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A mother's search for a missing daughter

At 5 a.m., October 10, 2006 on one of the meanest  streets in the city of Milwaukee, Karren Kraemer, a mother of five from the suburbs is all alone, struggling in the dark and the cold.

Karren Kraemer, Becky's mother: Whoever would think that a mother would have to do anything like that?

It’s a mother’s desperate quest to find out what happened to her daughter.

Karren Kraemer: I should feel fear but I don’t.  I feel like the answers are there.  Every place you go, you look. You drive past a house and you wonder could that be the place...

Where is she? Could the answer lie in a house?  In a closet? Behind cobwebs?  Or could the answer be buried here in this cemetery? Or somewhere along these railroad tracks? Karren is following the trail anywhere it leads to find her daughter.

Rob Stafford, Dateline correspondent: If you see a young woman walking down the street, do do you look over?Karren Kraemer: Uh-huh (affirms).  Absolutely. Especially if she’s blonde.

Karren’s desperate search is for her daughter Becky Marzo. She’d be 26 years old now, but still her mother’s little girl.

Karren Kraemer: Loved to be a center of attention. And she always laughed. Everything was funny.

But as a young child Becky was always sick, she had infections, sinus problems, and over 18 surgeries involving her ears.

Karren Kraemer:  When she was in school she always had to sit up close to the teacher.  So she could hear what was going on.  She had a hearing impairment.Stafford: So Becky’s a girl that mom worries about from day one?Karren Kraemer: Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Inspite of her hearing loss, Becky always loved music. In high school, she was in the band and the group took a trip to New York City where she saw homeless people for the first time.

Karren Kraemer: I was proud of her. She gave away her lunch.  There were 20 kids that went on this part of the trip to Central Park.  And she made everybody give up their lunches.                    Stafford: So if Becky sees someone in need, she’s determined to help that person?Karren Kraemer: Yeah, absolutely.

Becky married briefly and when the marriage failed she came home to live with her family. 

Stafford: You two had a pretty special bond.  Can you talk about that a little bit?David Kraemer, Becky's father: Well, she was my daughter. We did things together.  We hunted together.  Stafford: (laughing) I’m shocked.  She deer hunting or what?David Kraemer: Yup, she deer hunted.Stafford: Did she like it or she was just doing that because you?David Kraemer: She did it for a couple of years to keep me happy.

But the happy family life ended when she became involved with a man 11 years older and moved in with him in downtown Milwaukee. Her parents say he always refused to come to their home and meet them.  His name was Carl Rogers, Jr.

David Kraemer: —we didn’t know a lot about him.  And Becky kind of changed. She wasn’t the same.  She was distant. And at the time we didn’t know why.

Then one time she came home, her parents were shocked.

David Kraemer: She was bruised.  She had a broken nose.  She had some cuts and stuff. Basically looked abused.Stafford: That must have been difficult for you as a dad. Tell me about that.David Kraemer: I kind of at the time I had given her an ultimatum. And said, "What you need to do is you need to get a restraining order, put a stop to this."

He says Becky admitted to being abused  and to get a restraining order, but when she did not show up for a hearing, the case was dismissed and she was back  with  the man she says abused her. According to her parents, a fateful move that would have terrible consequence.

David Kraemer: I was very upset and angry.  And I guess the only thing I could do is she’s an adult was try and persuade her to stay away from him.  And I think he had control over her. Karren Kraemer: My husband’s talking to her and I’m talking to her and we’re telling her. And you know we’re telling her, “He’s gonna kill you.  You know, this isn’t just something you see on TV.  This happens in real life.”

But Becky kept going back to Carl. And finally her parents couldn’t take it anymore. The breaking point was a call in April 2003. Becky phoned her mother after her car broke down. According to Karren, Becky felt she needed her  mother to come get her. That very morning, she says Carl had beaten Becky  once again.

Karren Kraemer: I said, “No.”  We decided we were gonna use tough love.         

They told Becky they wouldn’t come get her unless she’d leave Carl completely and come home and live with them..

David Kraemer: I would hope it bring her back home and she’d quit hanging around with him.

But Karen says it only made Becky feel they didn’t love her.

Stafford: How hard was it for you to say “no”?Karren Kraemer: Horrible.  It was horrible.  I was crying.  I was trying to explain to her that it’s killing us to see her like this.  And to know that she’s gonna keep going back.Stafford: How many times have you thought about that phone call? Karren Kraemer: Oh my God, every day of my life.  It eats me up. People say, “You can’t blame yourself.”  But as a parent, we all say and do things thinking it’s gonna be for the best. It’s gonna help your kid. And that was the wrong decision I made.  It didn’t help her.

Becky hung up on her, broke off all contact with her family and four days later took off.

Karren Kraemer: So she not only ran from him, but I forced her to run from me. So she was abandoned that’s how she felt and I understand that. 

According to Karen,  the boyfriend was desperate — calling and calling trying to find her. So was Karen. She called the FBI. They found Becky in Florida, but she still did not want to deal with her parents. And asked her mother to leave her alone.

Stafford: What do you want her to know?David Kraemer: I want her to know I love her.  And I wish it could have been different.

Becky stayed in Florida for six weeks and then came back to Milwaukee and to her parents’ dismay moved back in with Carl. Alarmed, Karen called Becky’s cell everyday but could only get her voicemail.

Stafford: Tell me about the messages you’re leaving.Karren Kraemer: I kept her informed of everything that was happening in our lives. Her sister got pregnant and had a baby.  We called and told her about that.  Everything....Stafford: Is there anyway Becky would not respond to her sister having a child?Karren Kraemer: No, are you kidding. She would give anything to see Katie’s baby and to be a part of that.  Because that’s who she was.  She loved her brothers and sisters. And every day I was telling her how sorry I was. And that I needed her to come back in my life.    And she would have responded to that. Because that’s who she was.  You know? She wouldn’t have wanted me to hurt every day…

After two months, Karren was convinced Becky was not returning her calls for a reason, that something terrible had happened.

Karren Kraemer: I believe 110  percent that she was murdered.Stafford: And do you have a suspect?Karren Kraemer: Yep.  Stafford: And who is it?Karren Kraemer: Her boyfriend.  Carl Rogers the second.  That’s who it is. 

Christina Randol, one of Becky’s best friend turns out to be the last person to see Becky on December 13, 2003— months before that string of unanswered calls from her family. That night they went out to a club together.

Christina Randol, friend: And she couldn’t wait to go.  And she was so happy that day.

Christina says she picked Becky up at Carl’s house where Becky was staying. They were having a fun evening at a club when Carl called Becky. They argued and then Becky hung up, but Carl continued to call.

Rob Stafford, Dateline correspondent: How many times did her cell phone ring that night?Randol: I think he called at least four times after they had argued on the phone before she finally turned it off.

Stafford: And what was he asking about?Randol: She said he was asking when she was gonna be home.  Where she was, what she was doing, who she was with. Stafford: The place closes, then what happens?

Randol: I took her home. She went upstairs and waved at me and told me I’ll see you later    I had fun. And we’ll talk tomorrow.

But they wouldn’t talk the next day... or any other day.

Randol: I went over there and there was no answer at the door.

Stafford: She had gone to Florida on her own before. How did you know she didn’t just leave town?

Lisa, friend: ‘Cause it wasn’t like her. When she went to Florida the first time, she contacted us, she contacted Desiree, she contacted my sister, she contacted my mom. She came straight to my house the night she got back from Florida.

Unable to reach Becky for a week after their night together at the club, the friends went to the police.

Desiree: Our friend is missing and we have a feeling that her boyfriend has something to do with it because he was real abusive.Stafford: What did the police say? Desiree: Pretty much just blew us off because we weren’t family.

And when Becky’s mom, Karren, called the police in march to file a missing person’s report, she says they talked her out of it, saying Becky was a runaway.

Desperate, Karen put up fliers and knocked on every door in this neighborhood, where Becky lived with Carl. She held a vigil to get the public’s attention.

She also hired a private detective and consulted  psychics, who said her daughter might be secretly buried in a cemetery or along railroad tracks. Karren looked everywhere where she thought her daughter might be.

Stafford: And are you worried about what you might find?Karren Kraemer: Yeah. I shouldn’t be the person to find my daughter’s remains, but I’m going to look for them.

Becky and Carl were an interracial couple and lived in a mostly black section of Milwaukee, which is where Karren concentrated her search.

Stafford: As you’re going into the black community in Milwaukee, what kind of reception are you getting?Karren Kraemer: Wonderful.  People have helped me.  They’ve told me stories.  They’ve hugged me.  They’ve taken posters and passed ‘em out at their neighborhood meetings.  They’ve embraced me.

Ellen Corella heard about Karren’s story and offered to help.  She’s a former prosecutor, who now is a private investigator specializing in adult children who havegone missing.                 

Stafford: You start looking into Becky’s disappearance.  And what do you find?

Ellen Corcella (private investigator): She’s a victim of domestic violence. And everything we know about theories of domestic violence say that the perpetrator gets more violent than less violent.

And she says Becky’s behavior was typical of someone who is being abused: running away from her abuser. Becky tried several times—at times moving in with friends, her parents, or going to Florida.

Corcella: The abuser calls and lures them back.  Then when she gets her sense of power again and is beaten worse, she leaves.

And in many cases, after he romances her back, the abuse begins again. Becky wasn’t the first woman Carl had allegedly beaten. He’d had been married before meeting Becky. And although Carl denied it, his first wife did allege abuse.

Corcella: Well, the public record shows testimony about him having been abusive to his wife and it’s the main reason that the marriage is dissolved. He has a pattern of abuse. 

What’s more, since Becky’s disappearance, her credit cards haven’t been used,  her last paycheck was never cashed, her driver’s license hasn’t renewed, and no one has reported seeing or hearing from her.     

Corcella: She has for all intents and purposes, walked off the face of the earth.Stafford: Becky Marzo  alive?Corella: No.Stafford: You’re absolutely convinced of—Corella: I’m absolutely certain that that’s the case.Stafford: What do you know about what the boyfriend did in the days after Becky was last seen?Corella: What we do know from the phone records is that he apparently traveled to Canada to meet a girl that he had met online.Stafford: Why is that significant?Corella:  Men who have thought that they have committed the perfect crime by disposing of the body in a way it can’t be found, take a breather and look to see if the attention’s gonna turn to them, or if the police are gonna float on to the next case.Stafford: So they leave town to see if the police are following them.Corella: Yes.

Karren continued to badger the Milwaukee police about her daughter’s case. Then, 10 months after Becky went missing, to Karren’s shock, police made what some have called an outrageous move: They set up a meeting between her and the man she was accusing.

Karren Kraemer: And he said, “Mrs. Kraemer, tell this boy what you think he did to your daughter.”Stafford: And you’re face to face with Carl Rogers?Karren Kraemer: We were sitting side by side.  And—Stafford: What do you say?Karren Kraemer: I just looked at him and I said, “What did you do to Becky?  I know you killed her.”  And he said “The b*tch wasn’t worth it.”

Dateline tried to reach Carl Rogers but he didn’t respond.

The Milwaukee police department declined several interview requests by Dateline but did tell us that they are doing everything they can to solve the disappearance of Becky Marzo.

But Karren Kraemer isn’t waiting for the police.  She’s still out there searching.   What drives her is not the hope she’ll find her daughter alive, but find her nonetheless.

Karren Kraemer: I have to know what happened to her.  I have to be able to touch her coffin and tell her how much I loved her.  I gave birth to her.  I deserve the right to bury her.

If you have information on Becky Kraemer Marzo, contact the Milwaukee Police Department at (414) 935-7403 or go to the Website. You can also