Council Bluffs family still searching for killer

Retired Omaha schoolteacher Cindy Chevalier visits the grave of John Stephens, her half-uncle, at Cedar Lawn Cemetery. She goes to her relative's grave most weeks.

Cindy Chevalier never met John Stephens, and she learned that he was her uncle only a few years ago. But nearly 50 years after his death, Chevalier said she feels a strong connection with the police officer who was shot dead at a popular Council Bluffs restaurant.

In recent years, Chevalier has done whatever she could to help detectives find out who shot and killed Stephens and Paul J. Rayer, who was the night manager of Club 64. On Dec. 5, 1967, the two men were found dead of multiple gunshots at Club 64, a popular restaurant that at one time was named one of the best steakhouses in the Omaha metro area.

The case has never been solved.

Through the years, Stephens’ relatives have worked with police on the case. Eight years ago, Stephens’ son, Ricky, helped get Stephens’ 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, he 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,” Stephens said in 2007 about his father’s death. “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, when her mother, John Stephens’ half-sister Patricia 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.’ ”

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 from the Council Bluffs Police Department. The retired Omaha teacher said she couldn’t stop trying to find out what happened to her relative.

“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,” she said. “I would want someone to let the world know about me.”

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 added that without any DNA evidence, modern advances in technology don’t really help.

“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.”

Anyone with information about this unsolved double slaying can contact the Council Bluffs Police Department at 712-328-5737.

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