Family reacts after 40-yr-old Cass County cold case ends in sentencing
CASS COUNTY, Mich. -- Police originally said Robert Stasiak committed suicide in 1977. But for the 40 years that followed, his family believed he was murdered. On Friday, a court confirmed their beliefs.
“I have to wonder is he still – is he even dealing with the reality of it yet?” said Kathy Hamburger. “There was no emotion on his – for all the damage he’s done to so many family members, there was no emotion on his face whatsoever. There’s still a lot of lies there and he’s just not dealing with what he’s really done.
“This is the first time that I can really feel that I have a final – just peace, knowing,” said Stephanie Stasiak.
Peace, and some closure, is now something Stephanie – Robert Stasiak’s daughter – and Kathy – Robert’s former wife – can feel.
In an exclusive interview shortly after Richmond’s sentencing, Stephanie and Kathy brought ABC57’s Taylor Popielarz to the Edwardsburg cemetery where Robert has been buried for the last 40 years.
As she stood next to her father’s gravestone, Stephanie said this when asked how she hopes he’s feeling: “That he can finally smile down on me and is at peace.”
She was only 2-years-old when her father – described as a 6’9” ‘big kid at heart’ who loved to hunt and fish – was found dead inside his parents Cass County home on November 2, 1977.
In the two decades that followed, Stephanie and Kathy said Robert’s cousin, Raymond Richmond, admitted to them both that he had killed Stasiak because Robert had flushed his marijuana down the toilet.
Richmond first confessed to Kathy in 1985, while he was getting psychiatric treatment at Oaklawn Psychiatric Center in Goshen.
But Kathy wasn’t sure she could believe him, so she kept quiet about it until 1993, as Stephanie grew older and more upset about her father’s alleged suicide.
“I didn’t know what the answers were and I let it go,” Kathy said. “But [Stephanie and I] had another big when she was 17 and she was on it again about, ‘It’s your fault my Dad is dead.’ And I just said enough’s enough and I picked up the phone, called [Richmond’s] parents’ house, got him on the phone and said, ‘I want you to tell my daughter exactly what you told me that day at Oaklawn.’”
At 17-years-old, Stephanie was told this by Richmond on the phone: “’I have something I’ve got to tell you.’ And it was, ‘I shot and killed your Dad’…it just really turned my world upside down.”
Despite the confessions, Richmond remained a free man.
Stephanie and Kathy kept trying to get police to reopen the case, but they were told it was either too late, there wasn’t enough evidence, or resources were low.
That was until two years ago.
“April 2015 I got a phone call,” Stephanie said. “And I really thought it was a joke.”
Then-Edwardsburg Police Chief Timothy Kozal had learned about the case after stumbling upon some paperwork in his office about Robert’s story.
After calling Stephanie and Kathy, Kozal decided to reopen the case in 2015.
His new investigation found enough evidence to charge Richmond, thanks to enhanced technology and a lot of support from area agencies.
In court Friday, Kathy read Kozal a poem she wrote for him.
“So thank you from the bottom of our heart,” she said, reading the end of the poem. “Hopefully this will be our new start. Thank you very, very much.”
They hugged in the courtroom.
“It’s always been about justice for Robert,” Kozal said, in an interview after the sentencing. “So, to me, it’s the closure for the family. It’s justice. We’ve finally been able to get it done.”
Stephanie and Kathy still visit Robert’s grave, almost 40 years to the date of his death.
Time may often heal, but for the Stasiak’s, closure is justice.
“It’s been a long, tough road,” Kathy said. “May he rest in peace. And I hope – I’m ok, I’m an older adult – I hope Stephanie gets the peace in her heart that she needs.”
“I’m going to be ok,” Stephanie said. “And I just want him to rest until we meet again. We can do all the catching up then.”
Richmond pleaded guilty to second degree murder in July.
The length of his sentence was agreed to by the prosecution and defense before it was recommended by the judge, who also agreed to it.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz said Richmond’s older age and poor health played a factor in determining the length of his sentence.
Fitz also said, to the best of his knowledge, this is the oldest cold case to be solved in Michigan history.