- Associated Press - Friday, August 28, 2015

DALLAS (AP) - Shawn Chelf remembers his mother’s wake. She had been brutally murdered - attacked and strangled - but her 7-year-old son thought she was simply asleep.

He grabbed her hands. They were cold to the touch.

“I was just a kid. I was like ‘Mom, wake up’ and … she was not going to wake up,” Chelf, now 35, said while fighting back tears. “That was the hardest thing for me.

“It took years to finally grasp that she was never coming back.”

In the nearly three decades since, Chelf has never learned why Laurie Kay Bosman was killed in March 1987 in her North Dallas apartment. The case, one of 323 murders in Dallas that year, went cold shortly after and wasn’t touched for the next 27 years.

The case inspired Chelf to become a police officer, and his quest to bring his mother’s killer to justice prompted Dallas detectives to reopen her case. With the help of never-before-tested forensic evidence, detectives believe they have a chance to finally solve it.

Chelf was away with his grandmother when Bosman was killed. Her body was found in her apartment by an acquaintance. He found the door slightly open and when he looked inside, he saw Bosman’s body on the living room floor.

Bosman’s security system in her apartment was not activated, Dallas Detective Dale Richardson told The Dallas Morning News (http://bit.ly/1NM0vHB ), and there was no sign of a robbery. Despite the door being found slightly ajar, police said there was no sign of forced entry.

There appeared to have been a struggle in the room where she was killed, said Richardson, a detective with a special unit that pursues cold cases and certain high-profile investigations.

Richardson said that Bosman probably knew her killer. They ruled out Bosman’s fiancé, who was out of the country at the time of the slaying.

Investigators interviewed several other people, but no one stuck out as a prime suspect, Richardson said.

And so the case went cold, leaving her young child with only pictures and a few vague memories.

Bosman was only 25 years old when she died. Chelf was too young to have really known his mother, but old enough to remember little things. She was sweet, caring and loved to travel. And she was “quite the jokester.”

The smile in old photos helps preserve the thoughts of her as a happy woman.

“She had a really good sense of humor, as best I can recall she was just an awesome mom,” said Chelf, who has worked for the Double Oak Police Department since 2013. “I tend to look at her pictures every once in a while … She’s always having fun, smiling.”

One of his last memories is of a gift his mom gave him. He had wanted a Transformers toy; she got him a stuffed puppy instead.

He didn’t really want the puppy. But it was soft.

“After she passed … it was like my way of still giving her a hug,” he said. “I still had the dog after she passed away, and I would always give it a hug.”

Chelf said he felt called to police work as a result of his mother’s slaying. He began working in law enforcement in 2001 after a brief stint in the Army. Since then he has worked for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, Southern Methodist University police and Chase Bank, where he did fraud investigations. At Double Oak, he has been a patrol officer and has helped with criminal investigations.

Chelf rarely discusses his mother’s case, but in 2014 he told Double Oak Police Chief Derrick Watson about it while applying to become the tiny department’s lone criminal investigator.

“I wasn’t trying to capitalize on that. I was trying to emphasize I feel like I can connect to my victims stronger than the average Joe,” Chelf said. “I know exactly what that victim is going through and I just felt like I want what that victim wants. I want the closure.”

Chelf didn’t get the detective position, but Watson later pulled him aside and asked if he was interested in having the case reopened.

“Truth be told, my whole life I’ve wanted it to be reopened, because I heard there was evidence,” Chelf said.

Richardson got the case after Watson, an old friend and former Dallas police colleague, called the department last year asking for someone to look into Bosman’s case.

“I thought there was a possibility with fresh eyes we could start taking a look at his mom’s murder,” Watson said.

Richardson has slowly started reworking the case but said, “There are no true suspects in this right now.”

He declined to release more details, however, saying the investigation remains active. He hopes DNA samples, which the original detectives couldn’t test because the science wasn’t available then, will help him crack the case.

Chelf said that despite his years of police work, he feels too emotionally attached to the case to be of much help to detectives.

“It’s the only case out there that I cannot touch, and it hurts,” he said. “It hurts as a victim, and it’s hard as an officer. I guess it boils down to when I went in this profession, I just wanted to make a difference, to make sure there wasn’t another victim out there for families, like I was as a child.”

Chelf said growing up without his mother has left a big void in his life.

“Just to say the word mom feels so unfamiliar to me,” he said. “I wish she was around to see all these things.”

That includes his wedding in 2009. He and his wife honored his mother’s memory at the ceremony by placing an empty chair in the front with white flowers.

“These are the details I don’t ever mention … I couldn’t even touch the flowers. My best man, he had to do it for me,” he said. “I couldn’t touch them, I couldn’t look at them. It just broke my heart to pay attention to them. But it was to let her be there.”

Chelf knows that after 28 years, he may never learn who killed his mother. But he still has hope.

“In a cold case like this, it’s not just me. I still have a family to report to,” he said, adding that the slaying was especially difficult for his grandmother, who took her daughter’s death hard. “They need closure. Even if the case doesn’t get solved, give us something that we can just put this to peace. It’s always going to weigh on my mind.”

Chelf said he understands it may take time for the DNA testing to come back, and even then there are no guarantees.

“I spent most of my life thinking I would never get an answer. Now that there is even a possibility - I can be patient,” he said. “I’ve waited my whole life for an answer. I can wait a couple more years if necessary.”

Chelf is now a parent himself. He knows it’s too early to tell his young son what he went through and why the child will never meet his grandmother.

“How do you explain that to a 3-year-old?” he asked. “I’m not going to shelter him, but I don’t want him to know what death is until it’s time. I know at 7, it was hard for me to swallow what death was.”

Sitting in his home office, surrounded by pictures of his wife and son, Chelf thought back to his final conversation with his mother.

“It was a phone call with my mom,” he said. “I never got to say goodbye. I remember smiling the last time I talked to her, and that’s the best goodbye I could have had - without just getting to see her one more time.”

___

Information from: The Dallas Morning News, http://www.dallasnews.com

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