She never met any of his half sisters; Tessier told her he didn't like them.
"We never talked about the past," she said. "Whatever he told me, it probably wouldn't have been the truth."
He never mistreated her sexually, she said. In fact, their relationship was mostly platonic.
They stayed together on and off from 1983 until 1989, when he told her he'd met someone else. She didn't put up a fight.
"He let me go," she said. "I feel really lucky."
Asked whether she ever saw any signs of sexual impropriety, Trexler recalled two incidents she found particularly disturbing. They involved his daughter from his first marriage, who stayed with them for a short while when she was about 12.
One morning, she found Tessier and his daughter in the kitchen. He was holding a banana in a particular way and making sexually suggestive comments.
Later, while looking for something in a desk, she felt the drawer catch. She ran her hand along the bottom.
Taped to the underside was a recent picture of Tessier's daughter. She was nude.
Chapter 3: Bulldogs on the case
Eileen Tessier was dying, and there was one secret she would not take to her grave. She'd kept it for 36 years -- much too long.
"Janet," she called out, according to her daughter's courtroom account many years later. There was urgency in her voice.
Janet Tessier rushed to her mother's hospital bed. Eileen's blue eyes were wide open. She grabbed Janet's wrist and spoke again.
Those two little girls, and the one that disappeared, John did it. John did it, and you have to tell someone.
Janet knew immediately what her mother was saying: that Janet's half brother John had kidnapped and killed Maria Ridulph. The second-grader's unsolved murder had haunted their hometown of Sycamore, Illinois, for decades.
Was this a confession, an unburdening of the soul, as Janet believed? Or could it be the ramblings of a dying cancer patient, a mind fogged by morphine?
Either way, it was a breakthrough moment in a case that cast a long shadow over Janet's childhood. The words Eileen Tessier spoke on her deathbed compelled her daughter to "tell someone" many times. It would take her nearly 15 years to find someone who listened.
Janet was just a baby when her 7-year-old neighbor vanished three weeks before Christmas in 1957. She grew up knowing there were bogeymen out there. Even in sleepy Sycamore, strangers could grab little girls off the street and make them disappear.
On Saturdays, kids from the neighborhood would walk to a matinee at the movie theater downtown. Afterward, they'd go around the corner for ice cream cones, then stop at the Sycamore police station and stare at the wanted posters. It passed for excitement in a small town.
Janet would study the sketch of "Johnny," the man suspected of snatching Maria, but nothing clicked. It was the photo of Maria that truly haunted her. "I would stand in front of the poster and stare at her face and I would close my eyes and clench my fists and pray really hard that God would find the bad man that killed her," Janet recalled half a century later on a radio show.
Over the years, she heard her older sisters recount the night of the kidnapping. They said police later knocked on their door, and they listened as their mother said something they knew was not true: that John was at home the night Maria disappeared.
The scene at their mother's deathbed confirmed these suspicions. They knew she often lied to protect John. But had she literally let him get away with murder?
Eileen Tessier died on January 23, 1994; some 300 people attended her funeral. But John was not welcome. His siblings told him to stay away.
The family's darkest secret had finally surfaced. Now the story of "Johnny" and Maria was Janet's burden to carry.