Clarence Raymond “Ray” Case
Owner, Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn
62-year-old WWI Veteran
Cause of Death: Bludgeoned
Murder Scene and Date
Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn
1646 W. Locust Avenue
February 16, 1961
By Nancy Bowers
Written April 2010
Wednesday, February 15, 1961 was a good day for a trip to shake off the mid-winter doldrums that had settled over Davenport, Iowa. It was clear and mild with temperatures hovering between 30 and 40 before dropping that night.
Sixty-two-year-old Clarence Raymond “Ray” Case decided to visit his brother Frank in his hometown of Point Byron, Illinois, across the Mississippi River 14 miles to the northeast in Rock Island County. His daughter Betty Case Gibbs and her 2-year-old son Donny accompanied him.
The three left in Ray’s car from behind Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn at 1646 W. Locust Avenue in the Five Points area of northwest Davenport. The neighborhood tavern was owned and operated by Ray and his 56-year-old wife, Edith, who stayed behind to keep the business open.
The trio returned to Davenport around 4:00 p.m. and Ray worked alongside Edith through the evening. Edith didn’t drive, so she asked Betty to take her home at 9:15. Ray told them he had his cleanup work done and would be home shortly.
Using Ray’s car, Betty drove her mother to the Case residence at 2615 Arlington Avenue about 10 minutes away. Betty returned her dad’s vehicle to the parking lot behind the building, went into the rear of the bar, and hung the car keys on a hook. She saw that the bar was still busy, with five men drinking and socializing. It was 9:45 p.m. when she left to walk to her Davie Street home three blocks away.
☛ Horrible Discovery ☚
When Edith Case woke up on Thursday morning, February 16, Ray was not home. She wasn’t particularly worried because he sometimes slept at the bar and kept a cot made up in the basement for such occasions.
Edith phoned the bar, knowing that Ray usually opened up between 6:30 and 7:00 a.m., but no one answered. She continued calling as the morning went on and then phoned her daughter Betty at 8:40 with her worries. Edith, who depended on public transportation, said she would travel to the tavern by bus but had an errand to run first and left home about 9:15.
Betty continued to phone the tavern, hoping her father would answer. When someone finally picked up, there was an unfamiliar voice on the other end. Betty asked to speak to her father, and the man—a police officer—bluntly told her, “Your father is dead.” Betty walked to the bar, but the Davenport Police refused to let her in to see her dad or the crime scene.
Ray’s body was discovered at 10:30 by customer William Claussen when he stopped by for his regular morning visit with Ray. The back door was unlocked. As he walked into the tavern, he saw Ray sprawled on the floor with blood pooled around him. Claussen checked the front door and found it locked. He ran out the back door and notified Clair Murphy, who ran a store next door, and Murphy phoned police.
Authorities could see that Ray had been seated at a table with his back to the rear entrance. Someone had crept in — it would’ve been easy as Ray was extremely hard of hearing — and struck him on the head.
There were blood and bits of hair and skin on the table and marks showed that Ray’s head had slumped onto it before he slid off his seat onto the floor. The chair fell over and his right foot hooked on a rung.
Scott County Medical Examiner T.J. Crowley ruled Ray Cases’s head was fractured by three blows, any one of which would have caused death. The head wounds — one in the back and U-shaped ones on either side — were judged to be caused by a weapon that was neither round nor flat and had a sharp edge.
The Case family knew Ray’s closing routine well and things looked very off to them. After customers left, he always locked the back door first and then the front before counting and locking up the money. Yet, the back door was open.
He always rang up “no sale” on the register, removed the tape, and stored it in a cigar box. But there was a ten cent sale rung up with the tape still in the machine.
Ray usually kept out 50 dollars for start-up the next day, put it in a paper bag, and placed it in the safe. Instead, the safe was unlocked and contained only a small amount of change.
A check of the premises did not locate the money anywhere else, even though part-time janitor Norman Paulsen said Ray sometimes hid the paper bag in the basement.
Ray always turned off the light by the safe when he closed and did not turn it on during the day, yet it was still burning.
And his basement bed had not been slept in.
☛ Investigators Take Over ☚
Police padlocked the tavern. Davenport Police Captain Elmer Peterson told a newspaper:
“We’re going to shake down that tavern from top to bottom in an effort to come up with . . . clues.”
To this end, Capt. Peterson formed a three-man squad of detectives — John Ackerman, Elmer Clauusen, and Forrest Ashcraft — to work the case around the clock.
Investigators found latent fingerprints, blood in a phone booth, and — most significantly — a broken seat that had been yanked off the toilet in the restroom. They believed this could have been the weapon that left U-shaped wounds on Ray’s head.
Investigators also canvassed the neighborhood and nearby shops, asking about anything unusual. The tavern sat in a block that housed Jacobs Hardware and Appliance, Murphy’s Variety Store, the Spudnut Shop, the Scott County Seed Store, an empty lot, and a brick building with a paint store and two apartments above (one lived in by the woman who owned the whole block). Behind the paint store was Gonzo’s Restaurant and three attached garages.
Today, the site is home to a large Walgreens.
Doughnut store waitress Jane Sweet told police she heard banging noises coming from the tavern when she arrived at work about 5:45 that morning. A blood-stained soft drink bottle was found near a school a few blocks away.
There was mention of a woman — and possibly a man — in a motor vehicle with “big fins” behind the tavern that night. It was learned Ray talked on the telephone in the early morning with a female acquaintance in Muscatine, but there was no connection drawn between that and the murder.
Authorities asked anyone who had been in the tavern on Wednesday night to come forward with information. Betty could name the people present when she last saw her father, and they all checked out. The last person was believed to have left about 12:30 a.m.
For elimination purposes, the investigators took photographs and fingerprints of everyone who was in the tavern that night, including Ray’s wife Edith. A blood-stained article of clothing was sent to the FBI Lab in Washington for analysis.
Richard Holcomb, Criminology Professor at the University of Iowa, conducted lie detector tests on about 10 people, including the janitor Norman Paulsen. Paulsen was focused on because Edith Case had bought his residence at 2306 Pacific Street for back payments and some thought there might be ill feelings. However, Paulsen and all the others were cleared.
The tavern was closed for several months until Edith resumed running it.
Betty and her family left Davenport the same year as the murder and lived in Arizona until 1967, when they returned and Betty moved back to the residence she lived in on Davie Street before the murder.
☛ Searching for Answers ☚
Betty Case Gibbs is a model for victim advocacy. She is tireless in trying to learn the facts of her father’s murder. She asked Davenport Police to share the case files with her and repeatedly met with refusal. She worked with Ronald L. Carlson — who held the title John Byrd Martin Professor of Law at the University of Georgia — to gain access to the records through the Freedom of Information Act; that has proved unsuccessful.
She has repeatedly visited Davenport city lawyers and County Attorney staff, without results. She has written Letters to the Editor. She has appeared at Order Hour asking a judge to allow her to see the files.
Betty even consulted a psychic who provided the name of a suspect — a Davenport man who hanged himself not long after Ray’s murder.
Betty welcomes ANY help in searching for answers and information.
☛ Clarence Case’s Life ☚
Clarence Raymond “Ray” Case was born September 19, 1898 in Port Byron, Illinois, to Emma Williams and Ambrose Case. He had six brothers – Clyde Wilbur Case, Harry Edward Case, Albert Case, LeRoy Case, Frank Alvin Case, and William Wright Case. Only Frank and Clyde survived him.
In Davenport in 1929, he married Edith Heston and they had two daughters, Edna Case Lowry Williams — who lived in Anaheim, California, at the time of his death — and Betty Ann Case Gibbs. He had several grandchildren when he passed away.
Ray was a Veteran of WWI and a proud member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. He was a welder by trade, working 27 years at Zimmerman Steel Company in Bettendorf and then at French and Hecht Company in Davenport. He tended bar part-time at Don’s Tavern in Davenport, which led to opening his own bar.
Services were held at McGinnis Chapel in Bettendorf and Ray was buried at Davenport Memorial Park 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.
- ☛ “3-Man Squad Will Work on Slaying,” The Daily Times, February 20, 1961.
- ☛ “Freedom of Information Act,” Letter to the Editor, Betty A. Case Gibbs, July 8, 1998.
- ☛ “It Happened Today,” Ames Daily Tribune, February 17, 1961.
- ☛ Personal Correspondence, Betty A. Case Gibbs to Ronald L. Carlson, July 14, 1993.
- ☛ Personal Correspondence, Ronald L. Carlson to Betty A. Case Gibbs, July 21, 1994.
- ☛ Personal Correspondence, Ronald L. Carlson to Scott County Attorney William E. Davis, January 25, 1995.
- ☛ “Slain Tavern Owner Knew Local Woman,” Muscatine Journal, March 28, 1961.
- ☛ To question several in Iowan’s death,” Mason City Gazette, February 17, 1961.
- ☛ U.S. Census.
Unattributed newspaper clippings from the personal scrapbook of Betty A. Case Gibbs:
- ☛ “Case Death Probers Conduct Lie Tests”
- ☛ “Case Funeral To Be Held On Saturday”
- ☛ “Continue Probe of Slaying Of Davenport Tavern Man”
- ☛ “Davenporter Slain; Search for Motive”
- ☛ “FBI Crime Lab Checks Article In Case Murder” (March 17, 1961)
- ☛ “Officials Check Phone Call in Case Slaying”
- ☛ “Pierce: Privacy rights are a factor in police-records case”
- ☛ “Police Check Similarity In Two Davenport Slayings”
- ☛ “Police Find New Items In Murder” (February 24, 1961)
- ☛ “Police Plan Case Murder Lie Tests” (July 17, 1961)
- ☛ “Police Set Additional Lie Tests in Slaying”