The Neighborhood Grocer: Murder of David R. Morris 1973

Murder Victim

David R. Morris
67-year-old Owner, Morris Foods
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Morris Foods
2550 Maury Street
Des Moines, Iowa
Polk County
February 22, 1973


By Nancy Bowers
Written August 2011

Morris Foods location as it looked in 2011 (Google Street View)

About 8:30 on Thursday evening, February 22, 1973, Celia Morris became worried when her husband Dave had not come home from Morris Foods, the grocery he owned at 2550 Maury Street in Des Moines and which usually closed at 6:00 p.m.

She phoned a neighborhood man, who agreed to check out the store. When he saw the grocery’s front door ajar, he phoned Des Moines Police.

Arriving officers found David “Dave” Morris, 67, lying dead behind the meat counter.

Deputy Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. R.C. Wooters performed an autopsy at Northwest Community Hospital which determined Morris was shot in the back of the head just minutes before his body was found.

Morris’s wallet was missing and an unknown amount of money was stolen from the cash register. Two empty .32 caliber cartridges were found at the crime scene.

from the Des Moines Register

Neighborhood resident Robert Braather of 2554 Maury Street said he was in the store in the late afternoon. He explained to Des Moines Register reporter Denise Caringer that Morris had a daily schedule:

“He always had the same routine. He locked the doors at 6 p.m., counted the money, then left, locking the door behind him and turning on the burglar alarm. The only times he opened that door after he locked it was if he knew who was out there and knew it was safe to let the person in.”

Braather thought it odd that Morris was shot over two hours after he usually closed the store. He and others living nearby wondered if the killer hid in the store until Morris closed up.

Neighbors to the grocery were shocked and saddened by the robbery-homicide. Wilbur Millhouse of 2559 Maury Street said:

“It was just a small neighborhood business. I knew Dave and can’t imagine why anyone would want to shoot him. He was so well-liked down here.

He was a good man and treated us all just fine. The kids also liked him. I’ve lived here since 1955 and, when I was little, he used to give me candy.”

Morris tombstone, photo by Katie Lou

Robert Braather echoed those sentiments, saying:

“We’re all pretty upset about it. He was such a kind man. I once went in and wrote him out a check for some beef, and he held it for 1½ months until I could cover it. That’s the kind of man he was.”

David R. Morris was born January 8, 1905 in Odessa, Russia, and married Celia Goldstein. At the time of his death, he lived with his wife and three children at 2115 46th Street in Des Moines. His funeral was held on February 25, 1973 at Dunn’s Funeral Home, and he was buried in Jewish Glendale 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.



  • ☛ “D.M. Grocer Found Slain In His Store,” by Denise Caringer, Des Moines Register, February 23, 1973.
  • ☛ “Deaths,” Des Moines Register, February 24, 1973.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.

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