BURLEY — New evidence has the FBI investigating a murder case that’s been cold for more than two decades.
Saturday will mark 22 years since 14-year-old Regina Krieger’s body was found on the banks of the Snake River weeks after she disappeared, a trail of blood leading from her basement bedroom.
Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Chris Sheehan, in Boise, said he and another investigator have been assigned to the case.
“There is new evidence that has come out,” Sheehan said. He declined to give details, saying the investigation is active.
Regina’s mother, Rhonda Hunnel, now lives in Indiana. She contacted the Idaho Attorney Generals’ Office several months ago, but was told the office couldn’t help with the case. A few weeks later, she received a call back from staff at the office saying they knew someone at the FBI and would talk to them about the case.
“I have a lot of different feelings and emotions going through my head,” Hunnel said. “I’m excited, thrilled and nervous.”
Hunnel traveled to Boise to meet with the FBI agents with her son, Cliff Krieger, who lives in Boise.
“We have hope that the case will resolve and provide closure for the family,” Sheehan said.
Sandra Barker, spokeswoman for the FBI in Salt Lake City, said the agency is officially assisting the Cassia County Sheriff’s Office, still the lead agency on the case.
“As the mother of a murdered child, I am ready to face the challenges ahead of me as Gina’s story unfolds and the truth comes out,” Hunnel said.
Regina disappeared Feb. 27, 1995, two days before her 15th birthday. Horseback riders found the girl’s decomposed body near the Montgomery Bridge, east of Rupert.
Her throat had been slashed, and she had been stabbed in the heart. An autopsy showed her body had been in the river at least 30 days.
Detectives made mistakes handling the case, former Cassia County sheriff Randy Kidd said in 2015. Investigators initially did not consider it a murder but one where Regina had killed herself or run away.
Although there were rumors suggesting many knew what happened to the junior high student, no one came forward.
Teens whispered about seeing “a body in a tub” at a party shortly after Regina disappeared, but Kidd said police never found an eyewitness willing to talk.
“Everybody had heard about it,” Kidd said. “These were just kids at the time, and I think there is still a fear factor.”
More than two decades later, Regina’s family still struggles to make peace with the knowledge that the case could have been handled better. They still seek justice.
The sheriff’s office let down the family, the community, and most of all, Regina, Hunnel said.
As mid-April draws near each year, Hunnel struggles against depression that settles over her body, and she fights to tamp down the anger that surges.
“I put my baby in their hands and trusted that they would take care of her,” Hunnel said.
Cliff turned 13 three days before his sister vanished from the house where they lived. Her murder had a profound impact on his life, he said, but it’s not all bad.
While the death of Regina was devastating, it also made him a stronger person.
“I don’t have a lot of fear in my life,” he said.
It was important for him to forgive the brutal murder to move forward with his life, Cliff said.
Growing up in Burley, he said, he heard the talk about what may have happened to his sister.
“Everyone talks in a small town,” he said. “The problem was they didn’t talk to the right people, and there were other people who were manipulating them with fear.”
People Regina had become involved with were drug dealers who were using children to deliver drugs, he said.
The night she went missing, she had a conversation with their father telling him she wanted to move back to Twin Falls to live with her mother because she was uncomfortable with a situation she had gotten into and wanted out of it, Cliff said.
“What she didn’t know was there wasn’t any way out.”
After Regina was killed, the family felt no support.
“People in the community just wanted to sweep it under the rug,” Cliff said. “Nobody wanted to help.”
No one in the sheriff’s office ever answered for the mistakes that were made in the case, either, he said.
Justice for Regina now, he said, would help right the wrongs.
For a long time he tried not to think about what happened to her, to not let hate consume him.
“What do you do? You have to try and let it go,” he said. “My sister is my angel now.”