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Grisly Beatrice murders still haunt community years later
It was a crime that shocked the town of Beatrice and 25 years later the horrific triple homicide still haunts the area.
A quarter of a century ago 21-year-old Jerry Keckley, 18-year-old Lisa Barrett, and 21-year-old Benny Bartram were shot to death execution style as they slept in their Beatrice home. Memories of the grisly crime are still vivid among townspeople and the families of the victims as the killer sits in prison preparing for his parole.
Family members remember Lisa Barrett as strong willed yet a gentle spirit.
In January 1986 the recent high school graduate rented a Beatrice house with her boyfriend Jerry Keckley and friend Benny Bartram.
She had just started working at the Beatrice State Developmental Center. She'd been there about two weeks.
On January 19th Lisa's dreams of becoming a nurse came to a tragic end when the three renters were killed in a senseless crime that still haunts the families.
"I wish I wouldn't have let her move into the house with those other people but she was 18 and had her own will and there was nothing I could do about it," said Lisa's mom Phyllis Barrett.
The night before the murders Kenneth Johnson and David Jacob from Lincoln attended a party at the house.
Jacob wouldn't talk to News 5, but he later said the men had been smoking marijuana and drinking. They got into a fight at the house and were thrown out.
"Lisa and her boyfriend Jerry were not even in the house when the scuffle took place. Those two people were not invited to that house," said Barrett.
After the brawl, Johnson and Jacob drove to Lincoln, picked up their shotguns drove back. Meanwhile Lisa and Jerry had come home and were asleep in bed.
"When they broke in the back door Benny was the first hit because he was on the couch and Jerry and Lisa were in the room next to the living room," Barrett said.
All three executed in the early Sunday morning hours along with Lisa's dog an Irish wolfhound.
Captain Gerald Lamkin, then Sergeant, was at church when he was called onto the case.
"I wasn't prepared for what I saw and it left me speechless. When I saw that puppy had been killed along with these human lives that were taken... would they have left an infant alive? That just came to my mind. And thank God there was nobody else there because no doubt they would not be around," said Lamkin.
Phyllis lived right across the street from her daughter.
"I went out and a police detective was coming across the street to see if we had heard anything and I said 'my daughter lives in that house' and he said, 'oh, ma'am I'm so sorry'," said Barrett.
Lamkin started investigating.
"I asked, 'did anybody say or do anything else?' And this person responded by saying, 'Yes, they said they were going to go back to Lincoln and get their guns,' which totally just put an accelerant to the investigation," said Lamkin.
Within 24 hours Johnson and Jacob were behind bars.
Johnson, then 27, committed suicide in jail later that year and Jacob, then 25, was given three consecutive life sentences.
But even with the killers behind bars the waves they started rocked the town.
"People became more aware. I think they became more cognitive of looking to see who's in their neighborhood, locking their doors or being aware of should I lock my door. Because this type of community back then you just didn't think about it," said Lamkin.
Years lat Lisa's sister Tiffany recounted the tragedy in the Beatrice Sun saying it was just the beginning of a living hell. A hell Phyllis said is not over.
"It's something that doesn't go away - ever. I hate very much to say this, but I cannot forgive him and I cannot forget," said Barrett.
It is the crime that 25 years later still shocks the town.
The parole board will meet in August to discuss Jacob's case. They will not rule on a possible release date at that time. They will only see if he should be considered a parole candidate for 2015. Lisa's mother said she will fight to block his parole.
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