Neva Elizabeth Andrews
Divorced Mother of Two
Cause of Death: Shock Due to Slashing
Death Scene and Date
500 Block West Willow Street
August 7, 1950
By Nancy Bowers
Written June 2013
It’s a late summer ritual familiar to Iowa teens: working in crews that walk corn fields to detassel the ears. The labor is hot, dirty, and intense; but it’s a good way to make money for the upcoming school year.
So on the warm morning of Monday, August 7, 1950 when 19-year-old Louise Bong left home to meet up with her detasseling crew in downtown Cherokee, she expected the worst part of her day would be the difficult field work that lay ahead.
That was before a terrible discovery.
It was 6:00 a.m. as Louise neared Garfield Elementary School on the north side of West Willow Street about midway down what was known as “The Willow Street Hill.” Ahead, she saw something in the parking — the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street.
Louise quickly realized that it was the body of a barefoot woman in a torn dress whose other clothing was disarrayed and stained with blood from large slashes on her lower body. She was face-down, one foot barely touching the sidewalk; her head rested on her right arm, which pointed towards the street.
Law enforcement immediately reported to the scene. Sheriff Carl Schleef identified the slender woman with gray in her hair as 46-year-old Neva Elizabeth Andrews, a divorcee who lived in an apartment at 526 West Willow with her 12-year-old son John Robert Andrews just a hundred yards away from the site. Her shoes were found in the apartment.
☛ Investigators Work the Case ☚
R.W. “Doc” Nebergall, Chief of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), sent an agent to assist Cherokee Chief of Police Art Locke and Cherokee County Sheriff Carl Schleef with the case.
Initially, investigators told the public that “foul play” was involved in Neva Andrews’s death and that likely she was killed elsewhere and dumped where she was found.
That afternoon, Dr. J.F. Lawlor and Cherokee State Hospital pathologist Dr. William E. Youland performed an autopsy on Neva Andrews and determined she died six hours before her body was discovered.
On Tuesday, August 8, Sheriff Schleef and Cherokee County Attorney Harold Grigg issued this joint statement:
“The official report of the autopsy on the body of Neva Andrews discloses that the immediate cause of death was shock and that shock was apparently as the result of lacerations of the lower part of the woman’s body.”
The autopsy found no bruises or cuts anywhere else on the body and determined Neva Andrews was not the victim of a traffic accident.
Investigators allowed reporters to exam crime scene photos, which showed that the victim’s dress was completely torn off and pushed up around her neck and that, although the lower part of her underwear was torn, her girdle and nylon stockings were intact.
A neighbor, whose name was withheld, told a newspaper reporter she heard a man and woman arguing about 3:30 a.m. near the foot of the steps leading to the Garfield Elementary School not far from the spot where the body was found; however, the autopsy showed Neva Andrews had been dead several hours by that time.
☛ Coroner’s Jury ☚
Sheriff Carl Schleef convened a four-man jury, consisting of livestock buyer D.J. Schalekamp; Howard Klatt of Wilson and Klatt Hardware Store; Modern Appliance Store owner Parker Rutherford; and Leo Dunn, who oversaw the Studebaker department of the Cherokee Implement Company.
On Wednesday, August 9, the jury viewed Neva Andrews’s body at Boothby Funeral Home and heard facts about the death and autopsy. They adjourned without a verdict, with the stipulation they would be recalled.
Tensions ran high among the press who wanted more information and among citizens who feared for their own safety. Members of law enforcement, who worked tirelessly into the early mornings each day, were irritable. Cherokee County Attorney Harold Grigg complained about “balloon-sized rumors” floating through the community.
Reporters grilled investigators on Thursday morning for further details and names of suspects; one newspaper reported:
“They answered ‘There are none.’ There has been no comment by either Grigg or Schleef whether the death was homicidal.
One official walked out of the room yesterday afternoon where authorities had been meeting, In a disgruntled mood, he saw a reporter and asked ‘What do you know about it?'”
☛ Cause of Death Puzzling ☚
Investigators could not say if Neva Andrews was murdered. Although the circumstances were odd and ghoulish, nothing actually pointed conclusively to homicide.
Had Neva Andrews, then, killed herself?
The newspaper photos of her show a gaunt and somber woman, someone who appears haunted by worries.
Friends and family told investigators Neva had been extremely worried in recent weeks about her son 18-year-old son Tedford “Ted” Anderson, Jr., who joined the Air Force and was stationed in San Antonio, Texas. The United States had recently become involved in the Korean Conflict and she no doubt worried he might be in danger.
That anxiety produced “ill health,” which necessitated her resigning her part-time clerk job at Cherokee’s Lewis Hotel. Her symptoms were described as “nervousness.”
Neva also had difficulty sleeping and took tablets to help, a fact that might have figured into a deliberate or accidental overdose.
However, an analysis of her stomach contents by the State University of Iowa Hospital in Iowa City failed to find any evidence of sleeping pills. Nor were poisons or toxic substances discovered.
Was it possible that her worry and anxiety drove her to slash her own body in a way known in contemporary psychological terms as “cutting?”
☛ A Crazed “Sex Maniac”? ☚
Tales circulated around Cherokee that Neva had been attacked and killed by a “sex maniac,” perhaps a violent mental patient from the nearby Cherokee State Hospital.
But the autopsy found no evidence of sexual assault and analysis of her clothing by the BCI Lab in Des Moines turned up no substances other than the victim’s own blood.
Newspaper headlines then appeared which were similar to one in the Mason City Globe Gazette: “Mrs. Andrews Not Killed by Sex Maniac.”
☛ Rumors and Suspects ☚
As with all sensational events in small towns, gossip mills in Cherokee worked overtime.
In addition to theories about an escaped mental patient being responsible, there were speculations about Neva’s former husband Tedford “Ted” Andrews, a WWII veteran and Cherokee insurance man who divorced her in 1947 on the grounds of “cruelty.”
Information made public by law enforcement, however, did not implicate Ted Andrews as a suspect.
However, there was another man in her life that locals speculated about. Neva Andrews had been keeping company with 49-year-old Cherokee businessman and bachelor E.M. “Bud” Lyman, described by the Ames Daily Tribune as a “tall, red-haired auctioneer and cattle buyer.”
The two were known to have been together the night before her death. Some residents believed that Neva Andrews walked the quarter mile — as they said she had done before — to Bud Lyman’s house in her nightgown and was attacked by someone when she returned home.
On the day Neva’s body was discovered, Bud Lyman was in Sioux City on business; and Cherokee County authorities asked law enforcement there to detain him.
Woodbury County Chief Deputy Sheriff Ralph Hindman arrested Bud Lyman in the Sioux City stockyard district and brought him in for questioning. During a three-hour grilling, Lyman repeatedly denied any involvement in Neva Andrews’s death.
Lyman told a Sioux City Journal reporter that on Sunday evening, August 6, he drove Neva and her mother Harriet “Hattie” Brock — who was visiting her daughter from Los Angeles — to the “dine and dance” Club Manawa on the western edge of Storm Lake, where they enjoyed a meal and entertainment.
He said when the trio returned to Cherokee about 8:00 p.m., he drove the two women to Neva’s apartment and spent the rest of the evening with them.
When he left about midnight, Lyman said, Neva was fine and appeared to be in good spirits. The clothing she had on then matched what was found on the body.
Lyman told investigators he drove the quarter mile to his own home at 207 East Main — where he lived with his mother — packed a suitcase, and drove to Sioux City; hotel records there showed he checked in at 3:08 a.m.
Although Hattie Brock told investigators her daughter and Bud Lyman argued that night and both left the house at 1:00 a.m., it appeared that there was no way to prove any involvement by Bud Lyman in the death. He was released from the Sioux City jail at 10:30 p.m. on August 8.
☛ Prolonged Investigation Leads Nowhere ☚
The investigation into Neva Andrews’s death continued for several months.
On Wednesday, November 27, Cherokee County Coroner Joseph E. Bunker recalled the coroner’s jury to hear final testimony from County Attorney Harold Grigg, to examine crime scene photos, and to review results of the Iowa BCI’s investigation.
After a three-hour discussion, the jury ruled the death of Neva Andrews was:
“The result of injuries sustained in an unknown manner.”
Although the BCI continued to investigate the mysterious death, no leads that would clarify the cause were ever discovered.
☛ Life of Neva Andrews ☚
Neva Elizabeth Brock was born on October 6, 1903 in Lincoln Township of Madison County, Iowa, to Harriet May “Hattie” Neal and Homer Franklin Brock, Sr. She had two siblings, Helen Lucille Fawcett and Homer Franklin Brock, Jr. The Brock family was living in Winterset, Iowa, by the 1920 U.S. Census.
On March 3, 1928, Neva married Tedford George “Ted” Andrews and the couple had two sons — Tedford George Andrews, Jr. in 1932 and Robert John Andrews in 1937.
Neva and Ted moved to Des Moines soon after their marriage. They lived in apartment 209 at 3323 Ingersoll Avenue. Ted worked as a clerk at Maliber & Co. and Neva was a typist at General Motors Acceptance Corporation. By 1934, Neva was a stay-at-home mom and Ted was a salesman; the couple had moved into a home at 1348 13th. Then they lived briefly in Roubaix, South Dakota.
Ted joined the Army on June 30, 1941. After WWII, Ted and Neva made their home in Cherokee until he filed for divorce; Neva was given custody of the two sons. Up till three weeks before her death, Neva worked as a part-time clerk in the Lewis Hotel in downtown Cherokee.
The Rev. A.B. Thutt, former minister of the Storm Lake Presbyterian Church, conducted funeral services for Neva Elizabeth Brock Andrews at 10:30 a.m. Friday, August 11 at the Boothby Funeral Home; and she was buried in Cherokee’s Oak Hill Cemetery.
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ Ann Tell, Personal Correspondence and Library Research, August-September, 2013.
- ☛ “Autopsy Report Rules Victim Died of Shock,” Cherokee Times and Chief, August 8, 1950.
- ☛ “Autopsy Shows Mrs. Andrews Died of Shock,” Cedar Rapids Gazette August 8, 1950.
- ☛ “Cattle Buyer Quizzed About Cherokee Death,” Ames Daily Tribune, August 8, 1950.
- ☛ “Cherokee Death Remains Unsolved,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, November 30, 1950.
- ☛ “Cherokee Woman Died Of Shock After Being Slashed,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, Tuesday, August 8, 1950.
- ☛ “Cherokee Death Remains Unsolved,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, November 30, 1950.
- ☛ “Death of Cherokee Divorcee Is Unsolved,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, December 1, 1950.
- ☛ “Death Scene,” Cherokee Times and Chief, August 15, 1950.
- ☛ Des Moines City Directories.
- ☛ “Divorcee’s Body Found; to Quiz Man,” Waterloo Daily Courier, August 7, 1950.
- ☛ “Find Beaten Body of Cherokee Divorcee,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, August 7, 1950.
- ☛ “Find Battered Body of Neva Andrews Today,” Cherokee Times and Chief, August 7, 1950.
- ☛ “Find Woman’s Body in Street,” Mason City Globe Gazette, August 7, 1950.
- ☛ Ken Cosgrove, Personal Correspondence, June 21-22, 2013.
- ☛ “Mrs. Andrews Not Killed by Sex Maniac,” Mason City Globe Gazette, August 14, 1950.
- ☛ “No New Developments in Andrews Death Mystery,” Cherokee Times and Chief, August 10, 1950.
- ☛ “Release Lyman in Cherokee Mystery Death,” Mason City Globe Gazette, August 9, 1950.
- ☛ “Release Man Held In Cherokee Death,” Mount Pleasant News, August 9, 1950.
- ☛ “State Agents Check Slain Woman’s Clothes,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, August 18, 1950.
- ☛ “To Analyze Clothing Worn by Slain Woman,” Estherville Daily News, August 18, 1950.
- ☛ U.S. Census.