“Maniac” in the Drugstore: Murder of Lucille Bacher 1955

Murder Victim

Lucille Lenore Bacher
43-year-old Owner
Lincoln Avenue Pharmacy
Cause of Death: Bludgeoned, Throat Slashed
Motive: Robbery

Murder Scene and Date

Lincoln Avenue Pharmacy
South Lincoln & Redwood avenues
Davenport, Iowa
Scott County
November 29, 1955


By Nancy Bowers
Written April 2010

location of Davenport, Iowa

location of Davenport, Iowa

Tuesday, November 29, 1955 — five days after Thanksgiving — was a typical early winter day in Davenport. Clouds gathered and covered the sun by noon and the humidity and wind rose steadily. It began snowing about 1:30 p.m.

Forty-three-year-old Lucille Bacher was alone in the Lincoln Avenue Pharmacy at the southeast corner of South Lincoln Avenue and Redwood Avenue that she and her husband Henry, 59, owned. He was eating lunch in the apartment they lived in above their business.

About 1:30, regular customer George Conklin stopped for tobacco and, as he left, saw a man get out of an older model car and walk towards the drug store.

from the Cedar Rapids Gazette

At 2:00, Henry Bacher returned to the pharmacy to tell Lucille he was going to take their car in for repairs and heard her moaning in the prescription room at the rear. As he rushed towards her, a man with a gun and knife came from behind a counter and ordered Henry to open the cash register and then to crawl on his hands and knees to a shelf of adhesive tape.

The man bound Henry and pistol-whipped him, breaking his glasses and knocking off his hat. A struggle between the two violently moved counters and scattered merchandise onto the floor. During the fight, Henry was slashed on his throat, hands, and face.

The robber fled with 40 dollars from the register and 54 dollars from Henry Bacher’s wallet. His footprints, bloody from the gore inside, led away from the store in the new-fallen snow.

Henry Bacher receiving a transfusion at Mercy Hospital (Assosicated Press wire photo from the Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette).

Despite grave wounds, Henry freed himself and stumbled to the front door. From her dry cleaning shop across the street, Doris Rehder saw him — almost unrecognizable from the blood—and phoned police.

Inside Lucille Bacher lay dead in her own blood. Her hands were tied with sash cord, her feet were bound with twine from the store, and she was gagged with her neck scarf. She had been struck in the right temple with a hammer or hatchet and her throat was slashed.

Henry Bacher was rushed to the hospital in critical condition, although he was able to describe his attacker as a man of about 50 with gray hair and wearing a khaki shirt and trousers with a Navy pea coat and hunting cap. He was 5’7″ and weighed about 170. He described the suspect as calm and methodical.

The blood-stained knife used in the murder was found on the roof of a building five blocks from the pharmacy by a ultility company worker working on a pole.

☛ Search for a “Maniac” ☚

In a search for the killer — termed a “maniac” by the Mason City Globe-Gazette — Davenport Police set up roadblocks, scoured train and bus depots, canvassed taverns, and checked out shoddy rooming houses and transient camps. Several men arrested for public intoxication were cleared by alibis. Two men with blood on their clothes were questioned and released when they provided satisfactory explanations — one was injured when thrown out of a bar and another was wounded at his railroad job.

Sketch of assailant based on Bacher’s description (from the Cedar Rapids Gazette).

A bloody cap similar to the one worn by the Bachers’ attacker was found near a Moline, Illinois, John Deere Plant loading dock, but it was learned that a worker who wore it while hunting game had discarded it. The FBI assisted with analyzing blood samples and fingerprints.

Several men were brought to Henry Bacher’s Mercy Hospital room, where he ruled them out as his attacker. He looked at mug shots, but the person he selected could not be located. Bacher also described a man who hung around the pharmacy begging money and tobacco. Henry was not told of Lucille’s death until he was upgraded to serious condition.

Although no drugs were taken in the robbery because they were locked in a cabinet, authorities believed there was a narcotics connection and sought out all known addicts or those who had recently begged or tried to buy “pep pills” and other prescription drugs from pharmacies and local physicians.

Related Attack? ☚

from the Mason City Globe-Gazette

Two days after Lucille Bacher’s murder, an 83-year-old disabled woman was murdered in the Kansas City, Kansas, drugstore she operated. The cash register was robbed and she was beaten and slashed. The similarities between the two cases interested authorities in both jurisdictions.

Officials also considered a link to the November 27th disappearance of Harold Smith, 30, and his 35-year-old wife Arlene from their blood-spattered Lebanon, Illinois, home. However, within two weeks, a man named Fillmore Young confessed to those murders and led police to the bodies.

A $200 reward was offered for information by the Scott County Druggists Association.

Law enforcement continued to work the homicide case in the years following, but no one was ever charged with the murder of Lucille Bacher and the assault on her husband Henry.

☛ Memories and Clues ☚

Google Street View of the Bacher crime scene

Google Street View of the Bacher crime scene

The Lucille Bacher case caused great distress among neighborhood residents, some of whom today as adults still vividly recall the horrible details of the homicide that frightened them as children.

Davenport resident Barbara Shinbori, a grammar school student at the time of the crime, wrote to me in December of 2014:

“We heard lots of stories the next day from classmates and neighbors who saw a trail of blood in their backyards. It was scary stuff for grade school kids.

I have always been intrigued by the crime and every time we have a class reunion, it always comes up in conversation. . . .

This summer [2014] while with classmates it came up again; and a woman I have known since childhood, turned to me and said: ‘I know who did that.’

I was stunned by this and asked her more about it. She said it was an uncle [in her own family]. . . . She said the family never reported it but they said he ran to a relative’s house not far away, got rid of the bloody clothes and told them to burn the evidence. He apparently told them what he had done, and out the door he went. She said for years the family would talk about it, and they said he had mental issues from a blow to his head, and always had a bad temper.”

On May 30, 2017, I received a communication from Cynthia Vance Bremhorst, who shared her memories of the Bacher tragedy. She wrote:

“I grew up on the corner of Lincoln Avenue and Jackson Avenue in Davenport, about 2 blocks from the Bacher drugstore.

I’m 70 now, but remember this crime. I have always wondered about it.

At almost the end of my block lived a sister and brother. I think her name was Tilley and his name was Fritz.

We neighborhood children were always frightened of Fritz. He was angry all the time and screamed at us as we were playing across the street. He wore a Navy Pea jacket. The rumors were he had a knife and would threaten with it. I never saw that. He would always take the bus, he didn’t have a car that I knew of.

After the murder we never saw Fritz again.

We assumed the footprints in the snow were from Fritz walking away.

Just giving you another part of the story. Thanks for listening.”

☛ Lucille and Henry Bacher ☚

Lucille and Henry Bacher (from the Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette)

Lucille Lenore Haddix was born October 13, 1912 in Burlington, Iowa, to Minnie S. Seeley and Edward D. Haddix. She married druggist Henry C. Bacher in Freeport, Illinois, on October 4, 1936. The couple had no children.

Shortly after their marriage, the Bachers bought the Lincoln Pharmacy, a neighborhood drugstore on the west side of Davenport. They had recently talked of selling the store. It was closed for a time after the murder/robbery but a nephew reopened it. Henry Bacher moved to Ottumwa to work in a pharmacy there.

photo by pmfrench

Services for Lucille Bacher were held at McGinnis Funeral Home in Davenport on Thursday, December 1. Her body was taken to Burlington for services the next day at Wallen’s Chapel, and she was buried in Aspen Grove Cemetery.

Lucille Bacher was survived by her mother and a sister, Edna L. Haddix Wenicke. Her father and a brother, Willis R. Haddix, preceded her in death. In the week following her daughter’s death, Minnie Haddix suffered a heart attack from the stress and was hospitalized.

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


☛ David Jindrich contributed special research and correspondence to this article. ☚


  • ☛ “230 Tips and Two Years Later Hunt Continues For Killer of Davenport Druggist’s Wife,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 29, 1957.
  • ☛ “Bacher Describes His Assailant As Extremely Calm,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 8, 1955.
  • ☛ “Bandit Kills Former Burlington Woman,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette , November 30, 1955.
  • ☛ Barbara Shinbori, Personal Correspondence, December 2014.
  • ☛ Bill Weichman, Personal Correspondence 2010.
  • ☛ “Bloodstained Cap Is Clue In Davenport Holdup Murder,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, December 1, 1955.
  • ☛ Cynthia Vance Bremhorst, Personal Communications, May 30, 2017 and June 2, 2017.
  • ☛ “Davenport Holdup Victim to View Slaying Suspects: Possible Link With Missing Illinois Couple,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, November 30, 1955.
  • ☛ “Davenport Inquest Is Recessed,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette , December 28, 1955.
  • ☛ “Find First Key Clue In Killing,” Estherville Daily News, December 1, 1955.
  • ☛ “Five Iowa Murders Are Still Unsolved,” Estherville Daily News, October 13, 1958.
  • ☛ “Local Deaths,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, December 1, 1955.
  • ☛ “Maniac Killer Being Sought: Woman at Davenport Is Victim,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 30, 1955.
  • ☛ “Maniac Sought in Davenport Slaying: Pharmacy Scene of Attacks,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, November 30, 1955.
  • ☛ “New Evidence,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 28, 1955.
  • ☛ “’New Evidence’ In Davenport Slaying,” Mt. Pleasant News, December 28, 1955.
  • ☛ “Police Nab 2 Suspects in Murder Case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 1, 1955.
  • ☛ “Police Turn Attention to Kansas City,” Estherville Daily News, December 2, 1955.
  • ☛ “Search For Brutal Killer Of Woman At Davenport,” Oelwein Daily Register, November 30, 1955.
  • ☛ “See Possible Link Between Iowa, Kansas City Drugstore Slayings,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, December 2, 1955.
  • ☛ “Study Iowa, Kansas Link In Slayings,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, December 2, 1955.
  • ☛ “Try To Link Drug Store Slayings: Similar Killings Of Two Women,” Mt. Pleasant News, December 2, 1955.
  • ☛ “Two Slaying Suspects Held,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, December 1, 1955.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ Wolfram Alpha.

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