Murder victim's family continues fighting to keep killer behind bars

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Body of Lawanda Sue Raines remained hidden for 12 years

By The Staff

By Jamie Baker-Nantz
For the News-Herald

Summer Raines Nickell has faded and tattered photographs that she looks at frequently.
Those handful of pictures, along with stories handed down from her aunts and uncles, are all the memories she has of her mother, Lawanda Sue Raines.
Raines was murdered by Keith Bramblett in 1989, but it would take 12 years for him to confess to the shooting and show Raines’ family where he buried her body under a pile of rocks near the Grant/Owen county line off Ky. 22.
Another dozen years later and Nickell and her mother’s family want to make sure Bramblett does not get out of jail for the crime. He has a parole hearing on Jan. 14 and they plan to be there to ask that Bramblett remains behind bars.
When her mother went missing, Nickell was 2 years old.
“I heard stories throughout the years and I have some pictures,” said the soft-spoken young woman on remembering her mother.
Her family spoke frequently of Raines.
“They said she was missing and they were looking for her,” Nickell said.
Nickell said they told her that her mother may have been reckless in her youth but started to turn her life around.
“They said she wanted to make something of herself to give me a better life,” Nickell said.
At the time of her disapperance, Raines was a nursing student.
Nickell said she grew up thinking she had done something wrong that made her mother leave.
 “I wondered if she was still out there, did she miss me and would she come home,” said Raines’ youngest daughter. “I guess, deep down, we thought she was dead, but I wondered anyway.”
Bramblett, who initially denied any involvement in Raines’ disappearance, led Owen County Sheriff’s deputies to Nickell’s mothers remains and confessed to the crime in 2001.
He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with his first time being eligible for parole occurring in 2013.
“I was young and at the time didn’t comprehend that he could potentially walk free in just a few years. I remembered they found her, but not much else. It was all kind of a blur,” Nickell said.
Nickell, who was 13 at the time her mother’s body was found, said she was first relieved when she heard that Bramblett confessed.
“It was overwhelming,” she said. “There was a kind of relief because she could finally have a proper burial, but then I was angry that she was taken from me. I guess I had just about every emotion a person could have.”
Nickell grew up in Owen County where she lived until she graduated high school.
Now the wife and stepmother makes her home in Indepedence, but she frequently travels to Williamstown Cemetery to visit her mother’s grave.
Nickell even wrote to Bramblett and asked him why he killed her mother.
“I wanted him to tell me what she did to deserve dying for. I just wanted closure and all I got was lies. He never even said he was sorry. My mother didn’t get a second chance, so why should he. I don’t want to see him get parole,” she said.
In an effort to keep Bramblett behind bars, Nickell has started an online petition that she plans to present to the parole board. Her aunt, Mary Tomlin, has also started a paper petition, which garnered 150 signatures in the first couple of days she began circulating it. A petition is also being circulated in Owen County.
Nickell’s birthday was Jan. 2 and she said she couldn’t think of a better birthday present than to see Bramblett continue to pay for his crime.
“Twelve years went by fast, so my goal is to see that she gets justice,” Nickell said. “It’s like she’s dying over and over and it’s not fair for us to have to relive it.”

Editor’s Note: Jamie Baker-Nantz is the editor of the Grant County News.