The Scarred Man: Murder of Arnold Sansgaard 1984

Murder Victim

Arnold L. Sansgaard
59-year-old Farmer
WWII Veteran
Cause of Death: Stabbed
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Sansgaard Home
1 mile west of Story City, Iowa
Boone County
July 15, 1984


By Nancy Bowers
Written July 2010

location of Story City, Iowa

location of Story City, Iowa

Fifty-nine-year-old WWII veteran Arnold Sansgaard lived alone in a home on Rural Route 1 in Boone County a mile west of Story City.

In mid-July 1984, family members noticed that Sansgaard’s vehicle was not at the residence.

However, they were not concerned at first because they assumed he was on a trip.

☛ The “Scarred Man” ☚

In the early morning hours of Monday, July 16, a patrol officer spotted an erratically driven car and pulled it over 15 miles north of Center City, Minnesota, in Chisago County. The driver identified himself as Arnold Sansgaard and provided a birth date of October 12, 1947. He offered a checkbook as proof of his identity.

from the Ogden Reporter

Composite sketch of suspect (from the Ogden Reporter)

The driver — in his mid-to-late 30s — stood 6-foot-2 and weighed 170 pounds. He was clean-shaven, had medium-length dark-brown hair, and wore glasses. He spoke slowly with a southern accent and appeared to the officer to have a mental condition or to be under the influence of medication or drugs.

When the officer inquired about severe burn scars on the man’s right arm, forearm, and neck, he was told they were from a flamethrower incident in Vietnam. The driver said he had been a patient at Veterans Administration hospitals in Madison, Wisconsin, and other locations and that he was currently a VA outpatient being treated for a nervous condition.

A routine check of the car’s registration turned up nothing — because Sansgaard’s car was not known to be missing — and the driver was let go with a warning.

☛ A Body Discovered, a Car Abandoned ☚

On Sunday July 22, 1984, the body of Arnold Sansgaard was found in the living room of his farm home. An autopsy by State Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Bennett showed he died from two shallow stab wounds to the right side of his chest, probably about July 14 or 15.

This second composite sketch was released to the media

Second composite sketch released to the media

A second sketch of the Sansgaard suspect was released to the media.

On Monday, July 23, Sansgaard’s car was found abandoned in the parking lot of a Catholic church in Effingham, in south-central Illinois; it was first spotted there the day before.

Sansgaard’s car was known to have traveled 241 miles from Boone County, Iowa, to a location north of Minneapolis (where there is a large VA Hospital) and from there nearly 600 miles southeast to an Illinois city where there is a VA outpatient clinic.

The driver — and likely the murder suspect — may have been seeking treatment or medication at these VA locations or was familiar with them.

Arnold Sansgaard was an Army veteran of WWII and may have met his killer at a VA facility.

Despite the detailed description of the driver and his distinctive features, he has never been located and the murder of Arnold Sansgaard has gone cold.

☛ Arnold Sansgaard’s Life ☚

photo by Neal Bowers

photo by Neal Bowers

Arnold Sansgaard was born November 19, 1925 in Jewell, Hamilton County, Iowa, to Della Hovde and Hans Sverdrup Sansgaard, first generation Norwegian-Americans. He had a brother, Robert, and a sister, Arlene Sansgaard Hall Holts.

Military records show that Sansgaard served in the Army during WWII, although a Korean Conflict Medallion has been placed at his grave in the Roland, Iowa, Cemetery.

Please note: Use of information from this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.



  • ☛ Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
  • ☛ “Issue a Sketch of Man Sought for Questioning,” Ogden Reporter August 1, 1984.
  • ☛ “Search on for man seen driving dead Iowan’s car,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 26, 1984.
  • ☛ “Stabbing victim was murdered,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 24, 1984.
  • ☛ “Suspect description released,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 28, 1984.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946.

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