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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Warrant: Family hid deadly past
A daughter is accused of killing her father, then her mother, with her brother's help.
By JAMAL THALJI
Published May 11, 2007
HUDSON - Violence, cruelty and deceit ran in the Kananen family. So did murder, authorities say.
It began with the disappearance of what detectives say was an abusive, gun-toting father in Orlando nearly two decades ago and ended Wednesday night with the arrest of his youngest daughter at a Pasco County nudist colony.
Stacey Marie Kananen, 40, was arrested on two first-degree murder warrants for the death of her father and, 15 years later, the death of her mother.
"It's a very sad family dynamic," said Orange County prosecutor Robin Wilkinson.
It was a dynamic detailed in the 41-page warrant filed Wednesday in Orange County:
It involves a drunken father who the warrant says raped his own son and beat up his children.
It involves the daughter, Stacey, accused of executing him, and the son and wife who conspired to hide his murder.
There is the mother who threatened to rat out her co-conspirators, her kids. And there are the greedy siblings accused of silencing, then burying, mom - just like they did to dad, authorities say.
The first murder charge, authorities say, is for the bullet they say Stacey Kananen put in the head of her father, Richard Kananen Sr.
She was 21. He was asleep in his Orlando home.
It was Sept. 10, 1988.
Richard Kananen, the oldest of the children, said his mother, Marilyn, summoned him to his parents' home that morning. His father's body was in the garage, wrapped in bedclothes. He helped his mother and sister load dad's body into a freezer. Six months later he buried his father underneath the garage.
That fall, according to the warrant, Richard Kananen said his sister Stacey told him she shot their father. Richard Kananen also told their middle sibling, Cheryl, that their father would not disrupt her wedding.
That's because the entire clan lived in fear of Richard Kananen Sr.
Missing but unmissed
Richard Kananen Sr. was an ex-convict, authorities say.
The warrant said he physically and mentally abused his children.
But Orange County detectives didn't learn about the missing father until they started investigating the missing mother, Marilyn Kananen. That was 2003.
Richard Kananen Sr. had disappeared 15 years earlier.
No one ever told them.
"Nobody cared that he was missing," said Orange County sheriff's Detective Mark Hussey. "They were just glad he wasn't bothering them anymore."
Authorities say Marilyn Kananen was killed Sept. 10, 2003 - 15 years to the day after her husband died.
The mother had illegally collected $100, 000 of her missing husband's Social Security disability benefits, according to the warrant. Then she inherited $250, 000 when her father died, a fact her son mentioned often to other family members.
There were also cracks in the conspiracy to hide her husband's murder.
"I'll tell them about the garage, " she told her two children, according to Richard Kananen Jr.
In 2003, the warrant said, Richard and Stacey Kananen bought a freezer - like the one they stuffed their father into 15 years before, authorities say.
They surprised their mother with dinner and a movie. Afterward, Stacey Kananen stunned her mother with a Taser, the warrant said, and Richard Kananen Jr. laid on top of his mother and pinched her nose and mouth closed until she suffocated.
They buried her in the back yard, authorities say.
The plot unraveled after the mother's disappearance, which was quickly reported. Detectives tracked the missing mother's financial accounts and her kids, Richard and Stacey Kananen.
On Dec. 22, 2003, both went to talk to detectives. Both were left in a room together as a videocamera taped them. "It's over," Richard Kananen Jr. told his sister.
They left the Orange County Sheriff's Office and later that day attempted suicide together, according to the warrant. Detectives thwarted their attempt and the siblings were taken to a hospital. There, Richard Kananen acknowledged his role in the killing of his mother. He was arrested; his sister was not.
Stacey Kananen moved to the Gulf Coast Resort, a nudist resort in Hudson.
Before she left, Detective Hussey stopped by.
"I told her there's no statute of limitations on murder," he said. "I'm going to come after you one of these days. I'm going to arrest you on this."
That was in 2003. It wasn't until May 1 that authorities had what they needed to arrest the sister.
That day, in an Orlando courtroom, Richard Kananen Jr. pleaded no contest to second-degree murder for the death of his mother and manslaughter for the death of his father. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Then he told authorities everything about his sister. But there was no deal, Hussey insisted. They don't know why the brother talked.
"This is probably the most bizarre thing any of us has been involved in," the detective said.