'The Letter' Season 2: 'It wasn't me writing it,' victim's sister says

Leslie Moore, left, Dave Moore and Ann Marie Herpich embrace while remembering Jordan Rasmussen at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023.

Leslie Moore, left, Dave Moore and Ann Marie Herpich embrace while remembering Jordan Rasmussen at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023. (Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

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Estimated read time: 17-18 minutes

Editor's note: This is the fifth story in a series highlighting Season 2 of the KSL podcast "The Letter." This season explores topics like grief and forgiveness, but under very different circumstances. The podcast explores what happened after two young fathers were murdered outside an iconic Utah restaurant in 1982. The families struggle to rebuild and have to wrestle with questions that take decades to answer. Does everyone deserve forgiveness? Does it matter if there is no remorse? And if trauma can be passed through generations, can forgiveness also be passed down?

SALT LAKE CITY — After her only brother's murder, Leslie Rasmussen Moore was so unraveled by grief, there were times she didn't even recognize herself.

"This is really embarrassing, and 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'd think, 'Oh, they're hurting, too. I'm not just the only one that's hurting,'" she said.

Instead of healing her wounds, it seemed like time was turning that hurt into something darker. Her heartbreak was evolving into anger. The mother of five studied sociology, and she understood that these feelings were a normal part of grief.

But that didn't mitigate the 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."

Leslie desperately wanted to move on. But she felt bound to her brother's killer in ways she just couldn't seem to escape. Like her married surname, Moore. It was the same as her brother's killer — Michael Moore — even though there was no familial relationship.

But when she struggled with the violence of her brother's death, or the way he maligned Jordan Rasmussen's character, even blaming him for his own murder, she found comfort in one thing.

Michael Moore was suffering, too. He had to be, she thought, locked away in that maze of misery.

Most of the time, she kept this toxic stew on a back burner, hidden from even herself. But there were times when it boiled over. LIke the time she was driving to Provo for an event at BYU.

She was thinking about the upcoming conference, about meeting her husband for dinner, and then she saw it. Just off the west side of I-15, the network of prison buildings behind razor wire where Michael Moore was serving two life sentences for killing her brother and another man, Buddy Booth, on March 5, 1982.

"I saw the prison," she said, "and I thought, 'I need to drive into that parking lot. And I need to see that ice-cold building. And I need to see the miserable circumstance.' Because … I am miserable. I have no sympathy. I have no Christlike love. I am just empty."

She veered onto the off-ramp, and headed toward the guard station at the main gate. Leslie was 25 miles from her destination. Her husband was waiting at a restaurant for her. Stopping didn't make any sense.

She didn't have a plan, only pain.

She parked and walked into the main security building.

"I said to the guard there, 'Is there any way I can just kind of look in here and see the coldness in here? ... The person that took my brother's life is in here, I just want to see how miserable he is.'"

The officer gently explained that people weren't allowed to just walk into the prison. Awash in disappointment and shame, Leslie Moore left and walked back to her car.

Before she pulled away, she surveyed the bleak rows of buildings, the fences topped with razor wire, the looming guard towers on each corner. There was no way he could be happy here. And she felt some measure of comfort mixed with her pain and shame.

"I just wanted," she said, "to see him suffering."

What she didn't know as she drove away from the prison was that eventually she'd get her wish. She'd get to go inside the prison and see just how miserable Michael Moore really was.

It wouldn't be for nearly a decade — and it would change her life.

Although none of it would be what she expected.

Life doesn't mean life

For Jordan Rasmussen's widow, moving on meant focusing on her family.

She tried to banish any thought of the man who shattered her life, the lives of her three young children, from her mind. Like her sister-in-law Leslie Moore, she took comfort in knowing Michael Moore would likely never get out of prison.

"Just keep him there," DeAnn Rasmussen Kilgore remembers thinking. "Keep him out of my life, out of my children's lives."

But in the fall of 1993, the family got a letter from the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole informing them that Michael Moore had a parole hearing in October of 1993 — just 11 years after he'd killed two young fathers.

The entire family was stunned.

"I just could not see any way possible that he should ever be out of prison," said Kilgore, who'd remarried and was focused on blending two young families.

Jordan Rasmussen's youngest sister, Ann Marie Rasmussen Herpich, said they had no idea that life sentences didn't necessarily mean an actual lifetime.

"Are you kidding me?" Herpich said. "I thought it's too short. … A life sentence, I just thought it meant what it said."

And then there was the oldest sister, Leslie Moore. She was furious.

"This is totally unjust, that he is even being considered for this," she said. "He has ruined our lives. And there's no way that he should ever see the light of day."

So the family made a plan to fight any effort at parole.

Jordan Rasmussen is pictured in this undated photo.
Jordan Rasmussen is pictured in this undated photo. (Photo: Family photo)

Jordan Rasmussen's big sister and his widow would speak on behalf of the family. Their job was singular — make sure Michael Moore would never get a chance at life outside those prison walls.

Leslie Moore felt tremendous pressure to convey how her brother's murder had devastated their family.

"I was absolutely just filled with anxiety," she said. "The whole experience was going to be very, very frightening, and never having been through anything like this in any of our lives."

She drove to the hearing the morning of Oct. 8, 1993, with three of her children. She prepared for a fight she felt she had to win. So she summoned the darkest parts of her pain. She revisited the worst moments of losing her brother, and she let that toxic stew boil over. She opened her heart to all the rage, all the hatred she could muster.

"I felt in a lot of ways that I owed it to Jordan," she said. "Just in honor of his name … to make sure justice was being done. … I needed to express to them the seriousness of what had happened with our family, to look at those three little children … and I just felt that day … just desperate, desperate for justice."

Leslie Moore walked into the hearing room at the prison with her family. Michael Moore was already there, sitting in a row of chairs along one side of the room. He wore a white prison jumpsuit, glasses and he looked older.

Leslie Moore said she tried not to look at him. She focused on her fight, on the reason for this fight.

"I thought sweet David, and sweet Lisa, and sweet Chad," she said of Jordan's children. "Those thoughts just kept coming to me about these little children. And it's not fair for him to ever get out when they can't get out of their circumstance. … There is no way you know, there's just no way he should ever see the light of day. And that was my feeling when I went in there. I just, I was adamant."

A monster or a man

After an introduction, board member Curtis Garner invited her to sit at a table in the center of the room.

Adrenaline coursed through her body. She sat down and picked up the mantle of big sister. She forced her eyes to blur when she caught sight of him.

"I really didn't want to look at him," she recalled. "I'm sure I looked through him or around him — anything but in front of him."

He wasn't a person, she told herself. He was just a blob.

"I did not want to engage with him in any way," she said.

She cleared her throat, leaned into the microphone and let that toxic stew boil.

"My name is Lesley Rasmussen Moore. I am the sister of Jordan Q. Rasmussen. Jordan's life was taken in premeditated, cold-blooded murder. He is totally without guile and a perfectly exemplary person. We have never known of anyone having an argument or a fight with him ever in his life."

She addressed every aspect of her brother's murder that haunted her — how he was essentially executed, how Michael Moore tried to throw his body down a sewer sump, how he killed another man to cover his crime, how he lied about her brother to justify the violence.

"After the men were wounded on the ground, Moore walked over and continued to shoot them in the head as they lay in the snow," she said, noting he wasn't emotionally distraught. He was a remorseless killer on a rampage. "If 10 more people had driven up that canyon (to) Log Haven … they would have also been victims that day of Michael Patrick Moore."

Then Kilgore walked to the table and offered her view of the devastation Moore caused.

"Today is a very significant day in my life," she said. "It was on this very day, 24 years ago that Jordan and I were married. We had many hopes and dreams of growing together in love and happiness, of having children, raising our little family together, watching them grow through infancy, childhood, the teen years and eventually, grandchildren. Little did we know that after a very short 12 years of marriage, our dreams would be shattered because of the selfish acts of Michael Moore. … I was left a widow to raise our three small children alone as a single parent."

DeAnn Kilgore, wife of Jordan Rasmussen, is photographed at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023.
DeAnn Kilgore, wife of Jordan Rasmussen, is photographed at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023. (Photo: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

It was unfair, she said, that Moore could earn parole and maybe have a chance to get married, have children and see them grow up.

"Michael could be at his son's football, soccer and baseball games," Kilgore said. "He could attend a daughter's dance recital, or even play a simple game of catch with his son. Why should he be given this privilege when he so selfishly took it away from Jordan."

As she talked about all the moments Jordan Rasmussen had missed.

"Just this summer, tears streamed down my face as I watched our youngest son, Chad, step up to the plate and hit a home run in the state all-star tournament," she said. "How I wished he could have looked up in the stands at his dad and been given the thumbs-up signal. Jordan would have been so proud."

But Jordan Rasmussen wasn't there to help his children with challenges either. His loss was incalculable. They would feel it forever.

"There are some things in this life that can never be compensated for," she said. "(Jordan) did not deserve to die. He deserved to live. Michael must pay for the two lives he has taken. Justice has not yet been served."

After both women spoke, Garner invited Michael Moore to take a seat at the table and respond to what the family had shared.

"There hasn't been a day in these last 12 years that I haven't grieved every day for exactly what they've said," Moore said. "I knew little David Rasmussen; David adored his dad. Jordan was a good man and everything that Mrs. Rasmussen said — and … his sister — is true. … And part of the punishment that I've gone through has been every day I think of those things. I think of the pain that I put father and mother Rasmussen through and the children growing up without parents, that's my fault. There's nothing I can do to change that, but I understand everything they say. And I live with that every day."

He said his own mother died, in part, because his crimes and his imprisonment broke her heart. He said he'd inflicted torment on his own father, and he acknowledged the pain he'd caused Buddy Booth's family.

This was not the Michael Moore they'd listened to in their heads for 11 years.

Kilgore said she began to feel a strange sympathy, while Leslie Moore was confused and sad.

"As I sat there, it was like layers of an onion being peeled off," Leslie Moore said. "At first, there was so much anger on my part. And then there was the next step of listening. … Then, the next layer was, 'Wow, this person is really, really remorseful.' And as I sat there and watched the pain he was suffering, I could feel that. And I also had just strong, intense feelings inside of me."

Michael Moore told Garner he'd liked to justify his actions. And then, he added, "For what I've done, there is no justification."

Leslie Moore wanted him to suffer, but now she was overwhelmed by conflicting feelings.

"I was very surprised by the whole situation," she said. "I was very surprised. That was one of the most emotional things I've ever been through."

She fixed her gaze on him as he spoke to the board member. She tried to see him. She struggled to understand how this man could be the monster who'd robbed her of her only brother. She hadn't realized until this moment how badly she just wanted Moore to acknowledge that her brother had done nothing wrong.

"That was important to me," she said, "because I knew that my brother could never have done anything to have instigated anything."

As the Rasmussens listened, Moore discussed what he'd been doing in prison, how he'd tried to change, tried to help other inmates, tried to make amends for what he'd done.

Garner acknowledged his good works, and how he had many champions among the prison staff. It was unusual — and commendable.

Ann Marie Herpich, younger sister of Jordan Rasmussen, remembers her brother at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023.
Ann Marie Herpich, younger sister of Jordan Rasmussen, remembers her brother at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023. (Photo: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

"You appear to have developed quite a fan club since you've come here to the prison, Mr. Moore," he said. "Over 11 1/2 years you've not received a single disciplinary write-up. In a place where many inmates receive a write-up a week, that's an accomplishment and is certainly to your credit. … You've done volunteer programs that are too numerous to mention."

He said Michael Moore's work as the supervisor for the prison's print shop was of particular note.

"It sounds to me from the reports I get … you basically run the place," he said. "Or at least they couldn't run it without you. … I guess the bottom line is, it appears to me, Mr. Moore, that you've done basically everything possible that a person could do once committed to prison to try and rehabilitate himself."

After offering this long list of what looked like a very good argument in favor of Moore's release, he offered a view of his life behind bars through a different lens, a skeptical lens.

"You are a person of extraordinary intelligence," he said. "And so there is always the possibility that somebody is doing that as a manipulation. That's always a difficult thing for us to assess. But it goes on a lot in here. … On the other hand, when somebody is able to sustain it for a very long period of time, that certainly weighs in favor of sincerity."

Michael Moore made a final plea for mercy.

"I've stayed away from violence in here," he said. "I've stayed away from anger, have learned how to control that. I've been involved in extensive therapy to address those issues. And I want to do that for me so that I don't create such hurt in other people's lives again. And that's not here as a manipulation or to make a showing. It's an honest concern to make a difference in somebody's life. … I can't change what I did to the Rasmussen family. I have to live with that for the rest of my life. But hopefully I can make a difference in other lives."

A shift

Leslie Moore and Kilgore said they felt something in them shift as he spoke. They heard him suffering, but it wasn't satisfying. Somehow it was even more painful.

"I felt that he had had a lot of help while he was in prison," she said. "He had been on drugs and alcohol, his mind was distorted. And there was clarity when he spoke. And I really felt that strongly. I felt deep, deep, deep remorse. … Michael did not do this out of hate for Jordan. He did it out of desperation for his own circumstances."

The rage she'd channeled to fight Moore's parole was slipping away.

Leslie Moore, Jordan Rasmussen’s older sister, remembers her brother at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023.
Leslie Moore, Jordan Rasmussen’s older sister, remembers her brother at Wasatch Lawn Memorial Park and Mortuary in Millcreek on March 5, 2023. (Photo: Ryan Sun, Deseret News)

"As I sat there, it was like something was just draining out of me," she said. "Any anger, any hate, any of those emotions … were just … being drained right out of my system."

The Rasmussens gathered their things to leave. An officer approached them and said, "Don't worry. He's not going anywhere."

None of them knew how to respond.

"We were extremely numb," Leslie Moore said. "And we all left, and went out to our cars."

They gathered in the parking lot and tried to process what they'd just heard, how it made them feel, and what, if anything, had changed.

"All of us just huddled around before we got in our cars," Kilgore said, "and we were all just crying. And Leslie especially was crying. … Leslie was just really, really emotional."

Kilgore said they felt a mix of pity, relief and sadness. They went to lunch to try and put into words what happened. But nothing seemed to adequately capture what they'd experienced.

The letter

Leslie Moore left her family and drove home.

When she arrived home, she went straight into her bedroom, shut the door, found a piece of plain white paper and a pen and started writing.

"I wrote a letter to Mike," she said. "I remember just saying, 'I felt today, that you are a very remorseful person. And I felt sympathy for your circumstance, and that you had made a decision that will forever change your life and all of our lives.'"

She said she felt the sentiment, but the words 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. But I am penning something that I am not engaged with. It just came out, it just flowed."

Even as she wrote, she was confused by what she wrote. These were words she couldn't have imagined even thinking, let alone sharing, when she woke up that morning.

She called him Mike because she wanted to see him differently, as differently as she now felt.

"I just want you to know our family has forgiven you," she wrote. "And we want you to do the very best you can do with your life. … You are literally our brother."

Leslie Moore thinks about that now, and it surprises even her. Is there a more sacred title she could bestow on anyone?

"When you realize that the person that you are looking at, that you have had such hate and anger for, now you're looking at them as a literal brother," she said. "That is an interesting concept. When you can look at them and say, 'This is … one of my literal brothers.' And then you look at it completely differently. You think, 'What have you done to be in this position? What can I do to help you?' And that was such a change from the feelings I had, as I wanted to drive down and see how miserable he was at the prison. … And that was a day of awakening."

Leslie Moore mailed the letter a few days later.

"I remember having a completely, completely different feeling," she said.

The letter was written by one person, but it would affect them all. That letter set off a chain reaction, a different kind of wave. And it would crash through lives she never even considered as she wrote those words.

The first wave would hit two weeks later when Michael Moore wrote back. And Leslie Moore had to tell her family what she had done.

All of them were stunned.

"Oh, my goodness," Ann Marie Rasmussen Herpich told her. "What have you done?"

Follow for free on your favorite podcast app or at theletterpodcast.com. You can subscribe on Apple Podcasts for exclusive bonus content, available with each new episode on Tuesdays.


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Amy Donaldson
Amy Donaldson is an executive producer with KSL Podcasts. She reports, writes and hosts “The Letter” and co-hosts “Talking Cold.” She spent 28 years as a news and sports reporter at the Deseret News.


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