Kaylee Grace Whetzel should have attended East Hardy High School’s homecoming last weekend.
Last spring, she should have taken the field as a member of the Cougars softball team.
But neither of those things happened. At just 5 years old, Kaylee was killed 10 years ago today in the most heinous crime Hardy County locals can remember.
Kaylee would have been 15 years old.
“Kaylee should be here, but she’s not,” said her 70-year-old grandmother, Helen Whetzel. “We miss her so bad. We love her so much. It seems like it happened yesterday.”
The investigation into her murder began in the late night hours of Oct. 23, 2009, when firefighters from Mathias-Baker Volunteer Fire Company responded to a blaze at a home in Lost City, W.Va.
Rockingham County firefighter Dennis “Chip” Taylor, 36, his wife, Allaina Taylor, 39, and her daughter, Kaylee, were killed. Investigators later determined all three were shot execution style before the home was set on fire.
The charred home still stands today. Helen Whetzel, along with her husband, Dale Whetzel, say it’s hard driving by without shedding tears.
“We don’t understand why the house is still standing,” Helen Whetzel said. “It should be torn down.”
Prosecutors say Nakia Keller and Lorie Taylor-Keller, now both 44, killed them amid a custody battle between Chip Taylor and Lorie Taylor-Keller over their three children.
On June 25, 2012, in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg, Keller pleaded guilty to 14 charges, including counts that accuse him of killing the two adults.
In a separate hearing on the same day, Taylor-Keller pleaded guilty to 15 charges, including counts accusing her of killing all three victims.
On Sept. 6, 2012, a federal judge sentenced the Fulks Run couple to life in prison.
In 2020, the Investigation-Discovery Network plans to feature the case on an upcoming television show, “Stranger Among Us.”
Whetzel said no one in the town really brings up the killers by name, but everyone knows what they did.
From time to time, she said, she thinks about them but tries to keep them out of her mind.
“God will deal with them,” she said.
She said she tries to think about the positives that Kaylee left behind.
“Something good will come out of something bad,” she said.
Shortly after Kaylee’s death, the family set up a scholarship fund at the high school for seniors looking to pursue a nursing degree. Kaylee’s mother was a nurse, and although just 5 years old, Kaylee already wanted to follow in her footsteps.
So far, nine seniors have received scholarships. The Whetzels said some have already graduated college and are now working in hospitals.
While the scholarships won’t bring Kaylee back, for the Whetzels, it’s like having a piece of Kaylee out in the world.
“She’s always on our mind,” Whetzel said. “We will never, ever forget her.”
Donations to the scholarship fund can be made to the Hardy County Community Foundation, P.O. Box 40, Romney WV 26757. The family asks to write “Kaylee Grace Whetzel scholarship fund” in the memo line of the check.