Johnson County Metro

Klein to be arraigned next month

Klein is accused of killing Susan Kersten in 1995

Steven Klein answers questions from the judge during his initial hearing at the Johnson County Jail in Iowa City on Satu
Steven Klein answers questions from the judge during his initial hearing at the Johnson County Jail in Iowa City on Saturday, July 18, 2015.(KC McGinnis / The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Steven Klein, suspected of killing his girlfriend nearly 20 years ago, is scheduled to be arraigned next month.

According to court documents, Klein, 54, is scheduled to be arraigned on the charge of first-degree murder on Aug. 7. A written plea could be entered before that date.

Klein is accused of killing 38-year-old Susan Kersten in September 1995. Authorities said her body was found in her car in a farm field southeast of Iowa City on Sept. 24. The car was severely burned, but police said Kersten died from several blows to her head.

Trial information filed in the case alleges Klein “struck the victim causing blunt force trauma to her head.” Klein then put Kersten’s body in her car, moved it to a nearby field and caused the car to catch fire, according to the trial information.

Kersten’s death went unsolved for nearly 20 years. However, on July 17, the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office announced it had arrested Klein. Klein had been a person of interest in the case from the onset of the investigation, but authorities would not say what led to an arrest now. The trial information does not provide any clues on what might have led to Klein’s arrest.

On Tuesday, Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said investigators have continually worked the case — which he described as their only “workable” cold homicide case — for the past 20 years. In recent months, some witnesses have been reinterviewed. Pulkrabek alluded to new information in the case coming out of those interviews.

“I think there were some things that help form a tighter timeline,” he said.

In a statement released at the time of Klein’s arrest, two of Kersten’s children also gave credit to the producers and crew of the television show, Cold Justice, for “being a catalyst in bringing things that were hidden into the light.” The children, Jason Kersten and Sandra Rohrer, declined to elaborate on the show’s role in the investigation.

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The trial information includes a list of 28 potential state witnesses, including a number of retired sheriff’s office investigators, a medical examiner and some of Kersten’s relatives.

If convicted of first-degree murder, Klein would face an automatic life sentence.

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