Bound and Gagged: Murder of Francis Rafferty 1964

Murder Victim

Francis John Rafferty
58-year-old Millworker
Carr, Adams and Collier Company
Cause of Death: Asphyxiation
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Rafferty Home
Dubuque, Iowa
Dubuque County
February 8, 1964


By Nancy Bowers
Written March 2010

location of Dubuque, Iowa

location of Dubuque, Iowa

Shortly after midnight on Saturday, February 8, 1964, Gretta S. Rafferty returned home from work and found the body of her 58-year-old brother Francis John Rafferty in the two-story house they shared in downtown Dubuque, Iowa.

Francis Rafferty

Rafferty’s hands, feet, and legs were bound with telephone wire ripped from the wall and his mouth was covered with electrical tape.

An autopsy determined that, although he could breathe through his nose, he choked on regurgitated food and died of asphyxiation at about 10:00 p.m.

The murder was investigated by Dubuque Police Captain Byrne O’Brien and detectives Gus Ferkers and William Johanningmeier. Richard Strasburg of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) assisted local authorities. Numerous suspects were questioned, but no one was arrested.

from the Carroll Daily Times Herald

Rafferty had been known to keep a large sum of cash hidden in the residence. However, he transferred that money to a bank after a November 1963 break-in. Captain O’Brien told the Waterloo Sunday Courier it was impossible to determine what was stolen during the robbery-murder:

“[The house] was already a mess, and so far we haven’t been able to determine if anything was taken. But there is every indication that robbery was the motive.”

The tape, wire, and other evidence from the crime scene were sent to the FBI Lab in Washington, D.C., for examination. Results were not made public.

☛ Francis John Rafferty’s Life ☚

photo by Cheryl Buelow

Francis John Rafferty was born December 22, 1905 in Dubuque, the first child in a second generation Irish Catholic family. His parents were John Francis and Sarah Boyle Rafferty. After his father died, John and his siblings Gretta, Lenora, and Roland lived with their mother on Locust Street.

The sisters and brother worked in the Dubuque packing plants and John was a laborer at Carr, Adams and Collier Company, one of the world’s largest woodworking businesses. Francis and Gretta never married and, as the other family members passed away or left home, remained together.

Francis Rafferty was buried in Mount Olivet, a Catholic cemetery in Dubuque.

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



  • ☛ “All About Iowa,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, February 8, 1964.
  • ☛ “Dubuque,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, February 8, 1964.
  • ☛ “Dubuque Man’s Bound Body Found,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, February 8, 1964.
  • ☛ “Find Body of Dubuque Man,” Oelwein Daily Register, February 8, 1964.
  • ☛ “Investigate Death of Dubuque Man,” Estherville Daily News, February 11, 1964.
  • ☛ Iowa Department of Public Safety Division of Criminal Investigation Cold Case Unit.
  • ☛ “Press Probe of Dubuque Death,” Muscatine Journal, February 11, 1964.
  • ☛ “Probe Death At Dubuque,” Des Moines Register, February 11, 1964.
  • ☛ “See Robbery Motive in Death,” Waterloo Sunday Courier, February 9, 1964.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.

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