It’s been two years since Kerry Messer, 57, a conservative Jefferson City lobbyist, woke up in the early morning hours at his Ste. Genevieve home to find his then 52-year-old wife, Lynn Messer, missing. Now, two years later, Kerry still finds himself reaching across the bed hoping to feel Lynn lying next to him, in hopes of discovering it has all been one bad nightmare.
An intense investigation started that morning once Kerry dialed 911 after searching the common areas around their 250-acre farm where she would normally be found. What alarmed Kerry the most was the fact that he found a handwritten letter, which appeared to be from his wife Lynn and the content scared him.
Investigators, along with Kerry, kept the details of a letter even existing for the last two years a secret, up until this week when their son, Abram Messer, leaked the details about it to another media source.
Kerry said not being able to find Lynn and Lynn not being in the house was not that big of a deal, the letter is what put him into a panic.
“When we never did find her and when she never came home, the letter was the motivation for calling law enforcement so quickly,” said Kerry. “I told law enforcement that I had this letter when they showed up and because of the letter they kicked everything in high gear. They didn’t know how to interpret the letter, but it did motivate them to get engaged a little quicker and for that I was thankful even though it didn’t produce any results.”
Kerry said in the very beginning, law enforcement asked him not to talk about the letter. He didn’t understand why, but just complied. Kerry said he avoided talking about it and the few people he had already told he went to and asked them to not say anything because they wanted to honor what law enforcement had requested.
“It was some 10 months later during an interrogation I found out their whole reason for wanting me to not say anything, it is because they were busy trying to figure out a way to prove that I had written the letter,” said Kerry. “I was asked, ‘what does this mean?’ and I kept telling law enforcement I have no idea what it means, all I know is it put me in a panic because I didn’t know how to interpret it.”
Kerry said he didn’t know what it meant and had never seen Lynn writing anything like that and it scared him. He added this last year he has been trying to explain the letter to people because it is difficult to explain.
“It’s a non-descript letter and it can be interpreted lots of different ways,” said Kerry. “The issue for me, is over time as I become a little more aware of things no one told me in the beginning and little bits of new information has come about, it gives credence to interpret the letter that it could have been a suicide note.”
Kerry said it is not definitive, so the best thing he can say is it was a letter of concern. It was a letter that started with an apology and an affirmation of love. Then it addressed some other stressors with another individual and ended by saying sorry to everyone.
Kerry said less than 12 hours from the time Lynn disappeared she had told her daughter-in-law he should marry someone else and he didn't find this out until 11 months later. Things like that has made him believe that it was a note of finality that most likely meant she intended to harm herself.
“We have never found her and we have no way of interpreting it yet with confidence,” said Kerry. “We can speculate all kinds of things. If it weren’t for the note, despite the light rain, I would have assumed that she must have went out for a walk and would have given it no thought. The note pretty much freaked me out.”
He added law enforcement took the note, but he also maintained a copy of it. The first line of the note was addressed specifically to him and the rest of it was addressed to another family member.
“I snipped that portion off my copy because it addressed another family member that I did not want them to see,” said Kerry. “Because I was fearful if this meant something bad had happened, that they would take all the guilt on themselves that it was their fault.”
Kerry said none of it made sense for 11 months until he found out the details of what that particular conflict had been. Then the details she wrote made more sense to him.
“It was evidence she had walked out of the house on her own,” said Kerry. “From there, even if Lynn had been at the end of her rope with stress, lots of people get to the point of contemplating taking their own life and at the last moment can’t do it and change their minds. I still was holding out hope that she went somewhere, changed her mind and had an accident making her way back home.”
Kerry doesn’t like to talk about his family because he doesn’t want to hurt them or them to perceive he is talking about them, but he did address the fact that Abram talked to another media source and made several accusations about Kerry, in addition to speculation about Lynn.
Kerry discussed the fact that Abram said his mother was depressed and had made a previous suicide attempt, but instead killed a bunch of cats.
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“To my knowledge that is not true,” said Kerry. “The first time he brought that up to me was about a year and half after Lynn was gone and he was accusing me of withholding information and telling everyone everything. He threw that out as an example of things I am not being honest about.”
Kerry said when he asked Abram where that came from he was met with a response that Lynn had disclosed that in a counseling session with a pastor during a pastoral session.
“That shook me up so I called the pastor and asked him about it,” said Kerry. “The pastor said nothing like that was ever said and that Lynn did not say that. We were left scratching our heads trying to figure out how in the world Abram would think that was said when he was never even there.”
Kerry added now Abram reports it as something that she told him directly. He said his concern is if she did tell him that directly then he should have reported that to him or someone else.
“He had two years to do so and now it comes out this way and I don’t even know how to respond to that,” said Kerry. “The stress of the season has caused all of us to examine every detail of our lives and interactions with Lynn.”
Kerry said it leaves each person to process their emotions and responses differently. He added all he can do for Abram right now is give him the space he needs to work out his own issues.
“This is the first I have known of these accusations he is making,” said Kerry. “His mother is gone and he is struggling. Next to me, he was the next person closest to Lynn so he is suspect number two and law enforcement has put him through the ringer. He doesn’t know how to handle any of it, the strains have gotten bad enough this last year that at the end of this legislative session our partnership has been dissolved and we no longer work together.”
Kerry said his family is not fighting and Abram is struggling with his own issues, which he has chosen to focus on speculative accusations, rather than processing his own emotions over his mother’s disappearance.
“Abram sees this as some kind of a cover up and that I’m not being honest with people,” said Kerry. “That is just confusion in his own mind. According to the article writer, Abram Messer believes his father is hiding something and his quote is, ‘I see two possibilities. Number one, my mother walked out of the house, took her own life, and my father moved her body in an effort to protect himself or protect his assets, to protect the farm. Or, he was more directly involved.’ When I read that this morning I about fell out of my chair and I had never heard such an accusation.”
Kerry said this is completely different from what Abram has ever said that he is aware of in the past and certainly contradicts everything he has ever said to him, but they haven’t spoken in more than six months.
“Abram is struggling with his own issues, which have made it impossible for us to continue working together after 12 years,” said Kerry. “Stresses of grieving impacts everyone differently, which is why parents who tragically lose a child, more often than not, end up divorced as a result. In our case, the not knowing has taken a heavy toll on our family. This is the first time Abram has made this kind of accusation that I am aware of. It is sad to see him come to this kind of state. If this is what he has come to believe over the past year, it certainly helps to explain a lot of his behavior towards me recently and it certainly adds to the grief of a difficult season.”
Kerry also wanted to point out the reason he never had a reward fund. He said the sheriff’s department had advised him not to do it. He planned to use cattle as collateral for the reward fund.
“They kept saying this is not the situation where we need it and they explained the kind of cases where it is beneficial and this is not one of those situations,” said Kerry. “They strongly advised me for a year not to have one.”
Kerry said this is the life he has to live and it is very frustrating. He added he doesn’t want to have a bad attitude towards law enforcement or anyone else.
“It was a very harsh reality for me a year ago to come to realize … law enforcement has been more interested in proving I committed a crime than in finding my wife,” said Kerry. “For 10 months I talked almost weekly with the lead detective either on the phone or in person and I had no idea what they were doing. I am very distraught over the whole thing. It’s been explained to me by retired law enforcement folks, they don’t care how much damage they do to your family. We don’t pay them to care, we pay them to figure out if a crime was committed and if so, who committed it. If a crime was committed, we absolutely want them to figure it out. So we don’t want to interfere.”
Kerry said he can’t do anything about Abram and will keep praying that the Lord will show them where Lynn is and what in the world has happened.
“The stress is so unbearable,” said Kerry. “I am having my family ripped to pieces, having loved ones looking at me with suspicion, my wife is already gone, my life is wreck, and my home is no longer a home, it’s just a house. I struggle to get sleep and motivation to get things done. I have been functioning better than I had been and maybe there is a normal life after this.”
Authorities confirmed the note is a piece of evidence in the case and that the letter was analyzed by the FBI, but they cannot 100 percent say that it was Lynn’s handwriting, but they feel it possibly was.
Kerry still goes around to pass out flyers to businesses in hopes of keeping Lynn fresh in everyone’s mind. He has researched other long-term missing person cases and that has made him pessimistic about a happy outcome.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org