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Archive for Thursday, March 26, 1998

SON IS NO KILLER, MCLOUTH MOTHER SAYS

March 26, 1998

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— A man held in Wichita on murder charges ``doesn't have a mean streak in him,'' said his mother, who lives in McLouth

A McLouth woman whose son was charged with first-degree murder after allegedly running down a teen-ager with his car in Wichita said the family is shocked and doesn't believe the news.

``It shocked us out of our minds, hearing about all this from the newspapers,'' said Bernice Caenen. ``I know he would never hit a child. He doesn't have a mean streak in him, period.''

Her son, Arthur Caenen Jr., 37, was charged Tuesday in Sedgwick County Court and is being held on $1 million bond. He has been accused of killing Jordan Palmer as Palmer walked along a busy Wichita street after running out of gas.

``We don't know what is going on, and we haven't been able to talk to him,'' Bernice Caenen said Wednesday.

Her son is a drifter with no permanent address and grew up in Leavenworth. He has a history of mental illness and might have been in Wichita seeking treatment, Bernice Caenen said.

``He was talking about going to the VA Center (in Wichita),'' she said. ``He was going to go in there for the medication to get his head cleared up. He couldn't think straight.''

Police said Caenen used his car to veer across a lane of oncoming traffic, straddle the curb and run Palmer down.

Investigators think the killing was intentional but won't talk about a specific motive. They said Caenen and Palmer had never met.

Bernice Caenen said she believes Palmer's death was an accident or the result of her son going off his medication and not being responsible for his actions.

Caenen's mental illness had become more pronounced in the last three years, his mother said. She said he thought he was being followed by police and described hearing voices in his head.

Police in Tonganoxie said they think Caenen called their offices from a pay phone during his last visit to the area. One officer described Caenen's comments as ``rattling'' and ``rambling.''

For about the last two years, Caenen has been sending cards and letters to the Oskaloosa Independent, a weekly newspaper that serves the community where Caenen's parents live, said publisher Clarke Davis.

In the most recent card, mailed from Florida in February, Caenen wrote incoherently about the FBI, a woman he met, medications and getting ``stuck in a hospital or mental health center.''

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