Elizabeth Klein has known her father only behind bars.

She was 8 months old in 1993 when 17-year-old Jason Means was picked up on kidnapping and murder charges. He was convicted on those charges and sentenced to a lifetime in prison that a Scott County judge upheld Friday.

Klein, who was raised by adoptive parents, is now 21, and following Friday's hearing, she shared with the Quad-City Times how she discovered him.

Someone handed her a newspaper clipping and told her, "That's your dad," she said.

Means was one of six defendants accused in the slaying of 17-year-old Michelle Jensen of Davenport.

"I needed to know where I came from," Klein said.

She could have chosen to resent her father and have nothing to do with him. Instead, she gave him a chance.

She wrote him a letter. He wrote back, saying, "I'm so glad you're doing well. I've been praying for this day my entire life."

Means' family doesn't understand why Scott County District Judge Joel Barrows upheld the life sentence and said Means will appeal. The family had hoped Barrows would reduce the sentence to include a mandatory minimum and allow Means to become eligible for parole sooner.

"The law is supposed to give him a chance at a meaningful life outside prison, not let him rot," Means' mother, Cheryl Clark, said.

The law she referred to stems from a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that juveniles could not be given life-without-parole sentences for non-homicide crimes. The ruling has affected Means' and other local cases.

"This is not an illegal sentence," Barrows said in court Friday. "He has the possibility for parole right now."

Clark said that's not good enough, especially because Means already has been before the parole board several times and has been denied.

In the meantime, Klein looks forward to her visits with Means, including one planned this weekend. She first met him a year ago at Anamosa State Penitentiary.

"When he walked through the door, I knew exactly who he was, and he knew exactly who I was," she said.

The visit lasted two hours in a crowded room. Klein admits it's not a typical father-daughter relationship.

The high school dropout has earned his GED in prison. He serves as a eucharistic minister and cook for inmates. He strums the guitar in his free time.

He has come a long way from the teenage "brat" his mother described trying to raise after the death of her older son, Jimmy, after a bout of kidney failure.

"Jason just went downhill after that," Clark said.

The shy, quiet kid began hanging around the wrong crowd, especially boys such as Justin Voelkers, who later would be a co-defendant at the murder and kidnapping trial.

Jensen's body was found the morning of Aug. 29, 1993, along Chapel Hill Road just outside of Davenport.

She had been at a party in town with Means, Voelkers and several others when she refused to let the group use her car to commit a robbery.

Clark recalled from testimony and her son's own words that Means and Voelkers left the party with Jensen in her car. Voelkers pulled off on the side of the road because Means had to go to the bathroom, and Jensen got out of the car and began walking back toward town.

Voelkers followed her when Means got back in the car and began fidgeting with the radio. That's when he heard the gunshot, Clark said.

"He was there, but he didn't do anything," Clark said of Means.

Voelkers was 18 at the time and convicted of adult first-degree murder and kidnapping charges. Serving life in prison, he was brought back to the Scott County Jail on Thursday. Clark said he was supposed to testify at Means' sentencing hearing but was not called.

Means' attorney Phil Ramirez couldn't be reached afterward to discuss the case.

Means and Jensen were friends who were both trying to fit in with a crowd of rebels and followers, Clark said.

He's 38 now. She would be 38.

"He could have been a hero that night, and he chose to be a murderer," Cheryl Dittmer, Jensen's mother, said after Friday's court hearing. "He could have put a stop to that."

Dittmer said that her younger daughter, Veronica Anderson, now in her 30s, named her baby, born in December, after Michelle.

Dittmer has shown up at Means' court appearances and petitioned at the state Capitol to keep Means and another juvenile co-defendant, Tony Hoeck, behind bars the rest of their lives.

"This whole thing has taken over my life," she said.

The same can be said of Klein, who in two years has researched her father's case, hoping one day to be reunited with him.

"I haven't known him very long," she said. "In this short time, he's offered better guidance than a lot of people I've known a long time. He's being the father he was never able to be."

(34) comments

Worldviews

Cheryl I agree with you 100%. I would love to talk to you more about some of this if you would be interested?

Phelony Jones

He killed someone in cold blood and these people don't understand why he needs to be kept in jail?

Terry W

Just because she was with THIS group of "thugs", didn't mean she should have been murdered. Maybe if Jason was so innocent he should not have been with them, trying to use her car to commit crimes........sorry, not into blaming her family/what her family is like. You defenders are pathetic. Maybe if HIS mother was a good mother he would not have been out hanging with thugs. Lets talk about her drug using days, and the real reason her older son had his health issues.......yeah, read between the lines here. That apple didn't fall far from the tree.

LMBTJOT

You are right, Michelle did not deserve to be murdered. JASON DID NOT MURDER HER. And I'm not blaming her mother or family, but it seems that you are placing blame when it comes to Jason's mother. We have all done things in our past that we may or may not be proud of, including you Terry W. No reading between the lines. The facts of this case tell the truth. Jason was sent to prison for life for a kidnapping charge because they knew they couldn't get him on anything else. Michelle got into the car on her own, nobody forced her or kidnapped her.

cdittmer

You people obviously don't know what you're talking about. Yes, she was forced into the car after being raped at gun point by Shawn Shewmake, Tony Hoeck, and Justin Voelkers. At one point Jason also held the gun to her and demanded her keys. Michelle was hit over the head, twice by Chris Felgenhauer and when she was making so much commotion, Tony's mom told them "to get her out of here." If she would have gotten into the car on her own, she would have been driving. Not with Justin and Jason following Tony's order to get rid of her, or in his words "cap her." You all need to read their confessions, get your facts straight before you can comment on any thing that happened that night. They all confessed.

LMBTJOT

Iowa judges are just afraid to make that ruling of reducing his original sentence or letting him out with time served for fear of losing their reputation and reducing their chances of re-election. He didn't murder her, didn't kidnap her and didn't touch her. The shooting was out of his hands as he was no where near her when it happened. And because Michelle is gone everyone puts her up on that pedestal and makes her out to be miss perfect, even though SHE chose to hang out with these THUGS and live their lifestyle. Even Michelle's own mother knows Jason isn't guilty of anything except for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The person responsible for her death is locked up for life.

cdittmer

Jason could have stopped them at anytime and been a hero, instead he did what he wanted to do. He choice to be a murderer. He wanted Power. Jason was right where he and the other five planned to be that night, they had all agreed to ahead of time what they were going to do to Michelle. As for Michelle choosing to hang out with thugs, we had spent some time with Jason, and we didn't see him that way, we had know idea he was capable of making the choices he made that night. She just thought she was going to a party. Unfortunately she was brought up to trust people. Something I regret. Don't feel sorry for Jason, he could have stopped any of what happened at any time, but he didn't. You do to crime, you do the time.

suzy63

I am so sorry for your loss. There is nothing anyone can do that deserves them being murdered. Period. My dad was murdered in 1977, here in the QC. His muderer is serving life in Ft. Madison. That is where ie deserves to be until his sentence is completed. As does this murderer need to complete his sentence. Life means just that, LIFE. All murderers, kidknappers and rapist should only be released when they are carried out in a casscett. Again I am very sorry for your loss and I know first hand how it can consume your life. I hope you can find some joy in it.
Susan Slattery

Terry W

Don't make me sick with the law not meant to "let him rot" comment, seriously now......... he is not rotting. Michelle never gets to come back does she. As far as him going down hill after the death of his brother, well that is an excuse. My son went "down hill" after the death of his father as you well know, but he only hurt himself. I remember when you were on TV when all this came out.......the way you spoke, yelled about your son "not killing anyone", you looked the fool you were and obviously still are. This world does not owe your son anything. He was a party to taking Michelle's life and he should pay. Period!

Savannah67

You know, if these kids had one of their relatives killed by a teenager, what would they be saying then???? These "kids" pulled an adult crime, aka murder and kidnapping...they ought to pay the price as an adult would. Granted they were teenagers, but, the state law requires a life sentence on murder and kidnapping charges....Do the time, get over it, you lose! RIP Michelle and God Bless you Cheryl and Veronica....

50


This world would be in trouble if some of the ppl commenting on this story were judges smh this was MURDER & KIDDNAPPING charges c'mon are u kidding me

ILnativeinIA
ILnativeinIA

The parole board could let him out tomorrow if they want to. There is a reason they haven't. They have the authority to release him, yet they have compelling evidence to continue protecting society from him.

LMBTJOT

Yeah, the reason they haven't let him out yet is because they are all afraid of the backlash they would receive for doing the right thing. Same goes for the judge in this case and Mike Walton. It's all about the politics. Protecting society from him, really????

Bwayne

No parole. They did a tremendous crime and they all must pay. No sob story should release him or the others.

Arc Angel

Called themselves Westend Mafia or some B.S.

nursehippityhop

I support the family of Michelle 100%. Mr. Means is exactly where he needs to be. He gets to see his (now adult) daughter, while Ms. Dittmer can't. That will never ever go away. I don't understand why society would lock away Benton MacKenzie for trying to save his own life, yet want to set a murderer free. It makes absolutely no sense. R.I.P. Michelle. You are NOT forgotten!

cdittmer

Thank you. I wish they would just stop all of this legal maneuvering and let Michelle rest in peace, and that myself and her family have some peace. Like you said these "kids" were 17 and very close to being 18 and are lucky that some day they may have a chance a parole now. But with 95 years plus life it won't be any time soon.

cdittmer

Thank you. If he was so concerned about his daughter, why did he make the choices he did that night. Some father!

Klaatu
Klaatu

I am glad I don't have to make that call. I can see both sides of it. Such a hideous waste.

MsMatch

I agree.

Rainbows

RIP Michelle and God Bless your family. I don't know any of you but I say a prayer every time I go past her resting spot.

cdittmer

Thank you. Everyone's support and prayers are what have gotten me through this. I know Michelle is safe and no one can hurt her anymore. All her pain from that night is gone and she's happy.

WWII

I also know that a murder does impact lives. However I support the opposite view. This man is now 38 years old , he was 17 at that time of this crime. He was a fringe player , and did not kill her. He has served enough time. In fact the Scott County judge ruled contrary to a US Supreme Court in 20110 . The ruling stated " that juveniles could not be given life-without-parole sentences for non-homicide crimes. That decision has affected multiple juvenile cases in Scott County."

The teen-age brain is not even developed fully. The Scott County judge may feel good about his decision and be the star of his friends parties. But we the taxpayers now have to pay for his ridiculous decision.

Please resign judge and save the tax payers money. You violated an US Supreme Court Decision. I don't care if you are popular with your friends. Sir, you violated the Law , of the United States of America .

aequitas
aequitas

He has the opportunity for parole as I understand the article. That doesn't violate the SCOTUS decision.

WWII

WOW , his brother died and he was upset !!!! WOW .

cdittmer

His brother dying should have given him more of a sense of what it means to lose a family member. He had many chances that night to put a stop to there murder plan.

Badgerbacker

A local judge isn't allowed to rule contrary to the US Supreme Court ruling.

People

You're correct.

People

This page has a lot of info on exactly what the Supreme Court has ruled in terms of life sentences for youth. People change, none of us are who we were as youth-there's only one way to prevent these tragedies and that's to get involved in your communities and help a kid out. One person can change a life forever- positive or negative-what have you done for your community today? https://m.facebook.com/JuvenileLifers?ref=bookmark

cdittmer

Michelle is one of those people that did make a difference and changed and helped a lot of peoples lives. She was very involved in the community. What have you done?

LMBTJOT

You are absolutely correct.

cdittmer

It's Jason that wasting the tax payers money. He was granted a chance for parole, that complies with US supreme Court's decision. He keeps trying for more with court appointed lawyers, wasting Mike Walton and his staffs time and the judges time and all the court costs involved. If he was such a juvenile, how come he had a 8 month child at the time he agreed to have Michelle murdered? Did the 21 year old that he got pregnant think he was a kid? Cheryl Means needs to read Jason confession since she doesn't have to ability to recall her son own words. Jason stated that if Justin didn't hurry up and kill her, he was going to do it. He wanted POWER. Like I said , he had a chance to be a Hero that night, but he chose to be a murderer. Cheryl Means knows that Jason wanted to be a follower, but Michelle was tricked into going to that party that night. All six of them that had a hand in killing her planned ahead to get her car one way or the other and she was lured to that party by Jason. Michelle's record of accomplishments speaks to what kind of person she was. She was a leader and a remarkable human being.

relynnco

I am so happy for Michelle's family to hear this verdict! It is promising for MY family as well. On Sept. 2nd we will be going to court for the same reason....my Uncle Mark Willis, was murdered 10 years ago by 3 teens. 2 of the 3 convicted will get to go before the judge in hopes of changing their sentencing as well. We know first hand how stressful this can be for the family members of the one who was murdered. I hope this brings relief to the Jensen Family. Blessings to you all!

cdittmer

My prayers are with you and our family also. I have faith that the out come will be the same. But in the end, they all will be judged by God and that's when true justice will be served.

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