Cindy Chevalier never met John Stephens and only found out that he was her uncle a few years ago, but nearly 50 years after his death, Chevalier said she feels a strong connection with the former police officer who was shot dead at a popular Council Bluffs restaurant in 1967.
In recent years, Chevalier has done whatever she could to help detectives find out who shot and killed Stephens and Paul J. Reyer, who was night manager of Club 64. On Dec. 5, 1967, the two men were found dead from multiple gunshots at Club 64, a popular restaurant, which at one time was named one of the best steakhouses in the Omaha Metro.
The case has never been solved.
Through the years, Stephens’ family members have worked with police to solve the case. Eight years ago, Stephen’s son, Ricky, helped Stephens get his name added to the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial in Washington D.C. Stephens worked for the Council Bluffs Police Department for seven years, and at the time of his death, rode a motorcycle with the traffic division.
In an interview after his father was added to the memorial, Ricky Stephens said the honor gave him some closure.
“We may never know all the answers (surrounding my father’s death),” Stephens said in 2007. “Deep in the back of my mind I hope the truth comes to light, but I’m realistic.”
Chevalier did not know Stephens was her uncle in 2007. She did not know about him until three years ago her mother and John Stephen’s half-sister Patricia (Stephens) Kraft mentioned him out of the blue on a car ride.
“My mom started talking about her brother’s death,” Chevalier said. “I remember her saying, ‘That was terrible what happened to Jacki.’
“Mom began to talk of him being a police officer in Council Bluffs, but that he also had another job at Club 64. She told me about the Club 64 robbery on December 5th, 1967 and how he had been shot, and whoever did it, sat him up in a booth to make it look like he was just sitting there. I thought that was horrible.”
After learning about her half-uncle, Chevalier began to research his life, which was when she saw a picture of him for the first time.
“Every time I look at Officer Stephens’ picture, I always get this feeling that he knows mom and I are remembering him,” she said.
Chevalier visits his gravesite most weeks at Cedar Lawn Cemetery. She has spoken with detectives with the Council Bluffs Police Department. The retired Omaha teacher said she couldn’t stop trying to find out what happened to her family member.
“I’m a very empathetic person, which made me a good teacher,” she said. “If that was me, who had been shot and killed, I would want someone, relative or not, to learn of my fate and keep my memory alive. I would want someone to let the world know about me. I sometimes wonder what went thru his head after that first shot? Did he say anything? Why keep shooting him when he was down? Something inside me compels me to believe justice will soon be around the corner for him.”
Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker said a file remains open on the case, but it’s been years since there has been any new information.
“I would love to solve it. I really would,” Danker said. “I would love to solve it for his family. I would love to solve it because he was a police officer. I would love to solve it because it has been out there for so long.”
Danker said it was shocking case, a double homicide at one of the area’s popular restaurants.
“At the time, the murder of an off-duty police officer at Club 64 was shocking. I know a lot of people want it solved.”
Danker said a lot of the information has gotten old and without any DNA, modern advances in technology don’t really help.
Stephens’ half-sister Patricia Kraft, who told Chevalier about him, is now 83. When asked why she didn’t talk about him to her daughter for some many years, Kraft said it was just too painful.
Kraft was 32 when her biological brother died and 35 when Stephens was fatally shot.
“That was two deaths in three years,” Kraft said. “It was too painful to talk about.”
Luckily for Kraft, her daughter has no problem talking about it for her.
“I just want to know what happened,” Chevalier said. “Yes, the people that did this could be long gone, but we still should find the truth.
“As I looked at his picture, something told me he couldn’t be forgotten. I know someone somewhere must know something or heard something over the years. Looking at his picture compelled me to try to keep his case opened to find who did this so we can have closure.”
If you have any information about this unsolved double slaying please contact the Council Bluffs Police Department at (712) 328-5737.