The lack of a resolution in the case is frustrating for family members.
By SHERRI L. SHAULIS
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
NILES -- Janet Price knows her sister was "a true gem" who still had so much to offer.
The East Palestine woman said that Jane Kleese was the baby of the family but that she was the one who held it together.
"The person who killed her killed a part of us," Price said. "They killed our hope, our spirit and our joy that day."
Kleese, 35, of Cynthia Street, was found dead Jan. 23 at the bottom of her basement stairs by her adolescent children when they came home from school.
Police are investigating the death as a homicide.
Capt. Charles Wilson said police are examining leads, and all information has been turned over to the Trumbull County Prosecutor's Office.
Initially, investigators believed the death was an accident because Kleese was on several kinds of medication for treatment of multiple sclerosis.
Based on lab reports, however, the county coroner's office ruled death was caused by asphyxiation, not the fall or the medication.
The coroner's ruling also indicated Kleese had been assaulted, but police have declined to comment on the nature of the assault.
Kleese was last seen dropping off her daughter at school about 8 a.m.
Her children found her body about 3:17 p.m. that day.
She was wearing a robe, and a bundle of clothing was found nearby with articles of clothing strewn down the steps.
There was no sign of forced entry into the home, and nothing was reported taken, police said.
Waiting is hard
The lack of a resolution in the case is frustrating for Price and other relatives.
"It's torment for us waiting for if and when there will be an arrest," Price said. "I pray every day that the person responsible will one day be brought to justice."
Her siblings say Kleese, the youngest of five children, was more than a wife and mother of two.
"She was a wonderful person who meant so much to so many people," said a sister, Cheryl Boor of Hubbard.
Her brother, Tom Woodward of Youngstown, said Kleese was a "larger-than-life presence in all of our lives."
"It's a tragedy of tragedies when you lose a family member, especially in this manner," he said.
Kleese, who would have celebrated her 36th birthday this coming Sunday, had a bright, warm personality that drew others to her, her siblings said.
In addition to her own children, she also was the touchstone for nieces, nephews and friends of her 16-year-old son and 12-year-old daughter.
"There are a lot of children out there hurting because she is gone," Price said.
Each day, her family struggles with the things Kleese will miss: She will never see her children graduate or marry, she will never celebrate another holiday with loved ones, she will never again get to experience the simple joys of life.
Keeping her memory
As they wait for some closure, they work to keep her memory alive. They don't want to see their baby sister "fade away," and people to forget her.
"It's hard to believe one person could ruin so many lives," Boor said of whoever killed her.
Boor, Price and Woodward say they have learned patience in the seven months since their sister's death. Boor said she's learning life isn't like television, where arrests are made and cases are solved within hours.
"I'm trying to be patient, I really am," she said.
Woodward said he understands time is on the family's side, since there is no statute of limitations on homicide cases.
All three siblings said Niles police officers and county prosecutors keep them updated, giving them all the information they can. They say they have confidence that someday the case will be put to rest.
Boor said that if there ever is an arrest, "I plan on being right there, right in the front row for that trial."
"I would like to see justice here and now," Woodward said. "But I am assured that there will be accountability someday. I believe in Judgment Day, and I know whoever is responsible will pay someday."