Saturday, May 24, 2008
I remember it as a very warm early July evening. The year was 1999. For the life of me, I cannot remember how we first heard about it but the news was shocking, chilling, and heartbreaking all at once. Brett Wildermuth had been shot by another man at his home. Brett was second cousin to Lisa. He lived on the other side of town with his wife and their three young children. I had gone to high school with his wife and she was the sister of a co-worker of mine.

The news left us in shock. We didn't know what to think. Everyone who knew Brett thought the world of him. He was a musician and Sunday School teacher. He was strong in his faith and had a passion for sharing it with others. They had a wonderful, loving family.

As we started to tune in the news, it was obvious that the police were still trying to piece things together. The killer had fled and they didn't know where he was. He had left his wife at Brett's house. He had gone to Brett's house after calling Brett and telling him that he was in some kind of trouble. Brett had prepared a place for them to kneel and pray at his home when the killer shot him in the back.

Then other details started to come in. Three girls had been found dead in the killer's house. Two 16-year-olds and a 14-year-old. Another girl was badly injured but alive.

On the lam, the killer was spotted in Kentucky and, later as I recall, Michigan. There was talk that he was holed up with relatives in the hills and hollers of Kentucky and perhaps could never be found. They were supposedly protecting him.

Meanwhile, all kinds of rumors were spreading. The killer, while he did attend Brett's church on occasion, spoke often of satanic cults, even indicating that he'd been in one at one time and now the other members were out to get him.

As the police predicted, the killer did return to the scene of the crime when five days later he showed up back in town and caused some havoc by shooting and injuring a man and then taking hostages at a local gas station before later giving them up safely and being arrested.

He plead guilty so few details about the case ever came out. The ones that did come out were less than G-rated so I will not post them here. He was sentenced to life in prison.

It was a tragic, stupid loss of four lives.

So, why am I mentioning this now? Brett's son, Joel, graduated Friday night from Christian Academy. The oldest of their three children, Joel was just nine when his dad was killed. Evan's age. Joel was co-valedictorian of his class. He has his dad's musical talent and gift for sharing. A great young man. Both Joel and his mom spoke at graduation. Inspiring speeches about perseverance and trusting God, falling into His arms. They've been there. Truly.

You can now see where God has been and is all over this horrible tragedy. I was convinced at the time that the killer's story would some day be a made-for-tv movie, probably with Rick Schroeder playing him. Fortunately that never happened. But the power of God as he has healed this family and led to Joel being co-valedictorian of his graduating class? Now that is story worthy of writing.

  posted at 9:28 PM  

At 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow...that story makes me cry everytime i hear it.. I'm Joel's girlfriend and being at graduation and hearing his speach about his dad..well i know how hard it was for him...and i just want to say thanks for posting that...Mr Wildermuth was an amazing man and i didnt even know him..but you can see it through Joel...

At 8:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So odd that I happened upon your blog, I was just reading through it laughing about the Wal-Mart stories (I can relate). This entry made me smile even though it brought tears. I also see Brett every time I am near Joel, there are so many similarities! My name is Kalee, and Brett was my "uncle Brett". Sheila is my Dad's sister. Thank you for your post (though I realize it was written awhile back), it made me smile and gave me a little peace at the end of a very stressful day (I was in fact listening to a CD of Brett's music on the way home today :) He certainly was an amazing man, and he touched all who were blessed to know him.


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Todd M


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