George James Massouris
30-year-old Union Pacific Car Man
Driver, Red Top Taxicab Company
Cause of Death: Gunshot
Murder Scene and Date
Orchard Road near Highway 6
Council Bluffs, Iowa
November 18, 1950
By Nancy Bowers
Written January 2012
In 1950, life was going well for George Massouris, a 30-year-old WWII veteran. He and Helen, his wife of 11 years, lived with their three children at 1404 Avenue D in Council Bluffs and he had a good job as a car man with the Union Pacific Railroad in Omaha. To help support his growing family, Massouris took a part-time job driving for the Red Top Taxicab Company at 923 S. Main Street in Council Bluffs.
☛ George Massouris’s Last Fare ☚
On Saturday night, November 18, 1950, Massouris left for his taxi job dressed in blue jeans, an Army shirt from the war, and a heavy button-down sweater.
It was cold that night, so all the cabbies kept busy. Massouris drove several fares and just after 9:00 p.m. returned to the cab office for another assignment.
Dispatcher Grace Goodno had logged a call at 7:45 for a pick-up at 9:00 “sharp” in front of the First Christian Church at Scott and Mynster streets, and she gave the fare to George Massouris.
After he left the cab company, Massouris was not seen again.
☛ Sunday Morning Discoveries ☚
At 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, Red Top Taxicab personnel spotted George Massouris’s cab parked facing north in front of the Gas Company at S. 7th Street and 10th Avenue. The taxi was empty and nothing seemed amiss, so it was taken to the Red Top garage and another cabbie drove it.
An hour later, 44-year-old Charles “Lefty” Hytre, who lived on rural Star Route, was headed down Orchard Road to a crossroads store for a Sunday newspaper when he saw a body in the ditch near Highway 6 about two miles east of Council Bluffs.
Hytre went immediately to the nearby Thomas and Cecil Capel house, where Mrs. Capel telephoned the Pottawattamie Sheriff’s Department.
☛ At the Scene ☚The first investigating officers — Council Bluffs Policemen Jack Hoden and Floyd A. Deal — arrived at the murder scene at 9:36 a.m.
They were followed shortly by Hiram J. “Hi” Carter of the Pottawattamie Sheriff’s Department, County Jailer Otto Gudath, Assistant County Attorney Matthew J. “Matt” Walsh, and Coroner H. Stanley Woodring. Council Bluffs Nonpareil photographer Jack Kennedy took photos of the crime scene for investigators.
The victim — shot three times at the base of the skull — was identified as George Massouris. He was neatly dressed as he had been when last seen the night before, and there were no signs of a struggle around his body.
Mrs. Cecil Capel gave investigators a three-quarter inch spike from a woman’s red high heel shoe she found by the side of the road. It matched high heel marks close to male shoe prints near the crime scene.
When Massouris was identified as a cabbie, police ordered his taxi impounded from Red Top Taxicab and directed Parody Towing to take it to the police garage.
Unfortunately, the taxi was used for two hours, ruining any chance of retrieving fingerprints. Three brass shell casings, however, were found inside.
☛ Murder Specifics ☚
Investigators said Massouris was shot three times from the back seat of the taxi. His body was dumped along Orchard Road near Highway 6, and then his cab was driven back to Council Bluffs and abandoned.
During an autopsy, Coroner H. Stanley Woodring removed three .22 caliber bullets from Massouris’s skull. Those and the recovered shell casings were later examined by the FBI and the Iowa State Bureau of Criminal Investigation for ballistics information.
The time of death was set at 9:30 p.m. Saturday night based on statements by Thomas and Cecil Capel, who lived near the crime scene. At that time, a taxi stopped in front of the Capel home and they heard a man and woman arguing inside as it turned around in their yard and headed back towards Council Bluffs.
Although his wristwatch was still in place, Massouris’s wallet containing the fares he earned the night before was missing, which made robbery the likely motive.
☛ Investigators Work the Case ☚
Coroner Woodring held an inquest on Thursday, November 23 at Hotel Chieftain. The jury ruled the death a “homicidal act.”
Council Bluffs Police first worked the case locally with interviews and canvassing done by Policemen Edward H. Rath, Robert R. Thompson, and Leon Nelson, as well as detectives Charles A. Esbeck and William J. Swassing — all under the supervision of Captain Charles W. Merriman.
They learned that on the night of the murder no religious or social activities were scheduled at First Christian Church, the location where Massouris was to pick up a fare.
Someone reported seeing a man at about 9:00 p.m. standing on the corner of Scott and Mynster streets near the church. He wore a black overcoat and hat, was 30-to-40 years old, stood 5’2”, and weighed about 160 pounds.
For a short time, a 17-year-old local man was held and questioned about the murder but was cleared and released when he proved to be in St. Louis the night of the murder.
☛ Did Someone Know Too Much Too Soon? ☚
The most promising clues came through interviews with several Council Bluffs residents who told essentially the same stories.
The information first came to light when Detective William Swassing interviewed Irvin and Ople Eilts, who said they heard from someone with first-hand knowledge that a Dena Bellows said suspicious things on the morning after the murder.
Allegedly, Dena Bellows was on a 3-day binge prior to the murder and her husband locked her out of their home the night of November 18; she broke in, grabbed a butcher knife, and threatened her family. Then Bellows left to sleep at the home of her sister-in-law, Gladys Sharp.
When Dena Bellows woke at 7:00 a.m. — two hours before Massouris’s body was found — she told Gladys Sharp that a taxi driver who had $34 dollars on his person was murdered and dumped near Highway 6 and that police “hadn’t found the body yet but they would.” Bellows also claimed that the same cabbie delivered her to the Dude Ranch Club about 8:00 p.m. the night of the murder.
Gladys Sharp heard about the murder later in the day and wondered if Dena Bellows was somehow involved.
This information was contradicted by Ernest and Gladys Sharp during a November 29 interview with Officer Robert Thompson. The Sharps claimed Dena Bellows did not sleep at their house on the night of November 18 but worked until midnight at the Dude Ranch Club and then left with her husband.
The Dude Ranch Club at 718 Sixteenth Street — owned by Clarence and Margaret Klotz — sold beer and provided live music for dancing. Council Bluffs Police often responded to reports of drunkenness, rowdy behavior, and assault there.
☛ Out of State Investigations ☚
Because Council Bluffs and Omaha are one large metropolitan area in two separate states, investigators flung their nets into Nebraska.
Former convict Lester Thomas was questioned about the Massouris murder after he was arrested with a .22 caliber weapon while burglarizing an Omaha tavern. However, his weapon was a revolver and investigators believed Massouris was killed with an automatic.
The investigation then moved into Oklahoma. Council Bluffs Police Chief Earl E. Miller learned that Tulsa Police were holding a man who tried to rob a service station with a .22 caliber weapon like the one believed to have killed Massouris. Ballistics tests, however, could not link the weapons.
The inquiry spread as far as California. Council Bluffs police, aided by FBI agents, contacted a Los Angeles couple who drove into Council Bluffs on the night of the murder to visit friends. They had trouble passing a taxi on Highway 6 as they neared the city because it was weaving from side-to-side. They got a good look at the driver, who was elderly and wore glasses.
☛ Questions About the Investigations ☚
In 2004, a person signing himself “John of Council Bluffs” posted a long article on the website ripoffreport.com. He claimed investigators distorted information, misled the public, and covered up the truth in the George Massouris murder.
In part, John based his accusations on the investigations of B.L. “Red” Emmons who claimed that during 1992 and 1993 he interviewed 175 to 200 people about the Massouris murder and then filed what John termed an “Independent Investigative Report.”
Red Emmons enumerated discrepancies he saw between what was reported through the media in 1950 and the recollections of those involved almost 45 years later.
A Dude Ranch Club waitress told Emmons that Dena Bellows — who in 1950 was said to know about the Massouris murder before the body was discovered — came into the club about 8:00 that night, left at 9:00, and never returned. This same waitress always suspected that Bellows was somehow connected to the murder.
In addition, Emmons interviewed the Parody Towing driver who moved Massouris’s abandoned taxi. He claimed he towed the taxi to the Police Garage from S. 7th Street and 10th Avenue and not from the Red Top Taxicab garage, as was reported in 1950 newspaper articles based on information provided by investigators.
Emmons also spoke to Dena Bellows and Gladys Sharp, the sister-in-law who reportedly said Dena told her about the murder before it was discovered. Both refuted that account and denied even knowing each other.
☛ Unsolvable Case? ☚
For years after the murder, Council Bluffs Police continued to work the Massouris case and the Council Bluffs Nonpareil faithfully updated their investigations as the years passed.
As late as 1958, detectives were still trying to piece together what happened the night of November 18, 1950 and were hoping to identify George Massouris’s killer.
Now, many of those involved in the case have passed away; and the case appears to be as unsolvable as it quickly became in 1950.
☛ Life of George Massouris ☚George James Massouris was born on August 29, 1920 in Britt, Iowa, to Greek immigrant James G. Massouris and Iowa native Margaret Hinkle. He had one sister, Mary A. Massouris Warns, and a brother, Phillip J. Massouris.
The Massouris family lived in and around the Council Bluffs and Omaha areas, where the father James was a railroad worker.
On August 14, 1939, George married Helen Rose Emmons and they had three children. George worked in a packing plant and as a dish washer in a cafe before joining the Army in 1944.
George learned boxing in the Army and after the war boxed in local competitions. He was the Featherweight Champion of the 1947 Southwest Iowa Golden Gloves Tournament and advanced to the semi-finals in the Midwest Tournament that year.
Please note: Use of information in this article should credit Nancy Bowers as the author and Iowa Unsolved Murders: Historic Cases as the source.
- ☛ “Await Ballistics Report,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, January 8, 1951.
- ☛ “Await Report on Ex-Convict’s Gun,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, January 5, 1951.
- ☛ “Await Tulsa Probe in Taxicab Murder,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, December 10, 1950.
- ☛ “Bluffs Taxi Driver Found Slain in Ditch,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, November 20, 1950.
- ☛ “Gloves Champions,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, January 1, 1947.
- ☛ “Council Bluffs Iowa Police: The Blue Wall of Council Bluffs Council Bluffs Iowa” [sic] by John, ripoffreport.com, August 18, 2004.
- ☛ “Murder of George Massouris in 1950 Is Still Unsolved – But Not Forgotten,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, November 9, 1952.
- ☛ “Massouris Case Into Fourth Year,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, November 15, 1953.
- ☛ “Rules Murder in Massouris Death,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, December 8, 1950.
- ☛ “Slain Taxicab Driver Husband of Former Carroll Girl,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, November 21, 1950.
- ☛ “Thomas Identified As Valley Burglar,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, January 7, 1951.
- ☛ “To Quiz Two In Massouris Case,” Council Bluffs Nonpareil, May 12, 1951.
- ☛ “Unsolved Iowa Murders,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, October 10, 1958.
- ☛ U.S. Census.