Blindsided: A Dream Engagement Turned Nightmare

Don Huckstep thought he’d found true love in his small hometown of Fowler, Indiana. But when Teri Deneka mysteriously vanished from his life, the disappearance foreshadowed a bizarre—and grisly—series of discoveries that left Huckstep, police, and another man’s family with more questions than answers.

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Every now and then, Don Huckstep wonders how the heck it happened. How did a normal, everyday guy from Indiana get caught up in a bizarre, made-for-TV drama? Mostly, though, he tries to forget.

Where to start? Maybe near the end, right before everything unraveled. In the summer of 2014, Don was on a roll. At age 57, he had a nice home in Lafayette, a job he loved in sales and marketing, and a fiancee he adored named Teri Deneka. The couple was planning a trip to Italy for an early honeymoon, after which they’d return home to say I do.

To Don, it seemed the getaway couldn’t come soon enough for Teri. She had been under a lot of stress for months. Her 68-year-old mother, Nena Metoyer, had leukemia, and in August she came up from Florida to stay in Teri’s home in the small town of Fowler, Indiana, so Teri could care for her. But Nena’s condition worsened. Teri told Don she was taking her mother to visit family in Chicago. On September 11, Teri texted him. “My mom past [sic] last night,” she wrote. “I don’t want to talk right now. I just wanted you to know. As soon as they release her, I’m taking her to Florida. I’ll call you when I’m ready.”

Don barely heard from his fiancee over the next several days, receiving just a few brief texts, which included a cryptic apology. “It’s just a hard time for me and I really don’t want to talk to anyone but I do love you,” Teri wrote. Don tried to give her space. They had talked about death before. Neither handled it well. He understood her need to be alone.

Teresa Jarding
Nena Metoyer

On the morning of September 20, Teri called Don and told him she was back in Indiana. They spoke only briefly—Teri didn’t mention her mother, or whether she had made it to Florida with her mother’s remains—but she and Don agreed to have dinner at his place in Lafayette the following evening so they could catch up. He was eager to see her. He missed her, hoped he could lift her spirits. Later in the afternoon after they spoke, Teri texted him a simple “I love you.”

The bombshell fell six hours later. Don froze when he read the text. “I am not going to be around anymore. Please don’t call me or come by the house. Believe me I’m doing you a huge favor. Teri.”

Don was flabbergasted. Is this some sort of cruel joke? He knew she was distraught at losing her mom, but Teri’s reaction didn’t make sense. They were set to leave for Italy in less than three weeks. He texted again and again, pressing for an explanation. Had he said or done something? If so, he couldn’t figure out what. She never responded. His heart sank.

A few days after receiving Teri’s last text, Don drove the familiar 30-plus miles from Lafayette to Teri’s home in Fowler. He pulled up to the white, two-story house the couple had made plans to share, the one he’d recently spent $9,000 to fill with new kitchen appliances. He saw Teri’s mother’s small silver Kia SUV parked in the side driveway, but the house was dark inside. He climbed the back steps, placed a bag filled with Teri’s belongings on the deck, and then left, still at a loss for answers.

Back in Lafayette later that afternoon, Don was stocking Pepsi into a fridge in his garage when a friend walked up the driveway. But instead of saying “hello,” the woman, a former girlfriend with whom Don was still close, looked him in the eyes and took a deep breath. “Are you doing okay?” she asked.

Don was confused. Although he had not told her about the breakup with Teri, his friend was looking at him with an odd expression, as though she were trying to gauge his emotional state.

“I’m fine,” he replied, smiling. “How are you?”

The friend took a long pause before answering.

“You don’t know, do you?”

 

Don Huckstep grew up in Fowler, the younger of two boys. He studied art and political science at Indiana State and architecture at IUPUI but never earned a degree. Instead, he wound up marrying his hometown sweetheart and starting a family. He and his wife raised two sons, but after 20 years of marriage, they drifted apart and divorced in 1999.

Don is unassuming and down to earth, the kind of guy who is most comfortable in jeans, a sweatshirt, and a ball cap. He values loyalty, and his best friends are the ones he has from childhood. He usually watches sports on TV, maybe political coverage. But he is also an adventurous cook with a knack for grabbing a handful of ingredients and throwing together a memorable meal. Short and a tad stocky, he has an easy smile and a quick wit. He dated a little after getting divorced but never met that “gotta be with you for the rest of my life person.” After more than a decade of being single, he was doing okay on his own. More and more, though, he missed having someone with whom to share the meals he cooked. In early 2013, he decided to try Match.com.

That August, Teri Deneka contacted Don after seeing his dating profile online. They emailed and then talked on the phone. Teri was divorced with two adult kids and a granddaughter, and had just moved to Fowler from Chicago. She told Don she was a clinical psychologist with degrees from Northwestern and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and that she’d made a small fortune in real estate after inheriting several rental properties from an uncle.

At 49, Teri was ready to retire and simplify her life. “Her story was she was done with Chicago,” Don recalls. “She was tired of living on top of people.” She had wanted to find an old house to fix up, in a small town within 100 miles of her family in the city. A Realtor steered her toward Fowler, the seat of Benton County in Northwest Indiana, a one-stoplight town of 2,300 residents where you could drive a mile in any direction and be surrounded by farm fields, with hundreds of gigantic wind turbines spinning across the horizon. Fowler was friendly and low-key, a far cry from the high-powered, glamorous life Teri said she wanted to leave behind. So she ditched her Gold Coast condo and found a tidy, three-bedroom home on Fowler’s main drag.

Don and Teri met in person for the first time in early October 2013, shortly after she moved into her home in Fowler. She was petite with short blond hair, and Don found her attractive, charming, smart, funny, and engaging—everything he wanted. “I liked her more than I thought I would,” he says. As they strolled Don’s old stomping grounds, he was already thinking about their next date.

Teri loved Chicago sports teams, and had good-natured arguments with Don over the Bears and Indianapolis Colts. Like Don, Teri loved to cook, and she never used a recipe. “She memorized everything,” he says. She shared his interest in art and was quick on her feet. They played Words with Friends, and Don couldn’t keep up. “I’m no genius, but I’m no Gomer Pyle,” he says. “She was fast with words.”

The two clicked intellectually, emotionally, and physically. “There was something about her,” says Don. “It’s hard to describe. I might have been sniffing magic dust. By January, I was head over heels for her.” He believed the attraction was mutual.

Two months later, they were engaged. While Teri had met Don’s parents and two sons, he had yet to meet her children or any of her friends. Teri routinely traveled to and from Chicago to visit family and attend to business, but Don never joined her. When he asked about going along, she’d say, “Yeah, we need to do that. I want to show you around.”

Don had little reason to question Teri. After all, he would have plenty of time to get to know his fiancee’s family. He assumed the two of them would be spending the rest of their lives together.

 

Any serious doubts Don might have had about Teri didn’t creep in until after he received her out-of-the-blue breakup text. But the doubts turned to bewilderment six days later, on September 26, when Don’s old girlfriend showed up at his house in Lafayette to check on him, and instead ended up informing him of a devastating turn of events she had seen in the local news.

A couple of days earlier, on September 24, the Fowler police had taken a call from Teri’s daughter, Gina, asking them to check on Teri and Teri’s mother, because Gina had been unable to reach them for several days. Two officers went to Teri’s house and knocked on the front door. They heard dogs barking, but no one answered. Through a window, they could see someone on a couch raise an arm, seeming to wave them off. The officers left and called back Teri’s daughter in Chicago to tell her that whoever was inside Teri’s house, the person wouldn’t come to the door.

Later that night, Teri’s son, David, drove from Chicago to Fowler to investigate for himself. At 11:30 p.m., he called the Fowler police. As officers walked up the front steps of Teri’s house, they heard what sounded like a person gasping for air. They walked around to the back of the house, peered through a sliding-glass door, and saw someone lying partially on the couch; the person’s chest was rising and falling at an erratic pace. Teri’s son broke a basement window to get inside. Moments later, police heard David yelling, “No, no, no!” Teri was incoherent and mumbling. An empty pill bottle, a handgun, and a cell phone sat on the armrest beside her. Teri’s mother’s silver Kia SUV was in the driveway, and as police searched the house, they found clothing and medication that belonged to Teri’s mother as well. But they couldn’t find Nena.

Medics rushed Teri to a hospital in Lafayette, where she died the next day. The official cause of death was “acute mixed-drug toxicity”—a lethal cocktail of morphine and the sedative butalbital.

When Don’s friend saw the story about Teri in the news, she assumed Don already knew about it, too, and worried he “would be a mess.” She didn’t realize Teri had mysteriously broken off the engagement with Don, or that Don hadn’t heard from Teri—nor heard anything about her—in nearly a week.

Don listened as his friend recounted what she knew about Teri’s death. He thought his friend must’ve been mistaken or confused about the wild tale. He tried explaining that no, Teri wasn’t dead—Teri’s mother was. And Teri’s mother wasn’t missing—she had died in Chicago, and Teri had taken her remains to Florida to be buried.

At least, that’s what Teri had told him.

Don went online to read the media reports for himself, then drove to the Fowler police station, located just a few blocks from Teri’s house. He met with Chief Dennis Rice and told him about his relationship with Teri. And that gun at Teri’s side when police found her? While Don had never seen it, Teri did once reveal to him that she owned a .22-caliber pistol.

“That’s not going to do you a lot of good if someone breaks in,” Don had told her.

“But if you know how to use it,” she shot back, “it can be very lethal.”

 

Don would later learn that the scene police found at Teri’s home was only one strange piece of a much larger—and darker—puzzle.

As Don and Teri’s relationship blossomed, another family in Chicago was growing increasingly concerned about a loved one, Milan Lekich, who no longer called or visited.

Teresa Jarding
Milan Lekich

An electrician at the Ford Assembly Plant, Milan owned a home and rental property in Hegewisch, a working-class neighborhood on the city’s far-southeast side. Milan was a doting uncle and a fun-loving, hard-working Harley guy with a big heart and a gentle soul. He never missed a birthday—until June 2013, when he was a no-show for his own 50th.

To Milan’s family, he seemed to have become a stranger after traveling to Las Vegas in March 2013 to marry his girlfriend, a woman he’d met online. His family, who had been around her just a few times, only knew her as “Teri”—she didn’t seem like the kind to share much about herself.

Nor was she eager, it seemed, to share Milan. He was never home when friends and family stopped by to see him. But they often received texts from his phone number—strange, because Milan usually preferred calling. The texts shared stories about where he and Teri were—on a cruise, then off to Hawaii, or going down to Florida because Teri’s mother had just died. Other texts announced that Teri was pregnant with twins, and the couple might move to Florida after they were born, because Teri’s deceased mother had left Teri her estate. Then one of Milan’s sisters received a text saying Teri had given birth to twins, that the girl survived but the boy died, sending Milan into a deep depression. Another text said Teri was dying of leukemia, followed by a message saying Teri had died.

The peculiar texts kept coming like that until the summer of 2014. But no one in Milan’s family had actually seen him for an entire year. Finally, in August 2014, after months of trying to respect Milan’s wishes for “privacy,” one of his sisters had had enough.

She decided to go to his home and get some answers.

Although Milan’s family has declined to talk on the record for this story, they chronicled their concerns about him in detail on a Facebook page titled “Milan Lekich—Seeking Justice.” According to the page, when Milan’s sister knocked on his door, it wasn’t Teri who answered, but another woman she’d never met. When Milan’s sister asked about Milan, the woman said he didn’t live there and tried to slam the door. After Milan’s sister threatened to call the police, the woman told her she’d been renting a small cottage at the back of the property, but now she was going to live in the main house because Milan had “moved to Florida.”

Milan’s sister kept poking around. Neighbors told her they’d seen moving trucks and pick-ups the previous weekend, but no one had spotted her brother. Finally, someone gave her a phone number. It was the same number from which she’d received the strange text messages that supposedly came from Milan. The number was now disconnected.

Desperate for information, Milan’s family started doing their own detective work. They learned Teri’s last name was Deneka and came across three Facebook pages associated with her, one listing a Fowler, Indiana, address. On September 20, 2014, one of Milan’s sisters hopped in the car with her fiance and took off for Fowler. When they pulled up to the house at the East 5th Street address the family had tracked down for Teri, they could make out what appeared to be the figures of two people inside, but no one answered the door. From the alley, they looked through a garage window and saw a Mercury Mountaineer SUV, a baby carrier, and many of Milan’s possessions, “including his prized Bears jersey.”

Milan’s sister and her fiance parked down the street and waited for four hours. Finally, at around 2 p.m., a woman emerged from the house with two small dogs. Milan’s sister recognized her as Milan’s wife, Teri. They drove up and confronted her, taking pictures. Milan’s sister asked Teri where Milan was. Teri said she and Milan had separated nine months earlier. When pressed for more details, Teri became “very agitated and nervous” and ran back into the house.

Milan’s sister went to the Fowler police and told them about her brother, the strange circumstances of his disappearance, and how they’d led her to Fowler.

On that very same evening, Don Huckstep received the abrupt text from Teri saying she wasn’t “going to be around anymore.”

 

In 2008, after serving 20 years as the sheriff of Montgomery County, Indiana, Dennis Rice thought he would ease into retirement by taking the top job at Fowler’s police department. It was a four-man force—including Rice. A typical run might involve vandalism, drugs, or stray dogs. If a murder had ever been committed in Fowler, Rice didn’t know about it.

Then he caught the most bizarre case of his four decades in law enforcement.

After talking to Milan Lekich’s sister, Chief Rice agreed the circumstances of Milan’s disappearance were, indeed, strange. Then again, sometimes people disappear. Sometimes they disappear intentionally. Nevertheless, an officer went to Teri’s house to check it out. No one answered the door. He looked through the garage window and saw a Mercury Mountaineer SUV. When the officer returned to check on Teri again two hours later, the Mountaineer had blankets and pillows piled on it, and there was paperwork on the hood. The Fowler police took a report but told Milan’s sister she also needed to notify Chicago authorities of Milan’s disappearance.

Even when they found Teri, says Rice, “That first night we didn’t think we had a crime.” No forced entry. A gun that hadn’t been fired. Nothing that pointed to drugs, other than the empty pill bottle at Teri’s side. “We had a medical condition, but there were two people missing,” he says. “We thought, This is odd, but there were no leads.”

On October 5, after Milan Lekich’s family learned that Teri was dead and her mother was missing, a sister, Vi, broke into the garage at Milan’s home in Chicago and made a gruesome and heartbreaking discovery. There, stuffed into a trash can, was Milan’s body, dismembered and wrapped in bedding. An autopsy later determined he’d been shot in the head three times with a .22 pistol. The body was too decomposed for investigators to determine the time of death.

A week after Milan’s family discovered his body, Teri’s son, David, made another trip to Fowler to clean out Teri’s house. He found a city-issued garbage container filled with trash in the home, and after moving it outside, he began digging through it. Inside were the remains of his grandmother Nena Metoyer. She was in her nightgown and, like Milan Lekich, wrapped in bedding.

When investigators searched Teri’s home on the night she committed suicide, they didn’t find Nena’s body, says Chief Rice, because they weren’t looking for one. At the time, they had little reason to believe Nena had come to harm—let alone at the hands of her own daughter. On returning to the scene, the investigators believed Nena’s body had in fact been hidden in the garbage can inside Teri’s house when they were there before, but they probably hadn’t detected it because the house “was a mess,” says Rice. “Trash everywhere. Cat litter and droppings. A lot of odor.” Forensics showed Teri’s mother had received a mortal gunshot to the head; the bullet was the same .22 caliber, and was shot from the same make and model as the bullet and gun that killed Milan Lekich. A DNA sample investigators pulled from Teri’s gun matched DNA on a chainsaw found near Milan’s body in Chicago, which police believed Teri used to dismember Milan.

With these grisly discoveries, authorities believed they had a pretty clear picture of the timeline and means of Teri Deneka’s crimes: She had shot and killed Milan Lekich, then shot and killed her own mother, and when discovery of the murders seemed imminent, ended her own life as well.

 

A No Trespassing sign is posted outside of Teri’s house, which remains vacant. The curtains are drawn, the front door padlocked. Neighbors call it “the murder house,” a stark reminder of how little they actually knew about the Chicago woman next door. “She told me she was a retired doctor,” says Tish Ringle, who brought Teri cookies soon after Teri moved in. “It was always very quiet. The one time I saw her, she was getting mail.” Another neighbor, Tony Labue, says he saw Teri a total of about three times, working in the garden and letting her dogs out. “She was never at home,” he says. “She kept to her own business.”

But what was that business, exactly? According to their Facebook page, Milan Lekich’s family suspects Teri killed Milan sometime around June 2013, not long before his 50th birthday, after he discovered that Teri was “opening and charging up his credit cards.” The family claims witnesses heard Milan telling Teri to “pack up her shit and get out of his home.”

According to Chief Rice, investigators were able to confirm that Teri was using Milan’s credit cards, but it’s not clear for how long—or how much she spent. They also believe Teri was embezzling money from her father, who lives in a Chicago-area nursing home.

The details of Milan Lekich’s murder helped explain some of Teri’s behavior that Don Huckstep thought was curious at the time, but that, in retrospect, seems highly suspicious. She bought her home in Fowler for $60,000—paying cash, which had caused some chatter among the locals. But when Teri told Don about it, he thought, why not?, given that she also claimed to have accumulated a small fortune from her real-estate business. “She always had money, and she always had cash,” he says.

Don estimates Teri spent at least $100,000 during the year he knew her—on the house, on two big-screen TVs, on hundreds of dollars in new clothes for Don, on a thousand-dollar afternoon shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret. She paid cash for all of it.

When Don heard about the discovery of Milan Lekich’s body, he “immediately knew she’d killed him, and Mom was missing because Teri had killed her,” he says. “It was the first time it hit me she was a bad woman.” Police suspect Teri murdered Nena not long before she killed herself. But they can only guess at the motive. Did the mother catch on to Teri’s schemes? Learn that she might’ve committed a brutal murder? Threaten to turn her in to the police?

For his part, Don suspects the sudden visit from Milan’s sister in Fowler pushed Teri over the edge. “It was all catching up with her,” says Don. “She knew her goose was cooked.”

Don has since learned quite a bit more about the woman he fell in love with. Not only had Teri wed Milan in Las Vegas in March of 2013, a year before she and Don became engaged—she had also committed bigamy: At the time she wed Milan, she was still married to another Chicago-area man named Nick Jarding, her second husband of 26 years, whom she’d walked out on just a few months earlier, on Christmas Eve in 2012. Jarding had filed for divorce. The judge who ruled in the proceeding wrote that, “without cause or provocation by the husband, the wife has been guilty of extreme and repeated mental cruelty.”

It seems “mental cruelty” was the least of what Teri Deneka was capable of. Surprisingly, though, Dennis Rice, the Fowler police chief, could find no documented criminal history for Teri. And at least one man who was close to Teri many years ago has a difficult time believing the woman he knew—and loved—could be involved in a brutal homicide case. “She was smart, beautiful, caring, loving,” says Teri’s first husband, David Mendez of Chicago, a childhood sweetheart. They married when he was 20 and she was 19. In 1983, Teri and Mendez had a son, also named David—the same who would later find his grandmother Nena’s body in a garbage container in his mother’s Fowler home.

“She was just a sweet young girl,” says Rosemary Engel, Mendez’s mother. “We all liked her. We didn’t see any problems. When we heard the news, it was unbelievable to us. We were as shocked as we could be.”

Teri and David Mendez split up after two years of marriage, but still, “she kept me informed with what was going on with my son,” he says. “She never let me know she was going through problems like that. Sounds like she turned into a chronic liar.”

It’s pretty clear to Don Huckstep that much of the story Teri told him was fabricated. There was no Gold Coast condo, no real estate, no psychology practice; court records from Teri’s divorce from Nick Jarding described her as the owner of a “house party” business, and she held a retirement account tied to a carpenters’ union. Teri had even told Milan Lekich’s family that she and Milan had a daughter named Olivia; her adorable baby pictures, as Milan’s family later figured out, were pulled off someone else’s website.

“I don’t know if she was constantly making notes or what, but she never did stumble and contradict anything she told me previously,” says Don. “I think about all she had going on in her life, and she seemed to keep it all straight.”

Now, Don is left with the discomfiting realization that he fell in love with, at best, a skilled and emotionally troubled manipulator, and, at worst, a sociopathic double murderer.

Don’s only certainty is that the Teri he thought he knew was, in fact, a complete stranger. After learning from Chief Rice that investigators suspected Teri’s involvement in Milan Lekich’s murder, Don went online to look at the Facebook page “Milan Lekich—Seeking Justice.” He saw the photographs Milan’s sister had taken the day she drove to Fowler and confronted Teri. Don didn’t recognize the woman he saw in the images. “She looked fat, ugly, mean,” he says. “She had curly dark hair … I kept saying, That’s not her. That’s not who I was in love with.

Don wracked his brain going over memories from the time he spent with Teri, noting inconsistencies, like the time Teri went to Chicago “on business” and then called in hysterics. She’d been mugged outside a downtown bank in the middle of the day, she told Don. Some guy knocked her to the ground, hit her in the back of the head, and took her purse, making off with all the money she’d just withdrawn. When Teri returned home from the trip, she had a nasty gouge on her wrist and a cigarette burn near her collarbone—wounds that, in retrospect, looked more to Don like the products of a violent domestic altercation than a robbery. On another trip, around the same time, Teri went to see the dentist and came back with a swollen jaw. She said she’d had a tooth pulled.

The one person in Teri’s life Don did meet was her mom, Nena. He once rode with Teri to pick up and then drop off Nena at the Indianapolis airport. Don remembers her as pleasant, and short like Teri, but heavier. “She was friendly, easy to talk to—she seemed normal,” he says. Teri and her mother appeared to have a good relationship. But Don now thinks some of the texts Teri sent about Nena contradicted his positive impression. “The witch has landed in Fowler. LOL,” she wrote in one message, and “Have a whopper of a migraine n mom is driving me batty” in another. Maybe the mom and daughter weren’t so close.

And what was Don to make of the text he once received out of the blue from Nena, in which she asked, “Why are you not taking care of Teri?” Don had no idea what Nena meant, so he ignored it. He knows now that Nena never had a serious illness, as Teri had led him to believe.

Even more bizarre, Don realizes, was the time in August 2014 when he dropped off Teri at the airport. She said she was headed to Florida to handle some financial matters for her mother, who was too sick to travel. Teri left with a large suitcase—Don guesses it weighed 60 pounds—for an overnight trip. She returned to Indiana without the luggage. When Don asked about it, Teri shrugged and said the airlines lost it, but she wasn’t worried. Don now wonders if it was one of Teri’s elaborate schemes. Why take a big, heavy bag on an overnight trip? And why wasn’t she upset about losing it? He’ll probably never know.

“You think you’re in love with someone, and you want to believe her,” Don says. “Now I look back, and I don’t believe anything she told me.”

 

Most disturbing of all, perhaps, is the possibility that Teri Deneka wasn’t acting on her own. Milan Lekich’s family has speculated that Teri, at only 5-foot-2 and a little over 100 pounds, must’ve had help from an accomplice to handle the body of the 6-foot-2, 230-pound Milan. For his part, Teri’s first husband, David Mendez, doesn’t think the loving woman he once knew would’ve become a killer without a strong push. “That was a monster someone created,” he says. “That’s not her character. It’s just not her. Maybe to take her own life, but not her mother’s. And to find the boyfriend like that? That has to be foul play, and there’s gotta be others involved.”

Investigators ruled out Don Huckstep as a suspect almost immediately. “He was very forthright from the beginning and never gave us an impression he was hiding anything,” says Chief Rice. “He was devastated by the whole thing.”

Police did turn up evidence that Teri had befriended at least one other person besides Don and Milan, a Fowler handyman named Mark Waeltz. When he learned Teri died, Waeltz went to the Fowler police and provided them with a series of fatalistic texts Teri had sent him before committing suicide:

Really bad things are coming back to haunt me. Don’t want you involved Mark so I’m not going to say anything more.

Mark I won’t be around for quite awhile. You have permission to get the title [to my automobile] out mailbox n sign my name to it. God Bless you and your family. Teri.

I’m no angel Mark but thank you for your (prayers.) I’m going to need them.

Thank you Mark but there is no need honestly I am just trying to do what’s right. I don’t need the car or the money I would get from it. Half my life was consumed with greed now I know that giving other what they need instead of getting what you want leads to a better life in this world plus I have been in need with my children and had no one to help. Know how hard it is. Happy to help your wife, your children and you out if I can.

But if Teri did have an accomplice, Chief Rice says it wasn’t Waeltz, who stayed in Fowler for almost a year after Teri killed herself, then moved to Arkansas, where he was sentenced on unrelated drug charges in November 2015. He is currently serving a prison term. As of last May, the Chicago police had Milan Lekich’s death classified as “exceptionally cleared and closed,” according to spokesperson Janel Sedevic. According to the CPD’s file, the only suspect in his murder was Teresa Jarding—aka Teri Deneka—and the motive was listed as “domestic-related.”

Chief Rice agrees that Teri acted alone: “The only people who really know what happened are dead.”

Teri’s children did not respond to interview requests for this story. According to Chief Rice, they are still struggling with the deaths of their mother and grandmother. In November 2014, the Chicago Sun-Times quoted David as saying that his mother told him, “The easiest way to remember, is not to lie … That’s the main reason why I don’t lie.” He added that “She sheltered me from any wrong that she could have possibly done.”

Don Huckstep has gone from feeling betrayed by Teri to experiencing a kind of relief. Nearly two years later, he’s moved on. He says he rarely thinks about Teri anymore. “At times I wish I knew why, but I’m at the point where I wish I knew nothing,” he says. “This is the stuff you see on TV, and it happens to other people now and then. But having been through it, I’m a lot more sympathetic.”

While Teri never took money from Don, he suspects that after Milan’s money ran out, she would’ve started pilfering from him. Before disappearing from Don’s life, Teri had sprung for a weekend trip the couple took to Las Vegas. Only much later did Don learn that Teri and Milan had taken a similar trip to Sin City three months before Milan’s family believes he was murdered.

Don also thinks if Milan’s sister hadn’t shown up in Fowler to confront Teri when she did, he may have gone to Italy with her—and never come back. How could he have been so naive, he wonders, and ultimately so lucky?

He thinks he dodged a bullet.

 

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