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Jury deliberating 1999 Council Bluffs murder case after defendant withdraws decision to testify

Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 7:49 PM CDT
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COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa (WOWT) - Lost evidence and apologies as a cold case goes to a jury.

Older cases are always more difficult to try because witnesses die and memories fade. This case gets even more complicated than that.

At the Pottawattamie County Courthouse on Thursday, a man on trial for murder planned to do something that rarely happens: He was going to testify.

“Yes, I would like to testify,” Matt Kennedy told the court.

He planned to defend himself by taking the witness stand this morning, but then his attorney said he began shaking as the jury walked in.

The defense attorney asked: “We need to know: What’s your decision You can still change your mind.”

He changed his mind.

The week-long trial has been plagued by time. Kim Ratliff was 22 years old when she was found murdered and put into her car 22 years ago.

The car is a piece of evidence — but no one knows where it is today. The county attorney apologized to the jury for what he called bad police work back then.

“The car is gone. That’s bad for the defense. They’re trying to defend a touch case from 22 years ago, and we’re trying to prove a tough case from 22 years ago,” Pottawattamie County Attorney Matt Wilber said in court. “You deserve better.”

Kennedy, 52, is the victim’s stepbrother. He and Ratliff worked together and got off at the same time.

The state says he was the last person to see her alive that January evening in 1999. His DNA was found on her bra.

The defense says current investigators have the wrong guy and should instead find the owner of the unknown male DNA found on the victim.

“It’s frightening that a woman of 22 years is brutally slaughtered and for 15 years, so little is done about it,” defense attorney Amy Kepes said.

A cold case that’s now in the hands of a jury.

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