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Family raises money for Cuero cold case

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Jan. 24, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.
Updated Jan. 23, 2012 at 7:24 p.m.

Nelda Garner holds a photo of her son, Kennan Burden, who was murdered 9 years ago. The case remains  unsolved, but Garner says, "We will do whatever it takes to find out who did this, if nothing comes of this fundraiser, we will take the case to America's Most Wanted."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Kennan Burden spaghetti lunch fundraiser

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Grace Proctor Hall, Cuero

COST: $8 spaghetti dinner

MORE INFO: Burden was killed nine years ago. Proceeds from the benefit will go toward a reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction on the case.

Contact: Nelda Garner, 361-655-7885; Donald Burden, 361-275-6776; or Tracey Carroll, 361-237-9747.

At least once a month, Nelda Garner visits the gravesite of her son, Kennan "Kilo" Burden, and places flowers at the headstone.

On Sunday, Garner and her family rested white roses in a metal vase on both sides of the headstone.

"I come here and talk to him, and tell him about things going on with the family," Garner said. "Nothing sad, all good things."

Nearly 10 years have passed since Garner buried her son, yet she can still remember the sound of the late-night knock at her door - the knock that altered her life forever.

In the wee hours of the morning on Nov. 12, 2002, Garner's parents, Nellie and William Nichols, paid a visit to Garner's home to tell her the police earlier visited their home with news that their 25-year-old grandson was found dead in Victoria.

"I called his girlfriend's house that night because he was staying there, and she said he wasn't there," Garner said.

The family would later learn that Burden was shot four times and was found shirtless on the steps of a home at 104 Basin St.

Victoria Police Detective Clint Bennetsen, who was assigned to the case in 2002, said in an Advocate story then that law officials did not know how Burden's body ended up at the home. Officers were also puzzled that the Oldsmobile that Burden was driving the day before, which was registered to Burden's girlfriend, was found abandoned along Port Lavaca Highway near Silver City in south Victoria.

Almost a decade later, Burden's death is still surrounded by questions. The case was never solved. Burden's killers were never caught.

Members of Burden's family have spent years grieving the loss of their "Angel," and waiting for closure that never arrived.

But since law enforcement has no leads on suspects, and the case has grown cold, the family has decided to take action themselves.

On the anniversary of what would have been Burden's 35th birthday - Saturday - Garner and her sister, Tracey Carroll, are organizing a spaghetti lunch fundraiser at Grace Proctor Hall in Cuero to raise money to help capture Burden's killer.

"I would like somebody to come forward and solve this case and give me the peace of mind I need," Garner said.

"We're trying to do something so somebody might just come forward," Burden's adopted father, Donald Burden, added.

Money raised at the event will go toward a reward fund that will be given to anyone with information that leads to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The fundraiser lunch is $8 a plate and is open to the community, Garner said.

Lt. Mike Beyer, of the Victoria Police Department Investigations Unit, said he supports the family's attempt to raise awareness of the case.

"I don't think anyone here at the police department would have anything bad to say about the family doing this fundraiser," Beyer said. "We work with the public all the time on cases ... and this will help bring awareness to their son's tragedy."

But Garner and her family want to do more than expose the shooting death of their son. They are determined to act until someone comes forward with information.

"If this doesn't work, we're taking it to 'America's Most Wanted,'" Carroll said. "It's been too long without answers. We're just hoping somebody will talk."

Garner said she will continue to seek justice for her son until someone comes forward with information - even if it means a lifetime of searching.

"I just want answers. I want justice," she said.

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