For Lynette Collins, it’s difficult to describe her younger brother, Lee Nedreau Jr.
Words such as helpful, kind and fun spring to her mind but still don’t do him justice.
“He wasn’t just generous, he was overly generous. He wasn’t just friendly, he would talk to anybody and everybody. There’s nothing to really quantify it — no word is big enough,” Collins said. “His heart was bigger than he was, and he was a big dude.”
And now, after his murder, she again finds herself speechless when describing Nedreau, especially in relation to their father, Lee Sr.
“We have a word for if you lose your spouse. We have a word for if you lose your parents,” Collins said. “But we do not have a word in our language for when you lose a child — that’s how profound it is. It’s never supposed to happen.”
Lee Nedreau Jr. had been stabbed multiple times inside his residence early Sunday in the Bremerton Mobile Home Park on East Elm Street in Calumet Township, just outside of Griffith.
The 45-year-old — a developmentally disabled adult with the mental faculties of a teenager — later died about 2:30 a.m. at Methodist Hospitals Northlake Campus in Gary.
Pam Jones, a spokeswoman for the Lake County Sheriff's Department, said a male suspect was taken into custody. But prosecutors haven’t filed any charges as of Thursday.
Collins, who serves as Nedreau’s legal guardian, said she wasn’t made aware of her brother’s death until noon that Sunday when she was told to contact the Lake County coroner about a homicide.
But before the 50-year-old even reached the coroner’s office to identify her brother, news of Nedreau’s death already had flooded her social media pages.
Worried Lee Sr. would learn of his son’s fate via Facebook, Collins called him.
“Is it Junior?”
“Yeah, Dad, it is.”
“They killed him, didn’t they?”
“Yeah, Dad, they did."
‘Should’ve never have happened’
Collins, who lives in LaPorte County, said she doesn’t think she’ll ever truly know what happened the night of her brother’s slaying in the 1300 block of East Elm Street. But that hasn’t stopped her from trying to piece it together as best she can.
Hours before his death, Nedreau had attended Griffith’s Broad Street Blues and BBQ Festival with a woman who had been staying at his home, despite protests from his family, Collins said. The pair also was joined by a man whom the woman knew.
Some time that evening, Nedreau called his father and told him how much fun he was having, Collins said. But unfortunately it wouldn’t last.
The woman told Collins she had been near the back of the mobile home when she heard Nedreau scream for help. But police reported the woman said the two were arguing before the attack.
“I don’t know what to believe, and I don’t think I’ll ever know the truth. I just don’t know,” Collins said. “My brother wouldn’t hurt a fly. He just wouldn’t.”
Collins said Nedreau suffered the bulk of his injuries — upward of at least 30 stab wounds — while laying on his bed. The 45-year-old tried to defend himself from his attacker with little success, losing a lot of blood in the process and suffering cuts to his arms.
Somehow, he managed to exit the home before collapsing in his front lawn, where police said officers found him about 1:30 a.m. — just an hour before the coroner would pronounce him dead.
Police said the suspect — the man who allegedly attended the Griffith festival that night with Nedreau and the woman — fled the scene on foot as Nedreau laid bleeding and the woman ran to get help. The man had been apprehended in the 4300 block of Colfax Street by officers, who took him to Lake County Jail.
“It is the most horrific thing I can imagine,” Collins said. “This should have never happened — not to him. ... With him being so childlike, I keep thinking of how terrified he must have been. How could somebody do that?
“When I saw his bed and I saw what happened, I could just hear his voice screaming for help.”
Officials would not confirm specific details of the murder, citing pending reports from the Lake County Coroner’s Office and Lake County Crime Scene Investigators.
‘Such a giving person’
Collins said Nedreau, the youngest of three children and nonverbal until the age of 5, graduated from Calumet High School in 1993, where he helped manage the school’s swimming team. And while he wasn’t the best at math, her brother had a knack for reading and mechanics.
“He could look at things, take them apart and put them back together,” she said. “He did that all the time. His mechanical skills were off the chart.”
Nedreau spent a lot of time with Lee Sr. fixing cars or lawn mowers, which he then used to cut the neighbors’ grass — something he continued to do when living on his own and even did the day he died, Collins said.
In the past, Nedreau worked at TradeWinds Services and Strack and Van Til, as well as volunteering with Franciscan Health hospital in Munster and Habitat for Humanity of Northwest Indiana ReStore in Griffith. He also went to Franciscan Omni Health and Fitness, where he lost 300 pounds and dropped from 650 to about 350 pounds, Collins said.
About half a year ago, Nedreau moved out of his parents’ home and into a trailer, Collins said. He later relocated to the Bremerton Mobile Home Park in August.
“He just wanted to be like a normal person,” his sister said. “He wanted to be on his own.”
A month after moving to the mobile home park, their mother, Sandy, died. This prompted Lee Sr. to leave Indiana for Arkansas in order to be closer to his brother.
Collins said these changes were hard on Nedreau, whom she had just assumed permanent guardianship over in early June. The family planned to move him to an assisted-living facility, but he was placed on a two-year minimum waiting list.
Collins said they wanted to better protect him from falling prey to anyone hoping to take advantage of his innate, “childlike” innocence. She said the family had problems with Nedreau giving away his money, medication or material possessions to people he thought were his friends, such as the woman who had been staying with him the night of his death.
“This was an emergency. We knew this was an emergency, and we knew this was dangerous for him. There was just nothing that anybody could do,” she said. “I never truly believed he would be harmed in this manner.
“He was such a giving person, and I think that’s the biggest thing that bothers me about it,” Collins said. “There is nothing positive that can come from this happening. I can’t say to my dad that he didn’t suffer because he did. I can’t say that he died quickly because he didn’t. ... This shouldn’t have happened.”
But Collins does take comfort in one thing — her mother.
“I know that my mom was standing there waiting for him,” Collins said. “She was there to get him when he got there and finally be able to protect him.”
A funeral service for Nedreau will be held 10 a.m. Saturday at the Griffith Lutheran Church on North Broad Street.