Sheryl Kesterson Murder: How Did Steven Sueppel Die?

Image Credit: Karen/Find a Grave

In March 2008, shockwaves were sent across Iowa City when Sheryl Kesterson and her four adopted children were found dead in their residence. What added more fuel to the fire was the seemingly related car crash that took place on Interstate 80 just a few minutes later. These tragic events are covered in Discovery+’s ‘ Deadliest Mums & Dads: Murder in Suburbia,’ thanks to the interviews with Sheryl’s family and friends, and the officials directly or indirectly related to the case.

Sheryl Kesterson and His Adopted Children Were Murdered in Their House

Born on February 21, 1966, to John and Gisela Frey Kesterson, Sheryl Margot Sueppel (née Kesterson) was accompanied by her brother Dave Kesterson. Hailing from Sioux City, Iowa, she graduated from City High School before earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the University of Iowa. During her college years, she met Steven F. Sueppel, who was studying business. They connected and clicked almost instantly. Then, at the age of 24, Steven and Sheryl tied the knot at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Iowa City on June 13, 1990.

Image Credit: Karen/Find a Grave

Born in 1965, Steven found success by becoming an executive at Hills Bank & Trust. Sheryl had various complicated allergies, due to which she had sinus surgery a couple of times. Her allergies made her believe that she might never be able to get off the medicines and become a mother. Thus, Steven and Sheryl resorted to adopting children. Eight years after tying the knot, they adopted their first child — a 12-month-old Korean baby named Ethan. Over the next seven years, the Sueppels adopted three more South Korean babies — Seth in 1999, Mira in 2002, and Eleanor in 2005.

The family appeared to be doing well but on March 24, 2008, the police received a 911 call and got tipped about a dreary incident at 629 Barrington Road at around 6:30 am. As soon as the investigators arrived at the location, they found five dead people inside — Sheryl Sueppel, Ethan, Seth, Mira, and Eleanor. Upon examining the bodies, they learned that all of them had died of blunt-force trauma to their upper torso and heads. Moreover, the investigators found two baseball bats at the crime scene. Just a few minutes after they had received the call, Steven Sueppel’s minivan was found crashed on Interstate 80. As the vehicle burst into flames, he died inside the burning vehicle. The causes of his death were several injuries that he suffered in the crash and then the consequent fire. Since his body was completely burned, he was identified using dental records.

Pressure Due to Embezzlement Case Proved to be Deadly For Sheryl Kesterson and the Kids

When the police delved deeper into the Sueppel family, they found out that Steven had gotten into some serious trouble with the law. It had all started in 2007, when was being investigated by the FBI for embezzlement. When his bosses at Hills Bank & Trust found out that he had been embezzling large sums of money, he got fired and became the focus of a criminal investigation. Reports surfaced that the embezzlement began in 2000 and continued until the fall of 2007. After a few months, in February 2008, Steven was charged with embezzlement and money laundering wherein he stole $559,040 while being employed as a vice president and controller at the Hills Bank and Trust Company of Hills, Iowa, from July 26, 2000, until September 12, 2007.

Image Credit: Michael Clark/Find a Grave

Although Steven pleaded not guilty to the charges on February 20, 2008, he hinted at the fact that he had diverted some funds to a personal account. His trial date was set for April 2008, but he was out on bond until then. With the trial date approaching and the pressure mounting on him, he made a decision that would directly affect the lives of his family, including his wife and adopted children. On the night of March 23, at about 11:30 pm, Steven began sending a series of voicemails to some of his relatives and colleagues, seemingly after he had already bludgeoned his wife to death. Then, between 11:30 pm to 3:45 am on March 24, he allegedly gathered his four children inside his vehicle parked in the garage and tried to kill them as well as himself by carbon monoxide poisoning.

When it didn’t work, he resorted to the same method to kill the children as he did with his wife — bludgeoned them to death with a baseball bat. After that, he drove to the nearby City Park and attempted to die by suicide by drowning in the Iowa River. It was around 6:30 am when he dialed 911 and requested the police to send rescue personnel to his residence. Just a few minutes later, he drove his minivan at high speed and crashed it into a concrete pillar on Interstate 80 to end his life.

The police found a letter written by Steven, accounting for all the details about the night, including the methods he used to murder his family. He also indicated that he thought his family would be better off dead rather than going through all the stress and pressure related to his charges. After the funeral, Sheryl Kesterson’s older brother, David explained to Waverly Newspapers, “The thought of having them laid to rest separately was unthinkable. They were a family in life, they are a family in death. Their legacy is love. That’s what they will be remembered for.”

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