Cold Case: Grandma Lyla Brasmer’s 1963 murder

Lyla Brasmer was stabbed to death on the afternoon of May 2, 1963

It's been over 50 years since Lyla Brasmer was stabbed to death in her Fruit Valley home. (Ancestry.com)
It's been over 50 years since Lyla Brasmer was stabbed to death in her Fruit Valley home. (Ancestry.com)

VANCOUVER, Wash. (KOIN) — It’s been over 5 decades since Randy Brasmer’s grandmother, Lyla, was stabbed to death in her Fruit Valley home.

Figuring out who killed Lyla would now require solving a mystery within a mystery.

“It’s been some 50 years,” Randy said. “The whole ball has dropped. Everything I’ve tried to find, there’s no records anywhere.”

Today, Randy says his family’s old farmhouse off Fruit Valley Road is still a part of him. Some of his best memories happened there. Then, his childhood went sideways.

“This is, to me, where family ended,” Randy said.

Today, Randy says his family's old farmhouse off Fruit Valley Road is still a part of him. (Randy Brasmer)
Today, Randy says his family’s old farmhouse off Fruit Valley Road is still a part of him. (Randy Brasmer)

Following the traumatic events that transpired on May 2, 1963, Randy says his “family basically separated.” He recalled the life-changing day to KOIN 6 News.

“I know [Lyla] was having lunch, from what the family has told me, she had to be,” Randy said. “She was cutting tomatoes up, they were found in the kitchen.”

An article from the Columbian said Lyla’s “nude body was found lying face up on a bed in a first-floor bedroom.”

Another paragraph said, “A knife with a wooden handle was found in the body.”

Randy said his grandpa Albert came home from work like usual that afternoon.

“Can you imagine that?” he asked. “Coming into your house and finding your wife that way when you get off work?”

Four days later, a Columbian article said investigators “ruled out a sexual assault”. The paper wrote detectives searched “freight trains and ‘hobo jungles’ for clues.”

Investigators reportedly questioned 2 transients, but the case of Lyla Brasmer went nowhere. Her husband died just 4 months later, perhaps of a broken heart.

Randy Brasmer was just 5 when his grandmother was murdered. (Randy Brasmer)
Randy Brasmer was just 5 when his grandmother was murdered. (Randy Brasmer)

Randy was just 5 at the time. He was put in foster care for the rest of his childhood, and he says talking about the murder with family was considered taboo.

“My feelings about it, grandma didn’t let just anybody in the house. As the family stated, they think somebody she knew, she let them in.”

Now, 53 years later, he says he’s sick of staying quiet.

“I was waiting for my dad to be gone,” he said. “My dad didn’t want me to do it. My stepmom… died recently.”

But after so many years, he knew solving his grandmother’s murder was a long shot.

“The evidence was there and then it’s gone,” Randy said. “How would you feel?”

Current staff with Clark County Sheriff’s Office didn’t even know about the case until Randy asked them. Back in the 1960s, record keeping wasn’t what it is today.

“It’s a mystery what happened to the report,” Sgt. Fred Neimann said. “The knife that was recovered at the scene, according to the news article, it’s unknown.”

And none of the detectives who investigated the murder are alive today.

“It wasn’t unusual for an investigator to take a case file and keep it with them throughout their course of the investigation,” Sgt. Neimann said. “And take it home.”

It's been over 50 years since Lyla Brasmer was stabbed to death in her Fruit Valley home. (Randy Brasmer)
It’s been over 50 years since Lyla Brasmer was stabbed to death in her Fruit Valley home. (Randy Brasmer)

Shortly after the murder, then-Coroner Ken Ellertson determined Lyla died of “stab wounds to the chest,” according to the Columbian. It was Ellertson’s first murder case, and he still lives in Vancouver. Now 89, he told KOIN 6 News he remembers spending the night at the crime scene, to guard it until the pathologist could arrive from Portland the next day. Ellertson still has a record of the case number.

Now the sheriff’s office is looking through archives for the coroner’s report.

“That would be great,” Randy said. “That would be fantastic, that’s a help.”

Randy says he often visits his grandparents’ graves where they are side-by-side. While he knows solving Lyla’s murder is a long shot, he still hopes for justice.

“I want to know,” he said. “To settle my own heart and for grandma.”

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