On This Day

FEBRUARY

In early February of 1909, Italian coal miner Peter Ross was slashed, axed, shot, and thrown in the Des Moines River at Des Moines. His body was found floating in Ottumwa 85 miles to the southeast on March 6. He was at first incorrectly identified as missing Ottumwa resident Fred Loerche. Click here to read “Mistaken Identity.”
location of Ottumwa, Iowa

location of Ottumwa, Iowa

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On February 1, 1873, 43-year-old Cass County farmer Eli T. Coffin was found shot and hanging from a bridge over Turkey Creek five-and-a-half miles south of Atlantic. Locals believed he was murdered by vigilantes who held him responsible for the hypothermia and starvation death of his wife Mary Rosette Coffin only one month earlier. Click here to read “Two Coffins.”
location of Atlantic, Iowa

location of Atlantic, Iowa

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William D. Mullikin, a 57-year-old hotel owner and cattleman, was assassinated on the night of February 5, 1902 in his Montrose Township farm home in Lee County. He was shot through a window as he warmed himself by a stove, his wife sitting nearby reading a newspaper. Click here to read “Back to the Window.”
William Mullikin's tombstone

William Mullikin’s tombstone

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On the bitterly cold day of February 8, 1896, the body of 19-year-old high school student Maud Straw was discovered in the tiny home where she lived alone near the Union Depot in Sheldon. She had been raped and murdered about three days before. Click here to read “Poisoned and ‘Outraged.’”
Maud Straw

Maud Straw

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On February 8, 1964, the body of 58-year-old millworker Francis John Rafferty was discovered by his sister in the Dubuque home they shared. Bound with telephone cords and electrical tape, he had choked to death while his assailants ransacked and robbed the premises. Click here to read “Bound and Gagged.”
Francis Rafferty

Francis Rafferty

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Forty-four-year-old Italian-American Nicollo Vinceri was shot to death outside his home at 1518 S. 18th Street in Centerville on February 10, 1920 in what investigators believed was a Black Hand vendetta. Click here to read “Black Hand and the Coal Miner.”
location of Centerville, Iowa

location of Centerville, Iowa

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On February 12, 1897, Clara Belle “Belle” Sutliff, a 28-year-old teacher, died at her Oxford Mills home (near Oxford Junction) from complications of a botched illegal abortion performed by her married lover Dr. Lacy Bobo, who then spurned her. Click here to read “The ‘Criminal Operation.’”
location of Oxford Junction, Iowa

location of Oxford Junction, Iowa

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Juliette Pranal Thomas, 58, died of strychnine poisoning on February 12, 1871 at her farm home near Hazelton. Her husband Daniel, suspected of being romantically involved with a local widow, died in jail awaiting trial for the murder to which he would not confess despite a religious conversion. Click here to read “Taken to the Grave.”
location of Hazelton, Iowa

location of Hazelton, Iowa

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In the early morning hours of February 13, 1887, 47-year-old butter and egg commission dealer David T. Todd was found chloroformed to death in his place of business at 115 Walnut Street in Des Moines. Rumors swirled about whether Todd was murdered or had taken his own life. Click here to read “The Cooler.”
photo by Katie Lou

photo by Katie Lou

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On February 13, 1983, Melvin Royale “Mez” Adams — a 54-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force veteran — was found violently stabbed to death inside a small cabin off Cemetery Road just northeast of the Cliffland Bridge at the Des Moines River south of Agency in Wapello County. Click here to read “Forgotten and Unsolved.”
location of Agency, Iowa

location of Agency, Iowa

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Forty-eight-year-old Catherine Decora, a.k.a., Katherine DeKora, died on February 14, 1965 from a severe beating suffered after a drinking party at the Kenneth Taylor residence in Sioux City. Click here to read “Valentine Death.”
location of Sioux City, Iowa

location of Sioux City, Iowa

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David P. Sutton, Jr., a 43-year-old farmer, was shot in the head behind a commercial property on the east side of Ottumwa on February 15, 1893 and died without regaining consciousness. His death appeared to be the result of a drunken quarrel. Click here to read “Behind the Meat Market.”
location of Ottumwa, Iowa

location of Ottumwa, Iowa

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Clarence Raymond “Ray” Case, 62, was bludgeoned to death and robbed on February 16, 1961 at the Davenport bar he owned, Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn at 1646 W. Locust Avenue. Click here to read “A Daughter’s Quest for Justice.”
Clarence Case

Clarence Case

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Sarah Delphine Tracy, a reclusive 79-year-old scrubwoman with premonitions of her own death, was bludgeoned with an automobile crank in her home on the northern outskirts of Maquoketa on February 17, 1935 by robbers who were unable to locate cash she had secreted away. Click here to read “The Woman Who Bought Her Own Tombstone.”
photo by Pam and David Jindrich

photo by Pam and David Jindrich

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Thirty-two-year-old Lizzie Thomson Brownlie was shot to death through a kitchen window as she sat at her sewing machine on February 18, 1874 at the family farm in Winfield Township near Long Grove. Her 4-year-old son Andrew J. Brownlie, who was in her arms as the shots were fired, was also struck and died on February 21. Click here to read “Assassination.”
Lizzie Brownlie

Lizzie Brownlie

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Earl Paris, the 32-year-old night watchman at the Iowa Fiber Box Company on Commercial Alley in Keokuk, was shot to death while on duty on February 18, 1928 during a robbery. Click here to read “Death at the Box Company.”
photo by Larry and Jane

photo by Larry and Jane

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On February 22, 1973, David R. Morris, 67, was shot to death during a robbery of his grocery store at 2550 Maury Street in Des Moines. Click here to read “The Neighborhood Grocer.”
photo by Katie Lou

photo by Katie Lou

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The body of 17-year-old Addis Lyman was found on February 23, 1905 lying next to the Chicago and Northwestern railroad tracks near Carroll. He had been shot once in the head. Click here to read “The Boy on the Train.”
location of Carroll, Iowa

location of Carroll, Iowa

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Jeremiah Rummell “Jerry” Zollinger, 65, was shot to death by the gate to his yard while returning home from his Newton grocery store on February 23, 1895. Authorities speculated the Civil War veteran was the victim of a grudge from the time he was Jasper County Sheriff. Click here to read “Dead at the Gate.”
photo by  Richard Weston

photo by Richard Weston

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On February 24, 1900, notorious safe cracker, burglar, and silk thief John West, a.k.a “Joplin Red,” was found poisoned in his room at the Northwestern Hotel in Des Moines. Authorities believed he was murdered by criminal cronies for snitching. Click here to read “‘All Around Crook.’”
location of Des Moines, Iowa

location of Des Moines, Iowa

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Terry Lee Vanden Hull, 20, was last seen on February 24, 1975 near Collins in Story County, where he had been associating with known drug dealers. His decomposed body was found April 17, 1975 on the Colleen Shaffer farm two-and-a-half miles southeast of Maxwell; his throat had been slashed. Click here to read “Dying For Drugs.”
Terry Lee Vanden Hull

Terry Lee Vanden Hull

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Thirty-five-year-old bail bondsman and powerful Italian-American community leader Angelo Ferrari was shot to death in the garage of his home at 1066 42nd Street in Des Moines on February 26, 1922. His friends and family believed his death was related to a Black Hand vendetta. Click here to read “The King of Little Italy.”
photo by Katie Lou

photo by Katie Lou

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The body of 22-year-old Fremont County resident Clara N. Kelley Gray was found at the bottom of a railroad embankment along the East Nishnabotna River six miles south of Red Oak on February 28, 1898. No cause of death was apparent, but authorities suspected murder through morphine and exposure. Click here to read “Death of the Photographer’s Daughter.”

location of Red Oak, Iowa

location of Red Oak, Iowa

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