with the home’s layout, and to comfort her young sister in that agonizing 90 minutes while police were preparing to enter the home. All the while not knowing the fate of her mother, two brothers and a friend. She was forced to act that day, more like a woman than a 12 year old child.
Two little boys, in hiding who heard everything. That 90 minutes must have felt like a lifetime, yet they managed to stay still and quiet until help arrived.
They lost their father at a young age through a terrible accident, now they have lost their mother through senseless violence. Family is stepping up to gain guardianship of the children, they will likely be loved and cared for. But no amount of love and support will completely erase the memory and trauma they suffered that night. They clung to their mother when their father died, now they no longer have her to cling to when they need her so badly.
The friend Tim Hawkinson. He wanted to help. He tried to help. Yet he too was brought down in this senseless act of violence.
Van Keuren reportedly had a red X painted on his head. It struck me that that may have been meant as a target for the police. Yet instead of killing him, he is in the hospital in serious condition. I wonder if he has come to the realization yet, that instead of him and Mrs. Lee being together after death, it is Mrs. Lee, her husband, and Tim Hawkinson? And I also wonder if he believes in the Bible. If so, I wonder if he will ever come to the realization that ‘Thou shalt not kill’ is one of the commandments that he broke, and that in breaking it- even if he had died, he may very well have ended up in a different place than Mrs. Lee for all eternity.
A big thank you to fconway for the tip on this one.
Family is calling the 12 year old a hero for her actions in protecting her sister, getting assistance for her family, and helping police.
upi.com (and I have to say I totally agree with them)
Family calling for legislation to protect domestic violence victims.
This is a good start. But what is needed is for the families of domestic violence victims from across the country to begin organizing and calling for stronger laws and quicker, better enforcement of those laws by both law enforcement and the courts. There is also a need for increased victim services.
Tim Jon Hawkinson Sr., 47, is also being called a hero. He not only installed the home security system at Teri Lee’s home to keep her family safe, he also installed one at his home. The family stayed with him some nights, because they didn’t think that Van Keuren could find his home. Described as a man devoted to his own sons, Hawkinson is also reported to have spent time with the Lee children, going over and over a plan to help keep them safe if Van Keuren should come to the home. The plan was for them to either hide or flee the home. And the night it happened, that is exactly what they did.
A partial transcript of the 911 call, and more infomation on the role the twelve year girl played with police officers. The children all heard the shooting. The 12 year old saw her mother on the floor before she left the home with her sister.
More details on the events that led up to the murder.
On Wednesday June 27,2007 Van Keuren was found guilty of two counts of 1st degree murder. Today he was sentenced to two consectutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
Van Keuren did take the stand and told the court that he intended to commit suicide in front of Teri Lee, but that she told him she had miscarried and so he shot her. Allegedly the 12 year old girl was in the room under the covers when her mother was shot.
A big thank you to D. for letting me know about the update on this one.
Recent articles show that the kids are now with their aunt and uncle, and when they moved in it made 10 people in the home… a very crowded situation. But local high school kids decided to help and they made sure the family was nominated to “Extreme Makeover.” The show chose this family to help.
They now have a new home that is big enough for the whole family.
This article did something I very seldom do. It made me cry. I didn’t see the show, but have seen others they do. I know the show works hard to make sure the whole family gets spaces that fit with their personalities and their interests. And with what this family has been through, I am so happy that the kids, the show, the community and the volunteers came together to help this family.
Yet with all they have been through and all the work that goes with a large family, somehow they have still found some time:
Swenson, who is active in lobbying for change in domestic violence legislation, said “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” producers are sending the family an edited copy.
So my tears were happy tears. To the Swensons, I hope you enjoy your new home and thank you for the work you are doing in the lobbying.