Death at the Hardware Store: Murders of Harry Jones and William Laugesen 1925

Murder Victims

Harry H. Jones
32-year-old Laborer
Armour Packing Plant

William Laugesen
33-year-old Clerk
C.A. Larson Hardware Store

Cause of Deaths: Gunshots
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

C.A. Larson Hardware Store
1102 4th Street
Sioux City, Iowa
Woodbury County
August 22, 1925


By Nancy Bowers
Written June 2011

location of Sioux City, Iowa

location of Sioux City, Iowa

In 1925, 32-year-old Sioux City resident Harry H. Jones was building a house at 1416 Lansdown Avenue for his wife and five children. The walls and roof were in place, and the family lived there while it was finished around them.

Before he went to his 7:00 a.m. shift at Armour Packing Plant on Saturday, August 22, 1925, Jones stopped by C.A. Larson Hardware at 1102 4th Street to purchase items for the home construction.

At the hardware store, 33-year-old clerk William Laugesen was just opening up.

William Laugesen (courtesy Sioux City Journal)

After Jones picked out and paid for his items, Laugesen got change from a bolt box, where $200 was kept to start the day’s business.

At that moment, two armed men entered the back door and demanded money.

Then, for whatever reason — resistance by Jones and Laugesen or a desire to eliminate witnesses — the robbers pulled their triggers, one firing a .25 caliber bullet, the other a .22 caliber.

Jones and Laugesen, both shot in the head, fell to the floor. The robbers emptied the till, left the drawer open, and fled.

Harry Jones (courtesy Sioux City Journal)

Shortly afterwards, hardware store co-owner C.A. Larson unlocked the front door and entered the building.

He saw the rear door was open and went to check. At the back of the room, he discovered two men lying unconscious in a pool of blood. Larson recognized his employee Laugesen but did not know who Jones was.

Larson summoned help. Both wounded men were taken to St. Joseph’s Hospital, where Laugesen died within minutes and Jones passed away shortly afterwards.

At first, it was believed Jones was a hold-up man and some newspapers ran headlines to that effect; scenarios were spun out that both men were killed by Jones’s fellow robber.

Quickly, that theory was ruled out.

In addition to telling detectives his story about discovering the shootings, Larson privately met with City Councilman and Commissioner of Public Safety Charles Wilcox and Woodbury County Sheriff Paul Beardsley.

☛ Tips Ignored, Botched Investigation? ☚

Crowds gathered outside the hardware store as word spread about the shootings (courtesy Sioux City Journal).

The morning of the murder, a former Sioux City Police officer was standing on lower Fourth Street across from the hardware store and heard two gun shots. He glanced at his watch; it was 7:03.

The former policeman told the Sioux City Journal:

“I saw two men walk out of the alley which runs past the rear door of the store.

Of course I suspected foul play. The two men crossed Fourth Street and started to walk westward. I followed them as far west as Pierce Street, where they turned northward. They went as far as the corner of Sixth and Pierce streets, where I left them and went to the police station to report the incident.

After walking three blocks to police headquarters, I informed the detectives of what I knew. I do not know why the fellows were not taken. I can’t figure it out.”

The former officer described what he saw to a motorcycle cop, who shrugged his shoulders and replied he could do nothing about it.

The former officer did not recognize the men but said he could identify them if they were found. The Sioux City police, however, did not try to locate them.

☛ Suspicious Strangers ☚

Hubert Case of 2033 Melrose Avenue in Sioux City, an employee of Handford Creamery Company, also had a story to tell. He encountered two men at 8:20 on the morning of the murder.

He told the Sioux City Journal:

“I was driving northward, just out of James [Iowa], at a rather slow rate of speed. The Northwestern tracks run along the south side of the road, and on looking towards the tracks I noticed the head and shoulders of a man protruding from the opposite side of the grade.

He got up, crossed the tracks and stepped into the road, holding out his hand. Then his companion appeared . . . . I stopped and he asked me where I was going.

I told him, ‘up the line’ and he said, ‘so are we.’

They were dressed in light summer suits, but their clothes were badly out of press and they had the appearance of having knocked about considerable within the last few days. They were dirty and looked like they might be beating their way.

One man was about 28 or 30 years old and the other was 24 or so. The older man sat in the rear seat and the younger man climbed in front with me. As he stepped into the car the door caught his coat and revealed the handle of a revolver protruding from his hip pocket.”

Case said the pair were not talkative, although the man in front told him their car was stolen in Sioux City and they were trying to get home to Sioux Falls. The man in back shook his head forcefully for silence and neither talked after that.

The two men wanted to ride to Maurice, Iowa, with Case. When he said it was not on the road to Sioux Falls, one barked at him, “We know where we are going.” They got out of Case’s car in Maurice about 9:30 a.m.

When he returned to Sioux City, Case heard about the murders from his wife, and he thought immediately of the strange men.

Case drove downtown and found Patrolman N.T. Johannsen, who encouraged him to tell Police Chief Gustaf A. Danielson about the men. Case met with Danielson and Detective Harry Luce about 12:30 that afternoon.

However, Sioux City detectives did not follow up on this tip either.

☛ Public Outrage Over Inadequate Policing ☚

from the Oskaloosa Daily Herald

from the Oskaloosa Daily Herald

The public was incensed that two of the city’s citizens — both hard-working family men — could be murdered so brazenly without anything being done to apprehend the killers.

Public sentiment led the Sioux City Journal to investigate how police manpower was used. The newspaper pored over records and wrote about what they learned.

The facts were both stark and alarming:

  • ☛ At the time of the robbery-murder, there were no patrolmen on duty in the entire city.
  • ☛ Patrols were not stepped up after the murder.
  • ☛ There were only 8 beat cops in total for the entire city.
  • ☛ One patrol officer’s only beat during the day was the waiting room and platform of the passenger train station.
  • ☛ However, there were 33 detectives — half working during the day, half at night — to investigate and solve “underworld crime,” which in 1925 meant bootlegging activities.

The Journal indignantly pointed out:

“While the city slept last night — with more than 75,000 persons to be guarded and millions of dollars worth of property to be protected, Chief of Police Joe Young detailed but eight patrolmen to walk beats.”

☛ A Citizen Knows More Than the Police ☚

To add further insult, a private citizen gathered details of the crime and brought them to the newspaper less than an hour after the men were shot.

J.H. Brosnan of 1121 Fourth Street won $5 from the Sioux City Journal for his information in the newspaper’s weekly News Tip Contest. In naming him the winner, the Journal wrote:

“Mr. Brosnan was right on the job and after gathering a few of the most important facts, he brought the information to the Journal Editorial rooms, reaching there before 8:00 a.m.”

☛ Rumors of a Shake-Up ☚

The Laugesen-Jones murders were the final straw for the public, which was weary of robberies, holdups, and other crimes going uninvestigated and unsolved in Sioux City.

Reports circulated that resignations would be demanded. Some prominent officers were said to be leaving in protest of the shoddy investigation methods that failed to solve crimes.

The Sioux City Journal wrote:

“Persons in close touch with matters in the police department declared that there were many efficient officers on the force, but that their hands were tied by petty jealousies, red tape, and censorship.”

☛ Community Helps Out; Reward is Offered ☚

Governor John Hammill offered a $500 reward in the case (State of Iowa)

Governor John Hammill offered a reward in the case (State of Iowa)

The Cosmopolitan Club offered $100 for information about the double murder. Club President W.A. Dutton hoped that other Sioux City service clubs would follow suit so that several thousand dollars could be raised to induce someone to come forward with information.

Real estate agent and club member John Olson told the Journal:

“If we can show by our action that we want crime stopped in Sioux City and if the other service clubs will do the same, perhaps the detectives will realize that it is against the wishes of the public to permit the commission of such crimes as the murder in the Larson store. Maybe they will get busy and do something.”

from the Davenport Democrat And Leader

from the Davenport Democrat And Leader

The Ladies Aid Society of Whitfield Methodist Episcopal church collected $22 for Jones’s widow.

In addition, Attorney Carlos Glotz offered free legal services to help Mrs. Jones procure a widow’s pension — $2.50 a week per child amounting to $12.50 a week — saying, “Any attorney in the city would be glad to aid her and I am sure that she will have no difficulty in finding help.”

Feeling pressure about the way the case was handled, Woodbury County Sheriff Paul T. Beardsley and County Attorney Ole T. Naglestad urged Iowa Governor John Hammill to offer a reward. The state then put up $500 for information.

Despite the rewards and tips, the crime was never solved.

☛ William Laugesen’s Life ☚

William Laugesen was born in Sioux City on December 26, 1891, the only child of Danish immigrants Mette Hertzum and Hans Peter Laugesen.

He was survived by his mother, his wife Alice, and a 10-year-old son, Robert William Laugesen. Alice Laugesen was pregnant with their second child at the time of his murder.

Laugesen lived in Sioux City his entire life and worked at A.C. Larson Hardware for a year and a half before his murder. He and his family resided at 2419 South Cedar Street.

☛ Harry H. Jones’s Life ☚

Harry H. Jones was born in 1893 in Hawarden, Iowa. When his mother died in 1896, Jones’s one-year-old brother Herbert was adopted by the Osterday family and took their name.

Harry’s father moved him to Castana, Iowa; when Harry was 10, he and his father disappeared from that community.

Harry Jones served in the American Army during WWI. While in France, he was approached by fellow soldier Levi Johnson, formerly of Hawarden, who greeted him as “Herbert.”

The men sorted out that Harry looked so much like his brother Herbert Osterday that Johnson mistook him for his sibling.

That was the first step in bringing the long-separated brothers together. Harry reunited with his family and others in Hawarden who had known him as a little boy.

At the time of his murder, Harry H. Jones was employed by the Armour Packing Plant in Sioux City.

He married Rachel O. Newman and they had five children: Louisa, 13; Harry, Jr., 8; Zola, 6; Beryl, 5; and Marjorie, 3. Jones was also survived by his brothers John Jones and Herbert Osterday, as well as sisters Mrs. Bert Smith, Mrs. Peter Shriner, and Mrs. Earl Sprague.

Funeral services were held in Sioux City, and Jones was buried in the Floyd 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.



  • ☛ “Clerk and Hold Up Man Found Dead,” Oelwein Daily Register, August 22, 1925.
  • ☛ “Double Murder Still Mystery,” Sioux City Journal, August 23, 1925.
  • ☛ “A Maze Of Mystery,” Waterloo Evening Courier, August 22, 1925.
  • ☛ “Murder Story Tip Wins Prize,” Sioux City Journal, August 25, 1925.
  • ☛ “Murdered In Sioux City,” Hawarden Independent, August 27, 1925.
  • ☛ “No Clues For Double Murder,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 22, 1925.
  • ☛ “Offers Aid To Widow In Getting Pension,” Sioux City Journal, August 26, 1925.
  • ☛ “Police Seek Clues as Two Victims of Holdup Are Buried,” Waterloo Evening Courier, August 24, 1925.
  • ☛ “Reward Offered By Governor For Double Slayer,” Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 27, 1925.
  • ☛ Rod Wingfield, Personal Correspondence, May 2017.
  • ☛ “Say Murder Clews Are Not Followed Up,” Sioux City Journal, August 26, 1925.
  • ☛ “Sees 2 Men Leave Scene Of Killings,” Sioux City Journal, August 27, 1925.
  • ☛ “Service Club Offers Reward For Slayer,” Sioux City Journal, August 28, 1925.
  • ☛ “Two Men Dead at Sioux City, Oskaloosa Daily Herald, August 22, 1925.
  • ☛ “Two Shot In Sioux City,” Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 27, 1925.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ “Were Shot to Death in Store and Place Was Robbed of $200,” Davenport Democrat and Leader, August 28, 1925.
  • ☛ “Women Give Purse to Widow Bandit Victim,” Sioux City Journal, August 29, 1925.

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