Mary Ann Amber Green
59-year-old Retired Bookkeeper
Cause of Death: Stabbed
Motive: Obtaining an Inheritance
Murder Scene and Date
Spring Creek Mobile Park
Highway 23 South
September 27, 1987
By Nancy Bowers
Written September 2011
In 1987, Mary Ann Green resided in a home at Oskaloosa’s Spring Creek Mobile Park on Highway 23 South.
The 59-year-old widow did not live lavishly, so few people other than friends and family knew she was a wealthy woman.
For many years, her deceased husband Herman Green owned and operated a successful back-hoe business in Oskaloosa; when Herman died in June of 1987, Mary Ann inherited a large estate.
Mary Ann and Herman had no children of their own; but they raised her nephew Jackie as a son, and Herman had five sons from his first marriage.
☛ Written in Blood ☚
On September 27, 1987, Mary Ann Green was found in her home stabbed to death in what looked like a personal and up-close attack.
When she tried to defend herself against the knife blows, several of her fingers were slashed nearly off.
And in her last moments of life, Mary Ann managed to get to a closet door mirror. With her own blood she wrote the letter “N.”
☛ Investigators and Family Baffled ☚
Mahaska County Sheriff Joe Beal and his deputies worked the crime scene with the assistance of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Outside Mary Ann’s home, investigators found a knife believed to be the murder weapon.
Friends and members of Mary Ann’s large, extended family were baffled by the horrible crime.
Neither they nor investigators could give any meaning to the letter “N” that Mary Ann wrote with her own blood as a clue about her killer.
☛ Money and Murder ☚Family members estimated Mary Ann Green’s estate might be worth nearly a million dollars. Oskaloosa attorney Hugh B. McCoy, who prepared Mary Ann’s will, said it was about $700,000.
That will specified that the money — upon her death — be divided equally among her nephew and her five stepsons, with each to receive about $120,000.
Sheriff Beal told the media he believed the murder was motivated by greed and money on the part of at least one of Herman Green’s children who wanted to receive his inheritance sooner rather than later.
The investigation was taken in that direction.
☛ Murder-For-Hire? ☚
On Friday, November 20, 1987, Mahaska County Attorney Charles Stream filed first-degree murder charges against Richard Lee Green — Mary Ann Green’s 29-year-old stepson — and his acquaintance David Kelly Yant, 23, of Ojai, California.Richard Green and David Yant met while Green was living in Carpinteria, California.
Richard Green turned himself in to the Mahaska County Sheriff’s Department and was held under $500,00 bond.
David Yant was charged and held in the Ventura (California) County Jail in lieu of $500,000 bond. He waived extradition in a Ventura County Municipal Court.
In mid-November of 1987, Mahaska County Sheriff Joe Beal transported Yant from California to Iowa. The two suspects were arraigned on November 30 and both were incarcerated in the Mahaska County Jail.
Authorities believed the homicide was a murder-for-hire paid for by Richard Green and carried out by David Yant.
Before Judge James Jenkins in Mahaska County District Court, the two men entered not guilty pleas. Because the murder charge was based on a conspiracy between Green and Yant, they were ordered to be tried jointly.
After a hearing, Judge Jenkins refused a request that Green’s bail be lowered.
☛ First Murder Trial ☚
In July of 1988, Richard Green and David Yant were tried for first degree murder in the death of Mary Ann Green.
The prosecution presented three compelling facts:
- ☛ A man matching David Yant’s description checked into an Oskaloosa motel the night Mary Ann Green was murdered.
- ☛ Telephone records showed that Yant had several conversations with a Green family member.
- ☛ Records demonstrated that someone in the Green family wired money to Yant the day before the murder.
Darwin Chapman, Special Agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, also testified about evidence found at the crime scene.
In 1988, Darwin Chapman — a highly skilled investigator — became the Director of the Division of Criminal Investigation at the Iowa Department of Public Safety.
However, arguments that the evidence was tampered with were presented by court-appointed defense attorneys Scott Campbell and James Blomgren — Oskaloosa lawyers — and Des Moines criminal defense lawyer Alfredo Parrish.
The trial resulted in a hung jury.
☛ Second Murder Trial ☚
A second trial was held in Polk County District Court in October 1988, over a year after the murder. Judge James Rielly presided and Richard Green and David Yant were again represented by Campbell, Blomgren, and Parrish.
During the second trial, David’s Yant’s father testified that his son was:
“An outgoing young fellow who got along with everybody and anybody.”
After 14 days of testimony and final arguments, the jury deliberated for several days before telling Judge James Rielly they were deadlocked; he dismissed them in early November.
☛ Yet a Third Murder Trial ☚
In January of 1989, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller told the media that a clear majority of the second trial jury favored conviction and so Miller ordered a third trial.
Court-appointed defense attorneys Scott Campbell, James Blomgren, and Alfredo Parrish asked to be dismissed from the case. Blomgren told the Oelwein Daily Register that defending Green and Yant had become “an economic burden” that took too much time away from the lawyers’ other clients. Blomgren said:
“A guy being defended for first-degree murder ought not have an attorney who is concerned about the rest of his practice.”
The judge did not agree, and the three attorneys continued to represent Green and Yant.
The third trial was held in Washington County. On March 2, 1989, Richard Green and David Yant were found not guilty of murdering Mary Ann Green.
☛ Inheritance at Last ☚
After he was found not guilty, Richard Green moved back to California, where he first met David Yant.
Richard then received his share of his stepmother Mary Ann Green’s estate –$110,000. Most of that money was used to repay the state of Iowa for the costs of his public defense.
☛ Mary Ann Green’s Life ☚
Mary Ann Amber was born in Mahaska County, Iowa, in 1928 to Jennie Inez Cleair and Claude Clifford Amber, a foreman in a local coal mine.
She had seven siblings: Robert Cleair Amber, William Clifford Amber, Joseph Roscoe Amber, Eva Rosella Amber, Max H. Amber, James Amber, and Fred Amber.
Mary Ann married Herman Green and was the bookkeeper for his large and successful backhoe business.
Although she had no children of her own, she raised her nephew Jackie Amber as a son.
Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “2 Californians plead innocent to woman’s death,” Waterloo Daily Courier, December 1, 1987.
- ☛ “Amber-Cleair,” Lovilia Press, April 19, 1917.
- ☛ “California man may be brought to Iowa for woman’s murder,” Waterloo Daily Courier, November 10, 1987.
- ☛ “Californian hired to kill Iowan: Police,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 11, 1987.
- ☛ “Deliberations ordered,” Oelwein Daily Register, November 1, 1989.
- ☛ “Gets estate,” Oelwein Daily Register, March 24, 1989.
- ☛ “Green Trial,” Oelwein Daily Register, October 11, 1988.
- ☛ “Jurors return,” Oelwein Daily Register, October 31, 1988.
- ☛ “Jury deadlocked,” Oelwein Daily Register, November 2, 1989.
- ☛ “Jury to decide,” Oelwein Daily Register, October 26, 1988.
- ☛ Linda Lanphier, Personal Correspondence, 2011.
- ☛ “Murder-for-Hire,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 21, 1987.
- ☛ “Murder-for-hire plot now includes victim’s stepson,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 13, 1987.
- ☛ “Request denied,” Oelwein Daily Register, January 9, 1989.
- ☛ “Sheriff travels to get accused killer,” Waterloo Courier, November 11, 1987.