The Gruff Good Man: Murder of Ewald Bandixen 1974

Murder Victim

Ewald Emil Bandixen, Jr.
70-year-old Service Station Owner
1904-1974

Murder Scene and Date

Bandixen Service Station
U.S. Highway 67
Folletts, Iowa
Clinton County
October 28, 1974
Cause of Death: Gunshot

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By Nancy Bowers
Written February 2010

Ewald Bandixen in his WWII uniform

In 1931, Ewald Emil “Ed” Bandixen opened a service station a mile south of Folletts on U.S. Highway 67 not far from where the Wapsipinicon River merges with the Mississippi. He sold gas, auto parts, and miscellaneous items like pop and candy. By 1974, the 70-year-old Bandixen had been in business at the same spot for 43 years.

Ed Bandixen had a gruff exterior that masked the proverbial heart of gold and everyone in the town of 150 knew and liked him. He never married and for years shared an apartment behind the service station with his bachelor brother Johannes.

The Bandixen brothers kept a flock of chickens and tended a garden, generously giving away produce to anyone who stopped by.

Because Bandixen’s business was near the river, it became a gathering spot for kids who liked to fish.

Everyone in Folletts, an unincorporated town of 150, knew Ewald as a good, kind man and cared deeply for him. Residents checked on his welfare when the river rose every spring and made sure he was safe.

The owner of local business said of him:

“He must have fixed nearly every kid’s bicycle in town at one time or another.”

☛ Armed Robbery and Murder ☚

BCI agents working the Bandixen crime scene (from the Quad City Times, courtesy David Jindrich).

On Sunday, October 27, 1974, Bandixen’s station was the only one open in the area. Ed pumped a lot of gas that day and took in a good deal of money, about $500 according to the estimates of relatives.

Mr. Porter, a friend of Ed Bandixen, told Des Moines Register reporter James Ney about seeing him the morning of the crime and said it seemed like just another business day at the tidy, well-kept station:

“I went down there about 9 a.m. to get my eggs. He was perfectly all right — the same old boy he always was. He told me he had a good weekend, sold a lot of gas.”

Two hours later, however, Delbert Dierks of Low Moor went inside to pay for gas and discovered Bandixen lying behind the counter — shot once in the head.

Bandixen was dead on arrival at Jane Lamb Hospital in Clinton at about 12:30 p.m. Clinton County Coroner A.A. Young determined time of death corresponded to the two hours between the friend’s visit and the discovery of the body.

Ewald Bandixen’s brother George assists a BCI agent (from the Quad City Times, courtesy David Jindrich).

The station showed no signs of a struggle, although the register was placed on the counter top with the cash drawer open.

It looked like an armed robbery, but some checks and cash were left in the drawer and there was money in Bandixen’s pockets.

His family said Ed placed his cash in bags that he hid around the station. That practice made determining the exact amount stolen very difficult.

Clinton County Sheriff Gary Mulholland and the Iowa Highway Patrol were assisted in the investigation by the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation. BCI Director Craig Beek assigned seven state agents to work the case and told the Register:

“We have some indications that something may have scared the guy off, which may account for his leaving the money behind.”

Despite the intensive investigation and nearly 50 tips and calls, no one was charged with the robbery-murder and the case was never solved.

☛ Ewald Bandixen’s Life ☚

photo from Iowa Gravestone Photo Project

Ewald Emil “Ed” Bandixen, Jr. was born January 4, 1904 in Clinton County to Iowa native Ella Hinricks and German immigrant Ewald Emil Bandixen, Sr. He had seven siblings: Johannes, George F. August M., Elsa, Walter Martin, Benjamin, and Rosetta.

He opened his Folletts service station in 1931. On October 16, 1942, Bandixen enlisted in the the Army Air Forces and served through the end of WWII.

Funeral services were held at 1:00 p.m. on October 31 at the McGinnis Funeral Home in Dewitt, Iowa; and Ed Bandixen was buried with a veteran’s tombstone in Shaffton Cemetery alongside family members.

☛ Community Grief ☚

Henry Mumm, owner of the Folletts General Store, put out a memorial donation box for Bandixen’s funeral. He told the Des Moines Register:

“He sure will be missed by the kids. Many of [them] have been dropping coins into the box to buy flowers.”

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

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☛ David Jindrich contributed special research and correspondence to this article. ☚

References

  • ☛ “Ask public help in shooting case,” Ames Daily Tribune, October 30, 1974.
  • ☛ “Appeal made,” Muscatine Journal, October 30, 1974.
  • ☛ “Briefly,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, October 29, 1974.
  • ☛ “Holdup, Murder,” by Williams Harms, Quad City Times, October 29, 1974.
  • ☛ Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation Cold Case Unit.
  • ☛ “Iowan Found Shot to Death,” Des Moines Register, October 29, 1974.
  • ☛ “Man Killed,” Muscatine Journal, October 29, 1974.
  • ☛ “Officers Seek Information,” Des Moines Register, October 30, 1974.
  • ☛ “Quiet Iowa Town Loses Friend in Slaying,” by James Ney, Des Moines Register, October 31, 1974.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010.

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