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Legal woes didn't portend Sueppel family deaths


Legal woes didn't portend Sueppel family deaths

IOWA CITY — Despite Steven Sueppel's recent legal woes, friends and family said Monday they were shocked by the apparent violent deaths of a six-member family they described as extremely loving.

Sueppel was charged last month with embezzling nearly $560,000 from his former employer, Hills Bank and Trust, and with money laundering.

"I thought that was the epitome of shocking," family friend Becky Foerstner of Coralville said of the charges against Sueppel. "And then this is just over the top."

Police found a woman and four children dead Monday morning at the Iowa City home of Steven and Sheryl Sueppel. Police believe the victims were Sheryl, 42, and the couple's four children, ages 3, 5, 7 and 10.

Officers did not find Steven Sueppel, 42, at the home but the family's Toyota Sienna minivan was missing and later involved in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 80 in which the driver died. Police believe Sueppel was driving but were unable to immediately get a positive identity because of the fire.

In a statement, the Sueppels' parents said family members had looked for signs of stress recently but saw none.

"Various family members were with Steven, Sheryl and the children during Easter weekend, and saw nothing unusual," the statement from Jack and Gisela Kesterson and Bill and Pat Sueppel, all of Iowa City, said.

The Rev. Kenneth Kuntz of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Iowa City, where the family worshipped, said he went to the home of Steven Sueppel's parents Monday morning, where family had gathered. "They were in a state of shock, I guess I would say," he said. "We were able to pray with them and be with them."

Steven, Sheryl and their four children attended Easter Mass this past weekend, Kuntz said.

Steven and Sheryl were married at St. Mary's and their children were baptized there, he said. The couple were married June 16, 1990, records show.

"They had done a wonderful job of adopting the four children and always appeared to me to be a caring, loving family," Kuntz said. "So this obviously is a tremendous shock."

The couple had adopted four children from South Korea. Kuntz identified them as Ethan, 10, Seth, 7, Mira, 5, and Eleanor, 3.

"I remember when they were getting those babies and were so excited and showed pictures for a long time before they came," Foerstner said.

Foerstner has known Sheryl Sueppel since they were a year apart at Grant Wood Elementary in Iowa City. They both later graduated from City High School.

"They were just a great family — absolutely great family," she said of the Sueppels.

Sheryl Sueppel was a teacher in the Iowa City school district from 1989 until 2001 at Mann, Penn and Wickham elementaries, said Jim Pedersen, the district's human resources director.

Foerstner said Sueppel taught third and fourth grade before leaving to raise her children but has remained active in the school district and the community. Records show that the Sueppels donated to the school district's foundation, its Run for the Schools fundraiser, the Iowa City Hospice and other charities.

In early February, Sheryl started work as the education and training coordinator at 4Cs Child Care Resource and Referral in Iowa City, executive director Susan Gray said.

"She was a very caring, compassionate person very interested in our mission, which is supporting and caring for families in Johnson County," Gray said.

Steven Sueppel was a 1983 graduate of Regina High School, records show.

The Sueppel name is well known in Iowa City. William F. Sueppel, Steven's father, is a partner with Meardon, Sueppel & Downer law firm in Iowa City. William J. Sueppel, Steven's brother, also is an attorney at the firm.

Another relative, Bud Sueppel, owns Sueppel's Flowers and is a big University of Iowa booster.

"Whenever you hear the Sueppel name, you just know it's good people," Johnson County Supervisor Terrance Neuzil said.

Roberta Caris, a neighbor who hung out with the Sueppels and other families with young children on Fridays, saw the family last week. She knew about Sueppel's legal troubles but thought the family was working through it.

"I do know he was distraught over the situation but there was no indication this was going to happen," she said.

"They were great people. They were involved with their kids — we're just still in shock about why this had to happen."

2008 Mar 24