Acting Oddly: Murder of Daniel Kelleher 1904

Murder Victim

Daniel Kelleher
28-year-old Railroad Worker
Burlington Northern Railroad
Cause of Death: Beaten
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Assaulted at Unknown Location
Died at Mercy Hospital
Des Moines, Iowa
Polk County
November 30, 1904


By Nancy Bowers
Written February 2014

location of Des Moines, Iowa

location of Des Moines, Iowa

Daniel Kelleher was a dedicated, longtime railroad man. He worked many years for the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway — popularly known as “the Omaha Road” — on the line between Sioux City, Iowa, and St. Paul, Minnesota.

By late 1904, he had become an employee of the Burlington Northern Railroad. On his stop-overs in Des Moines, Iowa, he stayed with family members.

On the last day of November in 1904, Kelleher was paid for a full month’s work.

That night when he returned to his family’s home, Kelleher was staggering and acting peculiarly. The family, perhaps thinking he got intoxicated after being paid his wages, was not particularly worried.

Postcard view of Mercy Hospital, where Daniel Kelleher died.

Postcard view of Mercy Hospital,
where Daniel Kelleher died.

Kelleher went to bed. Not long afterwards, his sister heard a load moan and went to check on him. She found him unconscious and summoned a physician.

The victim was transported to Mercy Hospital, where he was examined and found to have a skull fracture and, according to the Emmetsburg Democrat:

“A wound . . . on top of the head and long bruises [which] stretched in each direction from it.”

He died without regaining consciousness, so was unable to tell investigators who attacked him.

from the Semi Weekly Reporter

from the Semi-Weekly Reporter

A coroner’s jury ruled Daniel Kelleher’s death a homicide, the result of being struck with a blunt instrument. Because no money was found on his person, the motive was declared to be robbery.

Des Moines Police Detectives, having little to go on, could not locate a suspect in the homicide of Daniel Kelleher, and he never received justice.


  • ☛ “Detectives Say He Was Murdered,” Semi-Weekly Reporter, December 2, 1904.
  • ☛ “Murdered for Money,” Emmetsburg Democrat, December 7, 1904.
  • ☛ U.S. Census


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

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