After moving to Las Vegas from South Florida, Juliane Kellner got sober, bought a car, worked a fulfilling job and found her faith — a change that “completely turned her life around,” Kellner’s son said.
But a year and a half later, Kellner disappeared. On Wednesday, nearly two weeks after her disappearance, the 42-year-old mother of three was found dead inside a Henderson apartment in an apparent murder-suicide.
“She seemed like a whole different person, and that’s why she stayed,” Kellner’s son, 21-year-old Brandon Wilt, said when explaining his mom’s life in Las Vegas on Friday. “She was doing so well in life that she didn’t want to give up on that.”
Kellner was last seen alive by her roommate in their Las Vegas home on June 28. Kellner said she was “going to be shooting with a friend,” but never returned, Wilt said.
After Kellner missed work July 1, her roommate reported her missing, Wilt said. Kellner’s friends found a text message with a Henderson address in his mom’s phone, where they discovered her Volkswagen Jetta. The car was abandoned at Palm Villas at Whitney Ranch apartments, 650 Whitney Ranch Drive.
It was the same apartment complex where Henderson police found her body during a welfare check Wednesday. Wilt said after Kellner was reported missing, he contacted Henderson police and told Las Vegas police about the abandoned car, but a Metro detective didn’t call him until Tuesday.
The call came a day after a local TV station reported on Kellner’s disappearance, Wilt said.
He said a search warrant allowed officers to enter the apartment, where they found Kellner and a man’s bodies, he said.
The Clark County coroner’s office on Friday said Kellner’s death was a homicide from a gunshot wound to her chest. The man’s identity was pending.
Wilt said he believes Kellner met the man through a dating website, but she didn’t tell her friends and family who he was.
Kellner’s son voiced frustration that her body was not discovered sooner. He said before Wednesday, police had only knocked on the apartment’s door and tried speaking with neighbors.
“They let her sit in that freaking apartment,” Wilt said, his voice shaking. “We screamed and screamed and screamed to the police department — ‘you guys have got to go in that apartment.’”
Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Laura Meltzer confirmed Friday that Kellner’s roommate filed a missing person report on July 2.
No other details have been released by the Henderson Police Department, including Kellner’s connection with the man.
Metro spokeswoman Alejandra Zambrano said a missing adult could be considered endangered based on information provided by the person reporting their disappearance.
“It doesn’t matter that they’re an adult; we take the time and we try and figure out if this person is endangered,” she said. “We have criteria if the person reporting makes it seems the person was in danger.”
Zambrano said missing persons detectives were not available Friday afternoon to answer questions about Kellner’s case.
According to Metro policy, a missing adult is entered into the National Crime Information Center database if the adult has a disability, is in physical danger, disappeared under “involuntary circumstances,” are the victim of a “catastrophe,” or disappeared under “other suspicious circumstances.” The policy does not elaborate on what suspicious circumstances are.
‘Wanted to change her life’
In a January YouTube video, Kellner, wearing a blue blazer and black dress pants, speaks to her church group and smiles when talking about her faith. She also shares her past in Florida, which included drug addiction and sex work.
“I clicked on the video and as soon as she started talking, I just broke down and I couldn’t watch it,” Wilt said.
Wilt said his mother had a “rough past with drugs” and a criminal history. She was the victim of sex trafficking when she was a child, a trauma she struggled with for most of her life, Wilt said.
Kellner moved to Las Vegas to enter the Refuge for Women 12-month program, which provides long-term care for women who have “escaped human trafficking or sexual exploitation,” according to its website.
“She really wanted to change her life,” Wilt said.
Wilt said his mom, who was outgoing and could make “anybody laugh,” started speaking about her past at church to help people in similar situations.
Outside of church, Kellner had a love of fishing and hiking. In recent months, Kellner became more active through her job at the Las Vegas Athletic Club, where she was proud to work as a “top salesman,” Wilt said.
Wilt said his family was thrilled that Kellner’s life was going well in Las Vegas. She had even bought plane tickets for her 15-year-old twin daughters to visit her on July 5, a trip Wilt’s sisters had to cancel when Kellner disappeared.
Wilt wants his mom to be remembered as a wonderful person who connected with hundreds of people, he said.
“Knowing how good she was, there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s in heaven right now looking down on top of everyone,” he said.