The murder of Polly Klaas on October 1, 1993, made national headlines. The 12-year-old was kidnapped at knifepoint from her Petaluma, California, home and ultimately strangled to death.
Three months earlier, a similar crime occurred across the country. On July 11, thirteen days after she turned three-years-old, Kaile Lynn Lee was abducted from her Knoxville, Tennessee, apartment. Her body was found later that day. She had been killed in a particularly heinous manner by a man she trusted.
Polly and Kaile Lynn were both kidnapped from their homes and strangled to death. Unlike Polly’s murder, however, Kaile Lynn’s case did not draw national attention.
I was honored to be asked by Kaile’s aunt, Buffy Lee, to write about her beautiful niece.
This is the sad story of a beautiful little girl whose life was brutally taken as it was just beginning.
Kaile Lynn’s mother Donna befriended 22-year-old James Julian in early 1993. Julian went on several trips to a lake with Donna, her husband, and their three children, of whom Kaile Lynn was the oldest. In May, however, Donna began distancing her family from Julian after learning of his drug abuse. Shortly, thereafter, Julian would carry out a more heinous form of abuse.
On the evening of July 10, 1993, shortly after separating from her husband, Donna and a friend attended a party while the friend’s sister babysat the children. After returning home at a late hour, Donna allowed the babysitter to sleep on the couch for the evening.
At approximately 6:30 a.m. the following morning, the babysitter heard a knock at the door. When she asked who it was, a man replied, “Jim.” After he mentioned the names of several family members, the babysitter let him into the apartment.
“Jim” was James Julian and he was noticeably inebriated. As he guzzled a glass of bourbon and coke, Julian rambled on about nothing in particular for nearly 45 minutes before the babysitter asked him to leave. He did so, but approximately 15 minutes later, as the sitter was drifting back to sleep, he pounded on the door again.
As Julian sounded even more drunk, the babysitter did not want to let him in. Kaile Lynn, however, had also awakened and, recognizing Julian’s voice, asked that he be let in. The sitter then allowed Julian back into the apartment. He and Kaile sat on the couch together and talked for a few minutes before appearing to fall asleep. Shortly thereafter, the babysitter also dozed off. Kaile’s mother was still in her room sleeping.
A few minutes later, the sitter awoke to find Julian carrying Kaile out the door. Donna awoke between 8:30-9:00 a.m. When the babysitter told her about “Jim,” Donna believed Julian had probably taken Kaile to the store. By 11:00 a.m., however, after they had still not returned, Donna called the police.
Julian’s car was found at his place of employment, Colvin and Sons Heating and Air. Police learned he was on a business trip to Georgia and had called his grandmother from a payphone in Chattanooga saying he was in trouble.
Police called Julian’s grandmother. After being told of the situation, she arrived at Colvin with a key to the car and gave the police permission to open it. Inside the car’s trunk, police found a child’s outfit and a green towel covered in blood, feces, sticks, and leaves. The clothing was confirmed to be Kaile Lynn’s.
As authorities searched for him, Julian returned to Knoxville. He called his father from a payphone; then he called the police. While he was talking to them, officers arrived and placed him under arrest. Under questioning, Julian confessed to having raped and murdered Kaile Lynn and agreed to lead them to her body. He also detailed the awful last moments of her short life.
After carrying Kaile Lynn out of the apartment between 8:30-9:00 a.m. Julian said he took her to a remote area of Tellico Lake. He parked his car near a stand of pine trees secluded from the view of area traffic. Julian said he then removed his clothes and took a still-clothed Kaile Lynn into the lake. After they swam for a few minutes, Julian said he took her into the woods where he undressed, raped and sodomized her. Kaile Lynn was screaming and bleeding, and as her cries became more desperate, Julian choked the three-year-old to death.
After he was convinced Kaile Lynn was dead, Julian returned to the lake where he cleaned himself and washed her lifeless body. He then carried her body into the woods and placed her in the underbrush. Julian put Kaile Lynn’s clothes and the towel on which he had performed his lewd acts into his car’s trunk. He then returned home and prepared for his work trip.
James Julian was convicted of felony murder, aggravated rape and the rape of a child. Prosecutors asked for the death penalty, but the jury spared his life, sentencing him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Kaile Lynn with her cousin when she was one-year-old. (Photo courtesy of Kaile Lynn’s aunt, Buffy Lee.)
(Photo courtesy of Kaile Lynn’s aunt, Buffy Lee.)
Kaile Lynn Lee would have turned 29-years-old on June 29. Buffy says when her niece laughed she sounded like Woody Woodpecker and that she had the most beautiful blue-violet eyes. All the photos of Kaile Lynn were supplied by Buffy.
I wish to thank Kaile Lynn’s aunt, Buffy Lee, for asking me to do a write-up of Kaile’s story. It was heartbreaking to write, but I hope more people will now know the tragic tale of her beautiful niece.
(Photo courtesy of Kaile Lynn’s aunt, Buffy Lee.)
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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:
Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)
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