UTAH

A woman was lost in grief, until she wrote her brother’s killer a letter

May 14, 2024, 5:00 AM | Updated: 9:59 am

SALT LAKE CITY — In the years after the murder of Jordan Rasmussen, his older sister was so unraveled by grief that sometimes, she didn’t even recognize herself.

“This is really embarrassing to say,” Leslie Rasmussen Moore said, pausing to consider whether she should confess this truth to a stranger. “Maybe shows part of my character I don’t want to acknowledge, but sometimes as I was reading the newspaper, I would look at an obituary, and I think, ‘Oh, they’re hurting, too. I’m not just the only one that’s hurting.’”

The agony of losing her brother – especially so violently – was isolating.

She was desperate not to feel alone.

Leslie had studied sociology, and she understood her feelings were a normal part of grief. But she was overwhelmed with shame. 

That was something that I didn’t want to admit at all,” she said. “I was furious at myself for thinking that I was looking at someone else being miserable but it’s natural.”

And instead of healing her wounds, time seemed to be turning them into something else, something darker. Her suffering was evolving into rage.

Leslie desperately wanted to move on, but she felt bound to her brother’s killer in ways she just couldn’t seem to escape. Even her married name – Moore – became a tether to her brother’s killer – Michael Moore – despite there being no relation. 

And then there was the way the killer blamed her brother, maligned his character and lied about him, calling him dishonest and a bully. 

The one consolation, she told herself, was that Michael Moore was suffering too. He had to be isolated in prison with no hope of a normal life, she thought.

And while this toxic stew roiled in her gut constantly, she managed to keep it hidden, simmering on a back burner most of the time. But there were times when it boiled over and turned her into a person she didn’t want to claim. 

Like the time she was driving to an event at BYU in Provo. She was headed south from Ogden and her thoughts were on the meetings that night and the next day – until she saw it. Just off to the west of I-15, the network of buildings behind razor wire where Michael Moore was serving two life sentences. 

I saw the prison, and I thought, ‘I need to drive into that parking lot. And I need to see that ice-cold building’,” Leslie said. “I need to see the miserable circumstances because… I’m miserable. And I have no sympathy. I have no Christlike love, I am just empty.”

Leslie was 25 miles from the restaurant where her husband waited for her. Stopping made no sense, but she couldn’t help herself. She veered off the freeway and drove to the guard station at the main gate. 

She had no plan, only pain.

She showed her ID, parked her car, and walked into the security entrance. 

“I said to the guard there, ‘You know, is there any way I can just kind of look in here and see the coldness? …The person that took my brother’s life is in here, and I just want to see how miserable he is.’ Because I wanted to see that he was miserable.”

The prison officer gently explained that people weren’t allowed to just walk into the prison. The shame rose up in her chest, and she walked back to her car, that painful stew churning in her stomach.

Jordan and DeAnn Rasmussen with their three children in 1981, about a year before Jordan was murdered.

Jordan and DeAnn Rasmussen with their three children in 1981, about a year before Jordan was murdered.

She got into her car, and started the engine.

But before she pulled away, she surveyed the bleak rows of buildings behind a series of fences. It had to be a maze of misery. Who could be happy locked in that hopeless place?

“I just wanted to see him …suffering,” she said. 

But what Leslie Rasmussen Moore didn’t know as she drove away from the Utah State Prison nearly four decades ago, was that she’d eventually get her wish. She would get to go inside the prison and see for herself just how miserable Michael Patrick Moore was.

It would be several years later, and it wouldn’t be at all what she expected. Not for her. Not for anyone in her family. 

Blanche and Elden Rasmussen, center, with their son Jordan Rasmussen behind them. Leslie Rasmussen Moore is on the far left, Jordan’s wife, DeAnn is next to her.

She wrote a letter to Michael Moore. Well, she said she held the pen. The words – they came from somewhere else.

“I just remember writing this letter, and it wasn’t me writing it,” she said. “I remember that. I remember, ‘I am not writing these words, I don’t know where these words are coming from.’ …I am penning something that I am not engaged with. It just came out, it just flowed.”

The words on the page expressed ideas and sentiment that Leslie couldn’t have imagine writing – or feeling – less than 24 hours earlier. 

Leslie Rasmussen Moore

Leslie Moore, Jordan Rasmussen’s older sister, remembers her brother at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on Sunday, March 5, 2023.

She put the letter in an envelope, and then she mailed it. 

A few days later, Leslie told her parents, her sisters and Jordan’s widow. They were all shocked. Her youngest sister, Ann Marie Herpich responded:

 “Oh, my goodness, what? What have you done?” 

You can listen to Episode 5 of The Letter, Season 2: Ripple Effect here:

Read more about The Letter: 

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A woman was lost in grief, until she wrote her brother’s killer a letter