By Nancy Bowers
Thank you for visiting Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases — a not-for-profit educational and historical website.
This is a repository, a quiet library rather than a frenetic and inter-active forum for breaking news on recent or current crimes. Nor is its focus on those few Iowa cases which dominate the usual discussions, overshadowing victims not as well known or unknown altogether.
Our articles tell the stories of Iowa victims of unsolved murders from the years 1846 through 1965. Selected cases from decades after 1965 are included in smaller numbers. Articles are steadily being added.
Please be aware that all articles on this website are the intellectual property of Nancy Bowers and, where indicated, David Jindrich — who voluntarily researched and wrote them solely because of their interest in history and not for any employer. We have never accepted payment for our work — nor ever will.
Readers have emailed and phoned me to ask why my articles and research — containing my name abbreviated in an apparent attempt to legitimize outright theft — are being published elsewhere on-line in violation of a formal agreement with my legal team.
Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases is the only authorized website or venue where my articles may legally appear. This also applies to extensive research — in lists or other formats — I have performed since 2009.
If you encounter my research or any of my articles on another website or in another medium, they are being used without permission and illegally. This cannot be stated too emphatically.
☛ How It Started ☚
The first step in the process of writing these articles was to locate victims of historical unsolved Iowa murders whose stories had not been told.
There are no ready-made lists of unsolved murder victims for the decades following Iowa’s statehood in 1846. Only in approximately the past 10 years have agencies and newspapers attempted to enumerate victims — and then the victims are almost exclusively from the last part of the 20th Century and not from earlier times, which is this website’s primary focus.
I began my search with 1912, the date of Iowa’s most famous and most written about unsolved crime – the Villisca Ax Murders, in which eight people were slaughtered.
Then, I located victims of murders which had not been recorded – first those in the decades following 1912 well into the 1960s and beyond. Then I worked backwards by decades from 1912 to 1846, the year of Iowa statehood.
The sheer number of forgotten victims I uncovered — and am still uncovering — was breathtaking, not just because the murders were unsolved but also because they had been overlooked and undocumented until I pulled them from the dusty archives.
There were no lists of historical victims as complete as what I have compiled. Not at state agencies, media outlets, or in any other venue. As stated above, if my research appears elsewhere, it has been appropriated without consent.
☛ Finding Victims ☚
Using the methods of accepted academic research, I search for victims and information about them in primary sources: old history books, county history volumes, archived newspapers, maps, plat books, journals, and public records (including names provided by the regrettably short-lived Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation unsolved murder unit).
Occasionally a descendant, member of law enforcement, history buff, or citizen of a community where an unsolved murder occurred will contact me with a case. I am humbly grateful for this input.
My exploration is supplemented with genealogical research on databases to which I have paid subscriptions. I create a family tree for each victim, using U.S. Census information.
I field phone calls and emails. And travel to primary locations to photograph relevant structures and sites and to interview those still living.
☛ Telling the Stories ☚
It’s an exhilarating challenge to synthesize the researched facts and weave them into a chronological narrative that tells a story, which is what historical writing must do.
But most rewarding of all is bringing to light long-forgotten victims whose stories have never been told. There are no words to express that feeling.
☛ Research Methods ☚
I employ the standard, accepted tenants and methods of historic research:
I vigilantly and scrupulously list my primary sources at the end of each article.
Within the body of the articles, I credit all information to those sources — with careful, documented paraphrasing that gives credit and/or uses quotation marks.
I don’t judge the key players in the unsolved homicides and I remain objective. The only opinions of guilt or innocence expressed in the articles come from family members, law enforcement, or newspaper editorials from the time the murders were committed.
I treat my subjects with respect, dignity, and decorum. Historic research has traditionally discouraged picking the low-hanging fruit of sensationalism or maudlin and forced sentimentality.
Facts cannot be known unless someone works hard to locate them and bring them to light. That is my goal on this website and has been my guide in the extensive research on unsolved historic Iowa homicides I have been performing since 2009.
☛ Information Welcomed ☚
I always welcome corrections and additions that will help tell the stories of the victims and will gladly recognize any such contribution in the references. Click on my name above to reach me by email or leave a comment on the appropriate article.
Permission to quote from or cite materials in my articles may be obtained via email or letter.