In 2005, Jackie Cassettari was brutally murdered in her apartment. Now, the emotional wounds from that crime are re-opening with her killer soon to be released in Tracy.
It has been 14 years since Steffani Cruser’s cousin and mentor was murdered. Even now, she said not a day goes by when she doesn’t think of Cassettari.
“It’s not like it’s something we expected, like she was sick. It was really like she was taken from us,” Cruser said.
Just last week, there was another painful reminder of her untimely death. Cassettari's family was shocked to learn Brian Rainwater, the man convicted of killing Cassettari, will be released from prison just 10 years into his sentence.
“We wanted him to be in there for life," Cruser said. "We wanted him to suffer and then just never be able to see the light of day again.”
Detectives who conducted the investigation say Rainwater sexually assaulted Cassettari, strangled her and bludgeoned her head until she died.
Like her family, those detectives have called Rainwater’s actions monstrous.
But after all these years, there’s at least one person who does not think Rainwater is a monster.
“He’s not a violent person and he was an amazing, loving, tender, gentle father,” said his wife, Desiree.
Desiree Rainwater spoke out about her husband for the first time Tuesday.
“Confirmation bias, that’s what it comes down to,” she told FOX40. “They were looking for him to be the guy and anything else they weren’t interested in hearing.”
To this day, Desiree believes her husband is innocent. She admitted he had been unfaithful in the past and convicted of indecent exposure.
She believes his past created a mold that fit the police narrative.
“To bludgeon somebody to death, no, that’s not my husband. Let alone somebody he cared about and considered a friend,” Desiree said.
She said she’s not sure how their relationship will continue once Brian is out of prison. Their child, now 17 years old, was a toddler when his father was arrested.
“I don’t know how to convey, how you explain a 3-year-old why his father just never came home from work one day,” Desiree said.
While she’s relieved her husband is being released in November, one person dreading that day is a man who helped put him away.
It was a scene retired Livermore police detective Dale Jaynes said will stick with him for the rest of his life.
“The amount of blood that was in that kitchen, you had to watch where you walked, not only because the evidence but just … slipping. It was that bad,” Jaynes said. “It was one of the most gruesome scenes I’ve been in."
"You wonder who could … who could do something like this to another person," he said.
He said he was shocked in 2009 when Rainwater got such a light sentence — 15 years.
After he took college courses behind bars and Proposition 47 reduced some of his felony crimes to misdemeanors, Rainwater will get out of prison early.
Jaynes said he does not believe somebody who is capable of what he saw in Cassettari’s apartment back in 2005 could be rehabilitated in a matter of 10 years and walk free a changed person.
“I was very upset, to be honest with you,” Jaynes told FOX40. “With the injuries that she received, it was unbelievable that he was only going to get the sentence that he got.”
Rainwater will be released in Tracy, where he lived before prison. Cassettari’s family is hoping to challenge that and have him moved elsewhere.
As for his wife, she wanted to make it clear she sympathizes with Cassettari’s family and wishes them all the best.