No returning home after arson, husband's death -
Published Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 1:00 am / Updated at 6:47 am
No returning home after arson, husband's death

Elizabeth “Betty” Vasholz never wants to return to the Florence-area home where she and her husband lived before an intruder set it afire and brutally attacked them earlier this month.

Raymond “Bob” Vasholz, 83, died at a hospital from his injuries and was buried Saturday. His 76-year-old wife, to whom he was married for 58 years, is recovering from burns on more than 35 percent of her body.

A neighbor, Terrance Hale, 30, is charged with attacking the couple about 9 a.m. on the morning of Feb. 7.

“She won't return to that house, ever,” said the couple's daughter, Sue Jensen. “She said that she couldn't deal with the memories of what happened that day.”

According to the Douglas County Attorney's Office, Hale broke a window and entered the home with the intent of burglarizing it. Jensen said her mother told her that Hale came up the stairs from the basement into the kitchen and demanded money. He began to hit the couple when they told him they didn't have any money, she said.

Hale also is alleged to have blocked the front door with furniture and set the house on fire. He is being held without bail in the Douglas County Correctional Center on charges of first-degree murder, first-degree arson, burglary and attempted robbery.

According to Jensen, Betty Vasholz was able during the attack to get to a side door, open three locks and run to a neighbor's house for help. A passing motorist, Gary Burns, came to her aid when he heard her screaming for help as he drove by the corner of 33rd and Ernst Streets.

“We sure want to thank that man,” Jensen said.

Burns got between Hale, who lives at 3316 Ernst St., and Betty Vasholz before police and firefighters arrived.

Betty Vasholz was hospitalized at the burn center at the St. Elizabeth Regional Health Center in Lincoln and has since been released.

“She had burns on her arms and back,” Jensen said. “But the prognosis is that she will recover physically, mentally and emotionally. It's been very hard on her, though.”

Hale, who Jensen said had mowed the couple's lawn and shoveled their sidewalks, told police he entered the house to help the couple. But Jensen said her mother disputes that story.

“It just kind of blew our minds,” Jensen said. “It doesn't make any sense.”

The Vasholzes' daughter and Jensen's sister, Beverly Flynn, 47, was one of eight people killed in the Von Maur department store shootings in December 2007. Jensen said her parents were hit hard by that ordeal, and now her mother is trying to cope with “the loss of her soulmate” and best friend.

“She's holding her own and trying to be brave. It's hard for her to get a grip on the fact that dad is gone.”

A fund to help the family with medical bills has been established at American National Bank. Donations may be made at any location to the “Vasholz Family Fund,” Jensen said.

“We want to thank everyone for their love and prayers,” Jensen said. “A lot of people have been so good helping us get through all of this.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1272,

Contact the writer: Kevin Cole    |   402-444-1272    |  

Kevin Cole covers workings of police, courts and government and writes features about interesting subjects in Omaha and the surrounding counties.

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