Police investigate suspicious death of Alpine woman

WEST TEXAS – Sonja Klein received a phone call on March 29 from her daughter Molly Klein, who wanted to tell her all about her first skydiving experience. “Molly just said it was wonderful. ‘Now I’m addicted. I want to do this a lot more,’” said Sonja, recalling the phone call. It was the last time she would speak to her daughter.

The next evening at 2 a.m., a Texas Ranger pulled up to Sonja’s ranch west of Kerrville to tell her that Molly was in the hospital with serious blunt force trauma to the back of her head. The Alpine resident had been found unconscious but breathing on the side of the road in Burnet by a resident who had been delivering newspapers in the early hours of March 30. Molly was pronounced dead the next day at the Seton Hospital in Round Rock.

The Burnet Police Department is now investigating what led to Molly being left unconscious on the road, classifying it as a suspicious death. But nearly two months after the incident, Sonja still has few concrete answers as to what happened to her daughter that night.

Molly lived on a piece of property just outside of Alpine where she raised horses, geese, ducks, dogs and cats. “She loved horses. She’s always trained horses. Growing up she competed nationally on Egyptian Arabians,” her mother said.

Molly first moved out to Alpine when she was 19 to attend Sul Ross State University. She eventually got her master’s degree in biology there, writing her thesis on a rare oak tree found in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Eventually Molly had two children, one of whom now lives with Sonja on her ranch.

In November of last year, her mother said that Molly got a new boyfriend that she met through a mutual friend. While Sonja only met him a couple of times, she didn’t think they were a good fit for each other.

The lead investigator on the case, Steven Vollmar, said that there are two persons of interest in the case – one being Molly’s new boyfriend, whose name Vollmar would not release publicly.

Vollmar said that Molly and her boyfriend, who is now in custody, had gone skydiving in Salado outside of Austin the day before she was found on the side of the road. “From what we understand talking to some witnesses, what we know so far is that he basically was the last person to see her alive,” Vollmar said.

Vollmar said the boyfriend had gone back to Alpine at some point shortly after the incident.  Authorities first picked up the boyfriend in Gillespie County as he was driving on March 31. The boyfriend told the trooper who pulled him over that he was on his way to the hospital in Round Rock where Molly was being treated.

Inside the boyfriend’s vehicle, Vollmar found a debit card belonging to Molly alongside a few receipts associated with the card. “During some investigative work it was discovered that he was not associated with the account that the debit card belonged to,” Vollmar said.

The boyfriend was booked on charges relating to credit/debit card abuse as well as violating the conditions of his parole for an unrelated past offense. Vollmar said investigators have tried to interview the boyfriend twice, but he has so far been uncooperative.

On May 6, Vollmar found some evidence at a nearby McDonald’s that he says might provide some answers as to what transpired that night. Yet, he cautioned, the case is not cut and dry. “There’s a lot of pieces to the puzzle,” he said. “As soon as I can start putting the pieces together, we will have a little bit better story as to what happened.”

Molly’s mother, Sonja, said she is just trying to hold herself together through this experience. “I don’t have a choice. I have a grandson to raise. He’s eleven. And I’m homeschooling him,” she said, adding, “I’m German and I’m from a big family. I have brothers, nieces and nephews – and great nieces and nephews – so we’re doing good. We’re doing well.”

Shortly after learning of Molly’s hospitalization, Sonja drove out to see her daughter, who was on life support. “She was just lying there like she could just open her eyes and say hello,” her mother said.

While at the hospital she learned that Molly had requested for all of her organs to be donated. Sonja said that the donation process was an emotionally taxing experience, but one that ultimately had its rewards. “You give them her whole life history: whether she smoked, whether she had the measles, or whether she had an earache, everything,” she said. “Then they ask you, when they’re harvesting her organs, what music to play, what prayers to say, what poem to read … It’s a very painful process, let me tell you.”

But just last week, Sonja received a letter that said a man in his thirties had received Molly’s liver. “In a way it’s comforting, you know, because when somebody dies like that very suddenly, or unexpectedly, you have the opportunity to make a difference,” Sonja said. “And the fact that she requested that, gives you some comfort that you’re able to do something that she wanted.”