Detective Keith Rosewaren got the call around 6 p.m., letting him know that the dead mans wife was waiting for him downstairs. He knew she might be his last chance.
Inside the Independence Police Department, where the buzz had been constant for three weeks, an interrogation room sat empty for the moment soon to play main stage in the citys most sensational homicide drama in years.
Rosewaren had been accustomed to interrogating detainees in Afghanistan. Now, he would be questioning Teresa Stone, wife, mother of two, obstinate witness and, unknown to her, a suspect in her husbands murder.
On the last day of March 2010, with springs arrival still hanging in the air, Randy Stone was found dead in his insurance office, a bullet in his head.
At Stones funeral, as detectives watched outside, his longtime pastor had given a moving eulogy for the 42-year-old Marine veteran, respected businessman and church leader.
But almost immediately there were whispers and suspicions. Rumors of illicit sex and betrayal. A torn-up love note discovered at the crime scene. Not enough, though, for police to make an arrest.
As Rosewaren hung up the phone, he tucked a Miranda waiver form in a folder and walked out to meet Teresa Stone, hoping she would open up without a lawyer. If she didnt like the questions, she could leave at any time.
This is a one-shot deal, Rosewaren thought to himself. You gotta get her to talk.
Randy and Teresa Stone had known each other since they were kids growing up in the Northeast area of Kansas City but didnt begin dating until after he returned from Marine duty in 1990.
Randy, a tough guy with a soft side, wed Teresa, an attractive and flirtatious woman, later that year. They soon began a family that would grow to four.
A fitness fanatic, Randy thrived in competition whether on the basketball court or in the office, where he built his Farmers Insurance agency into one of the most successful in the region.
But he also wrote poetry for his wife, kept a journal, drove his churchs Sunday school bus and advised the congregation on financial issues.
Teresa worked in his Noland Road office, first as a customer service representative, then as a licensed agent. She proved to be a steady business partner, opening the office every morning and allowing Randy to manage both the clients and the relationship with Farmers Insurance, whose products they sold.
Both spent many hours at Teresas longtime church, New Hope Baptist at 18000 E. Lexington Road in Independence. Randy and Teresa married there. Teresa helped in the church kitchen and occasionally sang in the choir.
The Rev. David Love articulate, attractive and partial to dark suits arrived in 1999 and immediately proved a hit with the congregation. Reared in the Midwest, the son of missionaries, hed polished his preaching skills at a Baptist college in the South and as a youth minister and pastor at two previous churches.
Randy Stone became one of his most devoted followers. Though the two occasionally argued about church business, Randy considered Brother Love the most influential person in his life.
Randy particularly liked the demanding interpretation of Baptist Christianity that his pastor preached, once telling a friend that the more mainstream Southern Baptist Convention was too liberal and willing to compromise.
A smooth and charismatic speaker, Love adhered to the expository preaching style, in which he laid out a chunk of Scripture and then systematically explained it, bit by bit.
I love the word of God, Love assured during a 2003 sermon. Im glad the Lord called me to preach, and its a delight and a privilege to be able to come before you.
Yet hed battled financial issues that split a Virginia congregation in the 1990s. Similar trouble arose early in his Independence ministry when he wouldnt account for about $30,000 missing from a fund for missionary salaries.
Confronted, Love recoiled in anger.
I will not let a church checkbook run my ministry, he said.
Still, Love presented the face of a perfect preacher and doted on his wife, Kim, a talkative woman with a lush Southern accent who relished her role as a mother, pastors spouse and church secretary. She exhibited such a fierce Christian faith and truthful and forgiving nature that others sometimes thought her a phony.
Theyd met during their college years in Chattanooga, Tenn. One day he took her out on a high hill overlooking the city.
Kimberly Joy Turner, he said, I could search the whole world over and Id never find anybody like you. Would you marry me?
She answered rapturously Yes, yes, yes, yes and David tugged a ring from his pinky finger and handed it to his new fiancée. They wed June 26, 1982.
David treated her like a queen, Kim later said.
Yet as their marriage grew, so did Kims wariness of other women attracted to handsome preachers. More than once, she shooed her husband away from other women, Teresa Stone among them, who she thought were too friendly.
Her relationship with Teresa could be friendly, dramatic, brittle and competitive, all within the space of a single day.
But no day was as bad as March 31, 2010 the day of Randys murder.
As Teresa pulled into a parking space late that afternoon next to her husbands blue Chevy Malibu, the only other car in the lot, she immediately noticed that someone had closed his insurance agencys blinds.
Thats not normal, she thought.
Late getting back to the office, Teresa had been shopping and running errands all afternoon. She remembered opening the blinds that morning, a couple of hours after arriving for work. Randy never closed them before dark.
Teresa keyed the lock, which turned easily. That meant that the harder-to-manage deadbolt had not been engaged.
Honey, where are you? Teresa called.
She looked in a storage room and saw the usual clutter but not her husband.
Teresa checked Randys office and found nothing out of the ordinary.
Reaching her smaller office down the hall, Teresa looked down.
Her husband lay motionless on the floor next to her desk, near a copy machine. Blood that had streamed from his left ear had begun to dry, and his head lay in a moist puddle of bone splinters and brain. A space heater that had toppled behind him bore a crimson smear. Blood spatter dotted furniture and walls.
Randys eyes had blackened and his lips were blue.
Randy! Teresa yelled. Wake up!
She stepped over him and reached for a wireless telephone headset.
She called her parents, told them Randy had been shot and asked them to come to the office.
Then she called 911.
Oh my God, she said.
911, the call-taker responded. Do you need police, fire or medical?
Yes, I do please.
OK, take a breath. Where are you at?
I I just walked into my office and my, my husbands lying on my floor in my office.
OK, listen to me, listen to me, where are you? I need the address of where youre at.
Its 13912 Noland Court.
OK, whats the suite number?
Suite A, as in apple.
OK now, whats wrong with your husband?
Hes, hes been, I dont know. Theres blood everywhere. Its coming out of his ear.
Obeying the call-takers instructions, Teresa left the office and waited for patrol officers to arrive.
The first on the scene happened to be a member of her church. He darted inside, determined Randy was dead, went back out and told Teresa.
No! she shrieked before collapsing in his arms.
The call to her parents had energized the New Hope grapevine. Pastor Love heard word of it during a hospital call in south Kansas City. Soon, a church youth minister appeared outside the insurance office.
And within minutes, Kim Love pulled into the parking lot.
Spotting Teresa, Kim wrapped an arm around her and said, Im here for you. Im praying for you. This is terrible.
Pastor Love soon appeared, about a half-hour quicker than expected. He sized up the situation, left the comforting to others and, from the parking lot, intently watched the detectives.
As officers strung crime scene tape between utility poles to secure the front of the office, and a half-dozen detectives began investigating inside, someone asked Kim to drive a shaky Teresa to a nearby restroom. Kim submitted to duty, as she had throughout her marriage.
But Kim also assessed her passenger coolly.
She thought: Did you do this?
Kim and Teresa soon returned to the parking lot, where shocked friends, family and church members grieved as investigators came and went from the insurance office.
Tapped to lead the investigation, Rosewaren waited outside while crime-scene technicians and medical examiners worked. Already hed learned that Randy, like him, was a veteran, immensely proud of his military service.
Rosewaren suspended his police ID on a Go Army lanyard. He had 20 years service in the active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve and had served both in Iraq and Afghanistan, investigating crime.
During his tour in Afghanistan, Rosewaren had sent his colleagues a framed American flag that had flown on an F-15 fighter jet during a mission. It was a small way of thanking detectives in Independence for picking up his slack while he was overseas.
Rosewaren felt an immediate kinship to Randy Stone.
His life course is not much different than mine, he thought.
The Stones daughter, Miranda, arrived with her maternal grandparents, who had told her only that her father had been shot. She learned of his death in the parking lot.
Teresa took a call from her son, Michael, at college in Florida. She only had time to tell him of his fathers death before resuming a conversation with a detective.
During a quiet moment, Pastor Love pulled his eyes from the crime scene for a quick word with Teresa.
He reminded her of something in her purse.
Get rid of the TracFone, he said.
And if police ask you about Randys gun, tell them he sold it three months ago.
Tomorrow: A Love story.