She keeps the pictures on her bedroom wall. A boy on his tricycle. A young man in his Navy blues.

This is the father she never knew, whose name she still claims.

Growing up, she would ask her mother questions about the man in the pictures.

The pain made answers elusive.

"It was too hard for her."

It still is hard for her mother. Hard for her father's family. Hard for Robert Colvert's only daughter.

There is so much Barb Colvert doesn't know. The sound of his voice. What made him laugh.

What it would feel like to call him Dad.

Al Lyman drove his Chevy down Cornhusker Highway.

He had just finished the night shift at the Burlington Northern train yards on West O.

It was Sunday morning, the first day of December 1957 - a good day for pheasant hunting. He thought he'd swing by to pick up Bobby at the gas station, and they would have the day together.

The pair had been friends since they were at Havelock Junior High. There were five of them altogether, running like brothers. They spent hours at the roller rink, tinkering with their cars, raising heck.

Bobby was the easygoing one - always laughing about something.

But now that the 21-year-old was back from the service, married with a baby on the way and working nights pumping gas, they didn't spend as much time together.

Al saw the police cars as he approached the Crest Service Station at 15th and Cornhusker.

Must have been robbed, he thought. Didn't look like the hunting trip would happen.

Al slowed the Chevy but didn't stop. He had switched the license plates from his old car onto this one, and he didn't want any trouble.

I'm heading to bed, he told his mother when he got home. Something's going on at the gas station. Listen to the radio, and if you hear anything, wake me up.

It was noon when his mother shook him awake.

Fifty years later, his voice stops in the middle of recounting that long-ago news.

The silence fills with sadness.

"She said they found Bob north of town, and he'd been shot."

The Beaver Crossing Times ran Robert Colvert's obituary alongside news of the 4-H pie-baking contest and Mr. and Mrs. Boyer's Sunday visit to the home of Mrs. Stella Miller.

A life in one narrow newspaper column.

It mentioned the grieving family but not the shotgun blast on a deserted road, not the list of murder suspects that would grow beyond two dozen.

And not the stocky, bandy-legged redhead.

Instead it said only this: "Robert George Colvert … met his untimely death as a gasoline station employee in Lincoln on Dec. 1."

And this: "Bob was a lad of many smiles and a sunny disposition, a joy that was shared by all who knew him."

And this, the titles of three hymns sung at the United Methodist Church the day they laid young Bobby to rest: "In the Garden," "Take My Hand Precious Lord" and "Someday We'll Understand."

What the mourners didn't know on Dec. 12, 1957 - what they couldn't know - was that the man for whom they grieved would live on, trapped inside the story of another man.

Charlie Starkweather, a cocky, barely literate teen who hung around the gas station on Cornhusker reading comic books and talking cars.

A nearsighted, short-tempered outcast who would grow larger than life in movies and books and music, his cult surviving long after his death in Nebraska's electric chair.

A mass murderer who would leave families broken, who would make a claim two days after he stole the life of his 11th victim, two days after his capture on a Wyoming highway, convinced he was dying after glass from a shattered windshield grazed his ear: "I always wanted to be a criminal, but not this big of one."

In time, her mother remarried, and Barb Colvert had a father again and a sister and a brother.

She would be in grade school when she began to wonder who all the relatives were, the uncle and aunts, older than her grandparents.

She learned the story in pieces.

That her mother had married a man named Robert Colvert in 1956. That they'd gone to high school together. That he was a few years older.

That he was a loving and caring man. That he was good at carpentry, like his father. That he loved kids.

That he was the youngest of six and that his older siblings doted on him, the way they doted on his only child, Barb, born five months after he died.

"People didn't talk about the sadness to me. It was all the good things."

Even as a child, she knew there were questions she couldn't ask, memories too painful to bring back to life.

Did her father and mother date in high school?

She couldn't say for sure.

What did they do for fun?

She doesn't know.

"I know he was young and just out of the service and had a lot of life ahead of him."

Barb is 49 now. She lives in Bellevue and works in Omaha. She has a 17-year-old daughter.

She has had a good life, she says. A different life than the one she would have had. But a life she wouldn't trade. In some ways, it was easier for her. She didn't know, in the way others did, all that Starkweather had stolen.

Her mom is still living. All but one of her father's siblings are dead.

She knows the man who murdered her father lives on.

"Starkweather and what he did, it will never leave Nebraska."

She isn't bitter. Not anymore. Only sad.

And all these years later, the tears still come when the questions start.

"I'm sorry. It's kind of hard sometimes."

The day after the Crest Service Station at 1545 Cornhusker Highway was robbed of nearly $90 in cash and $10 in loose change - and its night attendant was driven to a spot on Superior Street and killed with a shotgun blast - a bandy-legged, redheaded young man walked into a Lincoln thrift store.

He bought overshoes, a jacket, four shirts, two undershirts, jockey shorts and a pair of shoes.

His bill came to $9.55.

He paid for it all with loose change.

Reach Cindy Lange-Kubick at 473-7218 or clangekubick@journalstar.com.

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