The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, April 26, 1994, Page 3, Image 3

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Continued from Page 1
i»ood student and seems to have lots of
friends,” Lammel told the newspaper.
Jinx Kuccra, Rcidcr’s neighbor, felt the
same sense of disbelief.
“They seemed like the typical happy
family,” she says. “She was a nice person,
and 1 still can’t believe it.”
Only the four family members, one of
whom was dead, could understand why the
tragedy occurred.
Abusive home
Alissa says she remembers her mother
piling the entire family into the car at
midnight one weekend to search for Brett,
who had sneaked out of the house to visit
friends. When she spotted the 15-ycar-old
boy riding his bike home, the tempest broke.
“She threw his bike into the ditch,” Alissa
says. “She was pounding him and hitting him
against the car and screaming, ‘What do you
think you’re doing?’ and telling him he was
the worst thing that ever walked the earth.”
Alissa sat helplessly in the back scat
watching her brother and best friend being
beaten by the woman both tried to avoid.
“She kept screaming at Brett, and Brett
looked so scared and just, just terrified. There
were cars going by, and this woman was out
there beating this kid who is taller than she
“It just didn’t make sense.”
When they returned home, love for her
brother made Alissa do something she had
never done before.
“She was screaming all these terrible,
terrible insults, and they were getting worse.
I just couldn’t stand it anymore.
“I went down the stairs and stood right in
front of Brett and said, ‘Will you shut up?
Back up and listen to the words you’re
saying. This is your son. You don’t let him
have any fun things; you tell him what his
fun things can be. The only way he’s going to
have fun is sneak out in the middle of the
night. You did this to him.”
The speech momentarily shocked Alissa’s
mother into silence. Then the torrent began
“She came up the stairs and pounded on
him,” Alissa says. “That’s the only time I
ever fought back.”
Often, the abuse was directed toward
Alissa — like the time she received a B in
algebra on a high school midterm report.
“She started slow and got louder and
meaner. She screamed and screamed. A lot of
it was nontopical... she would call me names
that didn’t have anything to do with it —
‘you slut, you whore.’”
As punishment, her mother pulled Alissa
from the school musical just weeks before it
But Alissa says she could weather the
attacks as long as they weren’t directed at
“It’s natural; brothers and sisters do that.”
Calm questions and funny jokes were the
usual methods Alissa used. Sometimes she
had to physically block her mother.
Now, Alissa says, she regrets protecting
her brother so much. When she left home for
the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last year,
Brett was the only target for Claudia’s
worsening attacks.
“Mom was really hard on him, and the
intensity level just jumped when I left,”
Alissa says. “He couldn’t build up a toler
ance; he wasn’t used to it. He saw her as a
monster, a complete monster."
Murder, arrest
That’s why when a policeman came to her
residence hall room on Feb. 18,1993, she
was confused but not surprised. She called an
officer at her home to get the details.
“He told me my mom was dead, and Brett
was in the hospital.”
A few hours later, feeling neither grief nor
relief, Alissa was at the University of
Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha identify
ing her mother’s body.
“She was kind of warm — rigor mortis
hadn’t set in. So 1 stood there and held her
hand for quite a while.”
Then Alissa rushed to Bcrgan Mercy, her
protective instincts guiding her actions.
“I just thought, let’s go to the other
hospital, come on. This will stay this way
forever. Brett needs help now.”
At Bcrgan Mercy, Alissa talked with her
brother, who was still drugged from the
surgery that repaired a finger that had almost
been cut off ...
Later, in the waiting room, Alissa realized
the facade of the perfect family — the loving
wife with two obedient kids — finally had
been shattered. She explained to her mother’s
parents how a fight between their grandson
and daughter about grades could end with
five stab wounds to Claudia’s stomach and
“(Grandma’s) eyes were wide open, and
shejust listened ... she was just in shock."
But suddenly, Alissa says, she realized-the
A family portrait sits in the RekJer living
at left in portrait, killed their mother, at
pressure was off: the pressure to be a straight
A student, the pressure to be a doctor, the
pressure of getting all her homework done
before her 8:30 p.m. bedtime, the pressure of
living up to her mother’s standards.
“That’s what her life was built around.
Me. Brett. I knew I was number one on her
priority list. 1 was her purpose, and she felt
like 1 was failing her all the time. *
“1 didn’t want to be number one on her
priority list.”
Alone with her father in the waiting room
in the early morning after the murder, Alissa
discussed how their lives would change
without the woman who had controlled them.
“We just sal there talking about what our
futures could be now. I think we were trying
to cheer each other up.
“I said, ’Well, 1 don’t mind things like
this, but you probably don’t want to live in
that house anymore. We can sell the house
and get an apartment and be wild and free.
We could get a sporty little car.’”
But reality soon set in. There would be
new pressures — the pressure of a trial, a
conviction, a sentence.
“We were talking about all these options.
We forgot there would have to be a trial, and
there would have to be some sort of convic
tion. You can’t just get off.”
For Alissa, reality came the next day. Two
Omaha police officers entered Brett’s
hospital room as Alissa was dressing him to
take him home.
“They said, ‘Ma’am ... we need to take
him away.’
“I «aid, ‘What for?’
“They said, ‘On suspicion of murder.’
“I said, ‘He’s my brother; he didn’t
murder anybody.’”
The two officers led Brett out the
hospital’s back entrance with Alissa trailing
At the elevator, the officers turned Alissa
“I was trying to get on the elevator, and
they said, ‘No ma’am,’ the door’s closing. I
said, ‘Bye Brett; I’m going to miss you and
see you really, really soon. I’m going to hug
“He was kind of smiling and looked really
sad. I sat down by the elevator and cried a
little while.”
Then Alissa went to tell her family that
Brett wouldn’t be going home with them.
Brief reunion
A few days later, after a bond hearing,
brother and sister were reunited.
“1 held his hand the whole way home. I
was just squeezing him tight, saying, ‘Things
arc kind of OK. We have lots of frozen tuna
casseroles and pretty flowers.’”
Within hours, all the family members
were together at the funeral home. Brett
approached his mother’s casket to see her for
the first time since the fight.
“He started walking toward it in tiny little
steps ... pretty soon he was walking in place
like he couldn’t ao any closer.
“He just stood there and cried and cried
and cried. I was thinking, ‘It’s OK, Brett.
room while Alissa Reider pets her cat Nik*
center, last year while Alissa was attendii
She won’t hurt you anymore. Just go over
and touch her.’”
Alissa said her father pushed the unwill
ing Brett forward.
“I went over and I hugged Brett for a
while and kissed him.”
During the days after the funeral, Alissa’s
grief mingled with anger.
“1 was mad at her for taking Brett away
from me.”
The blur of the death and the funeral soon
turned into a frenzy. For the rest of the spring
semester, Alissa drove to Lincoln for classes
and spent the rest of her time in Omaha with
“I kind of felt like time was running out. I
got up early a lot and went to bed late a lot
just lobe with him.
“We did a lot of things together that we’d
done before, but more intensely. I wanted to
be with him every second.”
Their time together ended abruptly in June
when Brett’s bond was revoked. The family
had visited grandparents in Illinois without
the judge’s permission. Brett also had been
visiting with friends on the witness list.
“We didn’t understand the rules,” Alissa
says. “They hadn’t been explained to us by
the lawyer.”
The sherifT came, handcutted her brother
for a second time and led him away.
Alissa followed her brother out of the
courtroom and returned to find her father and
lawyer staring at the floor.
The lawyer told her nothing could be
done; she would just have to wait for Brett’s
The group left the courthouse one member
“I just sat in the car with Dad and just
cried the whole time.”
The rest of the summer was filled with
letters, calls and visits to Brett. Alissa spent
her time in the house, cooking and cleaning
and anticipating the September trial.
“It was pretty much me and the cat all
day. I just didn’t want to do anything.”
Alissa says she knew it would be up to her
to save her brother from jail.
“I was trying to think about the business
part of (the trial) and not the testimony. I
thought if I thought too much, I would start
making things up, and I didn’t want to do
During the trial. Alissa says, the lawyer
told her that she would have to undo the
damage her father’s three-hour testimony had
“He was just a wreck. He wasn’t doing
what the attorney had told him to do. (The
attorney) wanted Dad to show his anger and
show how upset he was with what his wife
had done to his children. Dad didn’t do that.
He just started crying and couldn’t talk.
“He didn’t deliver.”
Alissa said it was up to her to save Brett
again. -
Without that motivation, Alissa says, she
never could have told the judge the things
she did about their family.
;y. Alissa’s brother Brett, Genk Parmete/DN
tg UNL.
“I just told the absolute truth. It was like I
wasn’t even myself talking. I don’t ever talk
about what I’m actually feeling.”
Alissa says the prosecuting attorney tried
to make her look like a liar during cross
“He was just going through all these
things: ‘Didn’t you have a car? Didn’t you
have lots of clothes? A stereo? Don’t you
have everything a normal teen-age girl could
. ‘‘1 said, ‘No.’
“He said. “What are you talking about?
You had everything.’
“I said. ‘I didn’t have love.”’
Alissa says she looked at Brett, trying to
draw strength during the testimony.
“He was just watching me. It was like I
was getting strength through his eyes.” ,
Alissa spent the rest of the afternoon
following her testimony in the bathroom
“I didn’t think I had driven the point
home well enough..."
On Aug. 27,1993, Brett was convicted of
second-degree murder. A month later, a
judge sentenced him to 11 to 20 years in the
Lincoln Correctional Center.
“The judge read it off. Brett had to turn
around to walk back to his scat to be led out.
He had five guards this time ... five guards
for my little brother.
“They led him out, and then I sal down. I
just got lost. I don’t think I cried, but I felt
completely empty.
“That was a hard day to go home."
Alissa says she waits for the day— in five
years — when her brother will be eligible for
“I feel like I’m just waiting for something.
1 can’t sit around for five years, and 1 don’t
intend to. But there’s nothing I would want
to do or even feel like I can do. Not even
“It feels like the point of my life right now
is to get Brett out of jail. That’s stupid.
That’s something 1 have no control over.”
With the end of the trial. Alissa says she is
left to deal with the grief.
“It seems everyone who’s important to me
is gone. Mom, at the top, of course, because
she ruled my life, and Brett, my best friend.
Mom’s dead. Brett’s in jail. 1 guess it’s
stupid to build your world on so few things,
but I had to.’’
Alissa, who is taking medication to
control her manic-depressive behavior,
spends time by herself and with relatives, and
she visits Brett for 3 1/2 hours twice a week.
“I know this isn’t biological, and there
aren’t any drugs that fix grief. It’s hard, and
I’ve been a procrastinator all my life. I’ve just
pul it off until now.”
Her visits with Brett give her strength, and
Alissa says she and her brother may have
changed roles.
“He’s strong; he’s stronger than me in the
ways he needs to be in that position.
“In my position. I was stronger. I didn’t
kill her.”