Benjamin Klemann was a successful small-business owner who, through a series of bad choices and unfortunate circumstances, ended up an ex-convict without a career.
The 29-year-old Tucsonan did his time in jail after being convicted for drug possession, and then he set forth on finding a better path. This included a part-time job within walking distance of his westside apartment, as well as continued involvement in the life of his older sister.
"He was bettering himself," recalls Melissa Dulaney, Klemann's sister. "He made a mistake. He got involved with the wrong people. It's so easy to do so in Southern Arizona; drugs are so prevalent."
Klemann was close to completing his probation and getting back on his feet when he was found dead in an alley behind a liquor store next to the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and the Blind on Speedway Boulevard. He was shot in the neck early on the morning of Feb. 28, 2007, and at the time of his death, there was no explanation for the homicide, Dulaney said.
"He had done a withdrawal from his bank account ... (and) was probably walking back through that alleyway, and he was shot and murdered," she said. "He'd had problems in the past, but he was clean and sober."
Tucson police had no suspects and no leads—until about a year later, when out of nowhere, two men came forward to say they were witnesses to Klemann's death. They said it happened while the three of them were being robbed by an unidentified man who shot Klemann, behind the liquor store, after the other two men ran away.
"The detectives told me ... they were persons of interest themselves," Dulaney said of the two men, who claimed Klemann was shot because he told the killer he wasn't going to give him anything. "But he wasn't robbed. He had money in his pocket. He had a nice watch on. These two people ran away and ... didn't tell anyone anything. And they waited a year to come forward. It was completely suspicious.
"It seems to me like they escaped justice," she said.
While the witnesses were considered persons of interest, no arrests were ever made. A Tucson police spokeswoman said last week that no new leads have turned up. The case has been assigned to TPD's cold-case squad for more than two years.
Dulaney, who said she last spoke with police about two years ago, said the only thing that appeared to be missing after Klemann died was his Kabbalah Tree of Life necklace. It could have been taken by the killer, or could have disappeared in some other way, she said.
"I've had my theories," Dulaney said. "Either those two people are covering their butts, and it was a gang killing, and they took a souvenir, or they were telling the truth, but it was still a gang killing, and someone took a souvenir."
Klemann's death meant more than just the loss of a sibling for Dulaney, the oldest of three children, who was born 18 months before her brother. It also meant her son, Jesse, lost an uncle and godfather. Jesse is autistic, and Klemann regularly helped Dulaney, a single mother, with Jesse's care.
"He was always the one who was there for me," she said. "He always took care of me and my son. It was just a huge loss for us."
All that remains of Klemann's presence are the memories Dulaney has of her younger brother, and the milestone chips he accumulated while going through his drug-recovery program. Her northwest-side home also shows evidence of Klemann's expertise as a tile-setter. His mural of the North Star is displayed outside the house.
"His tile work—he was an artist," Dulaney said.
With the sixth anniversary of her brother's death just a few months away, Dulaney would love to see someone come forward with information about the killing. But more realistically, she hopes talking about the crime will bring attention to other unsolved killings—and that it will cause the public to pay more attention to what she says is a major drug problem in Tucson.
"I would like that there would be a greater awareness of crimes like that," said Dulaney, who works in community relations for Tucson Electric Power Co. "It just seems to me there's not enough emphasis on the news of how critical this is. Why isn't there more of an outreach? This is a huge problem, and it's just getting worse."
Anyone with information related to Klemann's death is encouraged to call 88-CRIME or 911.