Old Time Crime: 1966 missing person case solved 27 years later

Posted at 9:56 AM, Sep 19, 2017

A young child who witnessed her mother's murder came forward after 27 years to bring her father to justice.

It was Sept. 17, 1966, when Lyle Eugene Keidel went out with his estranged wife, leaving their three daughters and son at home in the care of the oldest daughter. 

The next day, the children found Keidel asleep on the couch, but their mother was never found. Keidel, a 58-year-old contractor, filed a missing person's report and moved back into the house. The following January, the house burned to the ground, killing the two oldest daughters. The youngest daughter, age five, was severely burned but survived, and her older brother was able to escape without injury.

The fire was ruled as 'suspicious'

The fire was ruled as "suspicious," but no charges were ever filed.

In 1993, 27 years after Dianne Keidel was reported missing, her surviving daughter, Lori Romaneck, came forward, writing a letter to Phoenix Police. In the letter, she said she remembered as a child seeing her father hitting her mother in the head and seeing her mother falling and hitting her head again.

Later that night, she saw her mother "curled up on the pool deck" while her dad was digging a hole in the backyard.

She said for several months the children were not allowed to play in the yard. He later covered the yard in concrete. She kept this secret for 27 years in fear that her father would retaliate against her.

They found remnants of woman's clothing from the 1960's

Police used "ground-penetrating radar" to examine the backyard and "found an anomaly" right where she said it would be.  

After digging up the area, police located a skeleton with a nylon stocking wrapped around the neck. In addition, they found remnants of a woman's clothing from the 1960s.

An anthropologist reported that the remains matched the description of Dianne Keidel. 

Twenty-eight years later, Lyle Keidel was indicted for murder

On September 23, 1994, 28 years later, Lyle Keidel was indicted for murder.

A jury found Keidel guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison. The death penalty was not an option in Arizona at the time of his conviction. Adding insult to injury, Keidel refused to give up control over a gravesite which would have allowed Dianne to be buried alongside her daughters.

In 1995, Lori Romaneck sued the city of Phoenix, alleging the city was negligent in investigating the fatal fire that killed her sisters in 1967. The city settled with her for $5.5 million.

Keidel, who consistently maintained his innocence, attempted several appeals, which all failed. He died in prison on Dec. 7, 2004.