Johannesburg – After discovering her lifeless body, Michelle Peterson could not believe her daughter was dead.
She sat on her knees and whispered in her ear, "Can you hear me?"
Her son, who she had asked to perform mouth-to-mouth, told Peterson, "Ma, she’s gone."
After the traumatic experience she and her family had gone through, they were subjected to further frustration when they were kept in the dark during the investigation.
Peterson said she had been sent from pillar to post when she asked the police and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) about the investigation.
"We don’t know what is happening with the case," she said.
The 46-year-old mother of four said her daughter Kay-Leen, 24, was a promising young teacher, who had a bright future ahead of her.
After completing her studies at the University of the Free State, Kay-Leen got a job as a teacher in the small town of Virginia, outside Welkom in the Free State.
"She was told she got the job and had to start on February 1, 2017. They gave her two days’ notice, so she started looking for accommodation. A friend of mine living in Virginia told me about another person, a former correctional services officer, who was willing to help."
'He was a bit obsessive'
Desperate to find a place to stay, the family asked the man – whose name is known to News24 but has been left out at the family’s request – to accommodate Kay-Leen for a short while, while she looked for her own apartment.
"As a mother, I was very scared that she was leaving home for the first time."
Peterson said her daughter told her that after some time, she felt uncomfortable sharing her space with the man, who seemed over-friendly.
"He was a bit obsessive. He went around telling people that she was his girl. He drove her car, taking her [to] and fetching her from work. I believe that he was really obsessed with my daughter."
Peterson said Kay-Leen lived with the man during February.
"She didn’t want to stay there anymore, so she started looking for another place."
Eventually, Kay-Leen found a place of her own, but the man continued to act strangely.
On March 21, which was a public holiday, Kay-Leen visited her family.
"One of my sons and her boyfriend dropped her off on Tuesday evening."
'Please come, please come'
Peterson said while the two men were there, they went to get KFC for dinner, leaving Kay-Leen alone in the apartment. The man who she previously shared a home with showed up unexpectedly, bringing along lunch for her to take to school the next morning.
Kay-Leen told Peterson about the incident and that she had felt uncomfortable about the man’s visit.
"I asked her if she was okay. That Tuesday evening she told me that she was not scared, she would be fine."
On Wednesday, March 22, Peterson sent Kay-Leen a WhatsApp message to check on her but she did not respond.
"That evening her boyfriend called me and told me that he was worried about her because he had not heard from her."
On Thursday, March 23, Peterson called a woman she knew in Virginia and asked her to please go to her daughter’s apartment with the police.
"I asked her to go to the police and ask them to break the door down. She called me back and said to me, 'Please come, please come'… I prayed during the entire two hour drive that even if something happened, let there be a little bit of life."
Peterson said no one wanted to tell her what had happened.
"I prayed to God that if she had died, God must bring her back to life."
'Laying on her own blood'
When she arrived at Kay-Leen’s apartment in Virginia, the police had already barricaded the place.
"There were people all over. The door was locked and there was no sign of a forced entry. All the windows were closed, so the person that did this knew her. They left with the key."
Peterson and her family were allowed to enter the apartment.
"I saw my daughter laying on her own blood; she was raped because there was no underwear. The blood had already dried up. I asked my son to do mouth-to-mouth but he said, 'Ma, she’s gone'."
Peterson could not bring herself to believe that her daughter had died.
"I went to her body and I tried to speak to her. I asked her if she could hear me, but she did not respond. I could have never thought that something like this would happen. We did everything to protect her, she was like a butterfly."
Peterson said a man was arrested on the night Kay-Leen’s body was discovered.
The man, an alleged parolee, apparently confessed to murdering Kay-Leen by cutting her main artery in the neck.
"Nothing was taken from the house. I think someone wanted to scare her and she put up a fight. The investigating officer told us that the man explained how he raped her. He also keeps telling us he is working on the matter, but we don’t know what is happening."
Rude and unhelpful
Peterson said the investigating officer was very rude and unhelpful.
"I want people to see how the system is failing us. The police and the National Prosecuting Authority are failing us. We were told the suspect had been sentenced but we didn’t even know. We are completely frustrated. I want to look the man who killed my daughter in the eye and ask him why?
"Every time I asked about the case, he (the investigating officer) tells me that I am trying to tell him how to do his job. This is my daughter we are talking about, it is not a dog."
Free State police spokesperson Colonel Thandi Mbambo said the case was expected back at the Virginia Regional Court on Monday, July 31.
"The investigating officer indicated that he's been engaging with both parents continuously and indicated to them that they'll be told when it's necessary for them to attend court proceedings.
"Currently they are still awaiting forensic tests, hence the trial [formally] hasn't resumed."
NPA spokesperson Luvuyo Mfaku said the accused made his first appearance in the Virginia Magistrate’s Court for the first time on March 27.
"He applied for bail but abandoned his application on the day it was supposed to be heard in court," Mfaku said.
The man has been in police custody since his arrest.
"The matter was transferred to the Regional Court on June 9th. The docket has been sent to the Regional Court prosecutor and the accused will be appearing for the first time in the Regional Court this morning (Monday).
"The accused does have a previous conviction. We however have not yet managed to get hold of the docket to verify his previous conviction. We will [advise] once we have managed to get hold of the docket," he said.
Mfaku said the investigating officer told the NPA that he had been in contact with Kay-Leen's father and that he had updated him telephonically about this matter.