Film Recalls Painful Memories of Plotting Father's DeathDOUG CRICHTON , Associated Press
Apr. 11, 1985 7:29 PM ET
DALLAS (AP) _ Watching herself plot her father's death brings back a feeling of pain for Deborah Jahnke, one she has learned to bury so she can get on with her life.
''It's so bizarre to me now,'' she said Thursday of the night she and her brother, Richard Jahnke Jr., conspired to kill their father after a lifetime of being abused. ''There are so many things I don't remember.''
But all of it is coming back in two-dimensional clarity this week as Deborah and her mother, Maria Jahnke, watch the filming here of their nightmare in Cheyenne, Wyo., for an ABC television movie called ''Right To Kill.''
The movie - starring Frederic Forrest and Justine Bateman - chronicles the vicious temper and behavior of Richard Jahnke Sr., which eventually led Richard Jr., at age 16, to ambush his father with a pump-action shotgun.
Following a beating on Nov. 16, 1982, Richard Jr. waited in the garage with a gun for his parents to get home from an anniversary dinner. Deborah waited in the family room with another gun as a backup.
When Richard Sr., a 38-year-old Internal Revenue Service investigator, got out of his car to open the garage door, Richard Jr. pulled the trigger over and over.
In a case that drew national attention, Richard Jr., now 19, was charged with premeditated murder and sentenced to five to 15 years for voluntary manslaughter. Deborah, now 20, received three to five years for aiding and abetting her brother.
Wyoming's governor later commuted both sentences, and Richard is now in a juvenile detention center in that state, where he has been ordered to stay until he is 21. His sister, freed in January after serving nearly two years in a youth center, says he wants eventually to go into the field of psychology.
Mrs. Jahnke and her daughter watched some of the filming at a Dallas high school Thursday.
Deborah said they came out of curiosity and to give the actors a chance to quiz them on details for accuracy.
Deborah, now a spunky, dark-haired University of Wyoming student, said she wants to leave Wyoming ''so I don't have to live in the past.''
''I don't feel threatened any more,'' she said. ''My identity goes beyond the shooting and the trials. I never want to get married to be taken care of. I don't live that way any more.''
What ''that way'' meant was revealed in months of trials and agonized testimony.
Rickard Jr. told jurors of how his mother once hid him in a closet because his father was angry, how he never measured up to his father's standards of discipline and how he and his sister suffered constantly for it.
He told of how his 5-foot-8, 200-pound father would pull him around by the hair, slapping him, cursing him and sometimes even daring the slightly built youth to fight back.
Maria Jahnke, a native of Puerto Rico who married her husband when he was 18 and she was 20, still lives in Cheyenne, and works as a house mother in a facility for unwed mothers.
Unlike Deborah, Mrs. Jahnke plans to stay in Cheyenne. She has even promised to wed John Druce, an auto repair shop owner, in September.
''I was petrified at first of getting married again because everybody says you choose the same kind man the second time,'' she said. ''But Richard and John are such opposites.''
She added quietly, ''I'll never let anybody control me like that again. Now I know what peace is.''
Jack Clements, one of the film's two producers, said the three-hour, $3 million movie will require 20 days of filming, which should be finished by Tuesday. Produced by Telepictures Productions and Taper Media Enterprises, the film is scheduled to be broadcast May 22.