Jacque Waller disappeared from Jackson a year ago today

Friday, June 1, 2012
Stan and Ruby Rawson show drawings of their family tree made by one of Jacque Waller's triplets Tuesday in their home near Bonne Terre, Mo. A video excerpt of the interview with the Rawsons is at semissourian.com. (Fred Lynch)

Emotions are still raw for friends and family of Jacque Waller one year after the mother of triplets disappeared.

Although her body has never been found, in April prosecutors filed a murder charge against her estranged husband, Clay Waller.

Anybody who has had a loved one die unexpectedly can empathize with her family's loss, said Stan Rawson, Jacque Waller's father.

"You miss the heck out of them. You can't stand it," Rawson said. "... I don't know if it will ever be better. It has to be or I couldn't last, I don't think."

Authorities have said that Clay Waller was the last to see Jacque Waller alive a year ago today. He was charged with first-degree murder in Jacque Waller's disappearance April 23.

According to a probable-cause statement, Jacque Waller had been living in Ste. Genevieve County since March 2011, while Clay Waller had been living in Jackson. The statement said Jacque had also started seeing someone while the couple were separated. Clay Waller also had a girlfriend, who lived in Illinois, according to the statement.

On the day Jacque Waller disappeared, the Wallers had met with an attorney about divorce proceedings. At the meeting, the couple argued about financial problems, according to the document prepared by Jackson police chief James Humphreys.

Jacque Waller's blue Honda Pilot was seen at the house where Clay Waller was staying into the evening on the day she went missing, though there is no account of her whereabouts for several hours that afternoon and evening. Her family last heard from her when she said she was going to meet Clay Waller to get one of their children from him.

Clay Waller has denied any wrongdoing related to Jacque Waller's disappearance.

Changed lives

Ruby Rawson, Jacque Waller's mother, said helping raise the triplets, who live with Jacque's sister Cheryl Brenneke, has helped the Rawsons survive the past year.

But watching the children, now 6, grow up without their mother is difficult, she said. For example, it saddens her to think about the funny things they do that Jacque Waller has missed.

"It's changed their whole lives," Ruby Rawson said. "We can't even watch news programs when they're in the room because we're always afraid something will come on the television. I had the kids here one day last week and they wanted to turn on the radio and I turned it to a local station to listen to music and the news came on. One of the children came in and said, 'They just mentioned my mommy on the radio.'

"I don't think she paid attention, she just heard her mommy's name. We've really got to watch that. We really don't want them to know anything right now."

Stan Rawson said the family is trying to shield the triplets from inadvertently learning their father is accused of killing their mother.

"We want them to be kids as long as they can be kids," he said. "I don't like the idea of growing up that quick. The day they hear that their dad is charged with killing their mom, they will grow up immediately, no doubt."

The family is careful never to say anything bad about Clay Waller within earshot of the children, he said. The children don't talk about their father but often ask the Rawsons to tell them about their mother.

Ruby Rawson said her heart sank when one of them came to her and said, "Daddy did a bad thing." She asked what their daddy did. "Daddy litters," was the reply.

An arraignment for Clay Waller on the murder charge is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday in Jackson. During the arraignment, officials will determine whether Waller will have a private attorney or a public defender and establish a date for a preliminary appearance, which usually takes place within 30 days, officials said.

Scott Reynolds, who has represented Clay Waller in other matters, wouldn't comment on whether he's representing him in the murder case. As of 11 a.m. Thursday, Reynolds had not made an appearance in court representing Waller, according to online records.

Clay Waller remained in a federal prison in Oakdale, La. He pleaded guilty to charges of making an Internet threat against Brenneke in the days following the disappearance and was sentenced to five years in prison in January.

"I can't say when we're going to pick him up for security reasons," said Cape Girardeau County sheriff's spokesman Lt. David James.

Remembering Jacque

A remembrance of Jacque Waller is scheduled for 8 p.m. today in the Leadington Free Will Baptist Church, 218 Woodlawn Drive in Flat River, Mo.

Friends and co-workers have scheduled a 5K run/walk in her memory for 8:30 a.m. Saturday at the Shawnee Park Sports Complex concession stand on Rust Avenue in Cape Girardeau. A one-mile family walk will begin at 9 a.m., said Bridgid Sample, a former co-worker of Jacque Waller's. Proceeds from the events are to go to the Jacque Waller Family Fund, at US Bank.

"It's been a very difficult year, especially with her not being found. When this all happened a year ago, I never thought we'd be sitting here without her having a proper burial," Sample said. "I remember, especially in the first couple of days, every time the phone would ring or there would be breaking news, we'd rush to see if they found her. It never came."

4,000 acres

Searchers have combed more than 4,000 acres during searches for Jacque Waller's body, said Bobby Sherill, a physical therapist who became a search organizer.

"It's been a herculean effort. I work on it 15 to 20 hours a week after my job," Sherill said. "The last search we did, we covered over 100 acres."

All the searches are based on leads generated through James' investigation, Sherill said.

Investigators receive information every week that leads them to new places to search, James said.

"We can't search everywhere. We are trying to narrow it down," James said. "We've always been hoping that mushroom hunters or turkey hunters would find something unusual out in the woods. The possibilities are endless. She could have been put in the river somewhere."

Ruby Rawson said there is only one sure way investigators are going to find Jacque Waller's body: by the person responsible for her disappearance revealing where she is.

"There's just too big of an area. You can't find a small spot even though they've searched very diligently," she said. "They feel like they've already been to where she's located, but finding that exact spot is going to be hard to do without someone telling them exactly where she is."

jgamm@semissourian.com

573-388-3635

Pertinent address:

218 Woodlawn Drive, Flat River, MO

100 Court St. Jackson, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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