The Aspiring Actress: Murder of Marlene Padfield 1959

Murder Victim

Marlene “Mickey” Padfield
17-year-old Clerk
J & T TV Repair
Cause of Death: Undetermined
Motive: Sexual Psychopathy

Murder Details and Dates

Last Seen at Cozy Inn
1011 First Avenue E.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
February 19, 1959
Body Found Between Marion and Lisbon
Linn County
April 30, 1959


By Nancy Bowers
Written March 2010

Marlene “Mickey” Padfield

In 1959, Marlene “Mickey” Padfield was 17, although she exuded a maturity that allowed her to pass for much older. She was pretty, dark-haired, open, and friendly — a former Camp Fire Girl.

She was the second of four children in a working class family from Lisbon, Iowa, 18 miles southeast of Cedar Rapids. Her dad, Hammond H. Padfield, was employed at Wilson Packing Plant and her mother Ethyl in a furniture store, both in Cedar Rapids.

Marlene was bitten by the acting bug after she starred in the 1958 Junior Play at Lisbon High School. Becoming an actress was all she thought about, so she determinedly formulated a plan.

She dropped out of high school and took correspondence courses to finish her diploma and moved to Cedar Rapids, where there was a strong community theater presence. She rented a room with a kitchenette by telling the landlady she was 21 and working to save money for college.

Marlene supported herself as an elevator operator, department store clerk, and receptionist — jobs that paid between 25 and 38 dollars a week. Her employers liked and valued her, but nothing clicked for her and she left the positions, offering vague excuses.

☛ Searching for Herself ☚

from the Carroll Daily Times Herald

A month before she was killed, Marlene — posing as 19 — consulted a vocational guidance counselor, who found her “wide-eyed,” extremely friendly, and eager for others to like her. She told him she was bored and “wandering in a maze.” She wanted to set goals and work towards them in order to “make something of herself.”

Aptitude tests showed Marlene was well-grounded emotionally and, particularly, socially for someone her age. Despite her youth and unfinished schooling, she earned a “superior rating” in intelligence and scored 120 on an IQ test used in universities.

The counselor told her she had the intelligence and abilities required for medicine, law, research, or social work. Most importantly, Marlene scored high in “things creative,” a result which solidified her acting ambitions.

When asked the question, “Are you willing to take a chance alone in a situation of doubtful outcome?” she answered, “Yes.” This was an eerie foreshadowing.

The guidance counselor advised she needed higher education for any career, and Marlene said that she wanted to attend college and major in psychology. She agreed to further tests but never returned for them.

The counseling service found her a receptionist job, but that lasted only a few days. Soon afterwards, she went to work answering phones and keeping books at J & T Television Repair, a store operated by 19-year-old John T. Harvey near St. Luke’s Hospital on A Avenue NE in Cedar Rapids.

On February 9, ten days before she disappeared, her landlady asked Marlene to move out of the apartment, claiming there was “a lot of noise” — talking and laughing — in her room until 11:00 p.m. one night.

After that, Marlene moved back to Lisbon to live with her parents. She made the daily 36-mile roundtrip to and from Cedar Rapids with her folks or on a bus.

She also began dating 22-year-old Gary McHugh.

☛ Day of the Murder ☚

location of Cedar Rapids, Iowa

location of Cedar Rapids, Iowa

On Tuesday, February 18, 1959, Marlene rode into Cedar Rapids with her mother, who let her out at the TV shop and went on to her own job at Smulekoff’s Furniture Store. The two talked twice on the phone that day.

After the TV shop closed for the day, Marlene and Gary McHugh accompanied shop owner John Harvey to his home in Moore’s Trailer Court near Marion, Iowa, to play cards with Harvey and his wife, who was about 7 months pregnant.

While Harvey prepared to drive Marlene and Gary back to Cedar Rapids, Marlene took him aside and asked him to drop McHugh off first. She wanted to be let out after that at the Kozy Inn to meet a boy named Arthur Scott about performing in a local play and knew that Gary didn’t approve of her being an actress.

Marlene told Gary McHugh, however, that her father would be waiting for her at the café and that if she missed him or the last bus to Lisbon, she would go back to the Harvey home for the night.

A little after 10:00 p.m., Harvey and his wife drove the pair to Cedar Rapids and dropped McHugh off at the home of his mother, Mrs. Ernest Paul, and then left Marlene at the Kozy Inn at 1011 First Avenue E.

Marlene Padfield was last seen at the Kozy Inn with Arthur C. Scott, Jr. (courtesy Don Elarton).

Inside the restaurant-tavern, Marlene sat down with part-time Coe College student Arthur Scott, Jr. He was acting in a community theater production of Inherit the Wind and she hoped to get a part in the play. A week before, she signed up for an audition with the theater director at the Strand Theater where it was being presented.

Scott later told the Cedar Rapids Gazette, “She came walking into the café. I guess she was looking for me, because she was interested in the theater,” an account at odds with Marlene’s telling a friend earlier in the night that they arranged a meeting beforehand.

Witnesses in the restaurant said the pair talked and then left together between 12:15 and 12:30 a.m.

When first interviewed in February, Arthur Scott told investigators that he and Marlene discussed her acting in the play and then parted company at the Kozy Inn. He said he last saw her as she walked east on the sidewalk along First Avenue as he crossed the street to get into his father’s Cadillac.

After three hours of questioning in May, he changed his story. He said he offered her a ride home and they left the café together and walked across First Avenue to his father’s car parked at Allen Service Station. Because he believed she lived in Marion, he began driving that way along First Avenue.

In a telephone interview, Scott asserted to the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

“I can tell you this. She was not in the right state of mind.”

The questions of not in the “right state of mind” for what or in what way were not answered.

Scott claimed Marlene suddenly became “mad” at him and wanted to get out. He continued driving because he thought she was joking. But she insisted, so he drove to the Armar Ballroom in Marion and let her out in front where “there was plenty of light.” He said he assumed she would take the bus home and he said he drove back to his parents’ Cedar Rapids home, arriving there shortly before 1:00 a.m.

A public dance was scheduled to end at the ballroom at 1:00 a.m. and patrons were beginning to leave. However, no one came forward who saw Marlene and Arthur Scott together there.

Armar Ballroom (from “Cedar Rapids Downtown and Beyond” by George T. Henry)

The Armar Ballroom was within walking distance of the Harvey trailer home, but Marlene never showed up there.

It was bitter cold all day on Marlene’s last day alive, the temperature never rising above 14 degrees. By midnight, it dipped to 2 below zero and then plunged to 14 below during the early morning.

When Marlene did not arrive in Lisbon on the last bus out of Cedar Rapids, her mother assumed she was staying overnight with a girlfriend and was not alarmed until Marlene’s employer called the next morning. She was then reported missing.

On Sunday, February 22, three young boys playing along Mt. Vernon Road (Old Highway 30) near the Big Creek Bridge found a woman’s coat and sweater, which Marlene’s mother Ethyl identified as her daughter’s.

Authorities organized a search party of 100 to comb the area around the bridge and near the entrance to Camp Good Health. Nothing was found.

Despite the discovery of her clothing, local law enforcement and the community seemed to tacitly agree that Marlene had a shady reputation, was likely to act on whimsy, and probably ran away on her own. The story of her disappearance quickly faded.

☛ Startling Discovery ☚

An investigator and Roy T. White walking away from the grisly discovery (from the Cedar Rapids Gazette).

On April 29, 1959, local farmer Roy T. White was traveling an isolated dirt road — known as a “lovers lane” — between Cedar Rapids and Mt. Vernon-Lisbon southeast of Old Highway 30 when he spotted some dogs carrying bones; one had a human hand in its mouth.

White stopped to investigate and discovered a skeleton along the road that the dogs had dragged from a nearby wooded area between his property and that of Dale Stoneking. In the timber were other bones and a scattering of clothing, including part of a slip.

Marlene’s mother viewed the skeleton and other items and identified her daughter by Marlene’s fingernail polish and a blouse.

A pathologist confirmed the identity through a finger surgery and an ankle fracture. There was no skull damage or injury to any other bones. The soft tissue was too badly decomposed after ten weeks for any other determination. It was not known how Marlene died, whether from foul play or exposure, or if there was sexual assault.

Authorities, however, proceeded with the assumption that Marlene — found 11 miles of where she was last seen — was murdered or met with foul play. A deputy told reporters:

“It’s a cinch she didn’t go to that spot by herself. Whoever took her there knew where he was going and was familiar with the area.”

☛ Bits and Pieces Brought Forward, Tips Come In, Investigation Slows ☚

Linn County Deputy Sheriff Harry Ackermann holds up Marlene’s skirt (photo by John McIvor, Cedar Rapids Gazette).

As word spread that the missing girl was located and had likely been murdered, more evidence and tips came in.

On Wednesday, May 13, a Martelle, Iowa, man who worked in Cedar Rapids turned Marlene’s purse into police. He found it empty along Mt. Vernon Road a few days after she disappeared and gave it to a relative.

Carl Inskeep found her skirt along Cottage Grove Avenue SE in Cedar Rapids and took it home, but then gave it to police — a year after Marlene vanished — when he realized its significance.

A milkman came forward saying that early on the morning of February 19 he saw a two-toned Mercury parked with its engine running on a country road about 3 miles north of where the body was found. He thought the car had out-of-state license plates. Someone inside had covered the windshield with a coat or blanket.

When a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter contacted the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) for information, agents there said that Linn County law enforcement had not sought their help, even though the state agency was aware of the Padfield case and interested in working it. A request for their assistance had to come from Linn County Sheriff James H. “Jim” Smith, they said.

When the newspaper reported this to the Sheriff’s Office, Deputy Sheriff Harlan Snyder responded that he and Deputy Harry Ackermann were working on the case but had “not yet found time to find and question those last seen with the victim.” Linn County Sheriff Jim Smith was not in the office. However, Snyder was prompted by the newspaper’s inquiry to call in the State BCI in the absence of Sheriff Smith. Two days had passed since the body was found.

Afterwards, another deputy bragged to the media:

“We’re going to pull all the stops on this. State agents have been called into the case and all persons involved were re-interviewed and hundreds of tips were checked out and the area was gone over carefully again.”

☛ Discredited “Confession” ☚

Johnny Lee Kohl confessed to killing Marlene Padfield.

After Marlene disappeared, Cedar Rapids Police sifted through their files of sex-offenders. One man — 24-year-old Johnny Lee Kohl — stood out. Kohl had spent almost half his life in jail for various crimes since being convicted of arson at 11, and he had a history of jail escape. He was identified as the man who assaulted a Cedar Rapids woman at knife-point in December 1959.

Linn County deputies questioned Kohl in February and he denied any knowledge of Marlene. His wife said she was with him every night that month and could, in particular, account for the night Marlene vanished.

When Marlene’s body was found in late April, Kohl was in a Davenport, Iowa, jail for three separate sex offenses in that city. On May 7, Kohl startled Davenport authorities by claiming he killed Marlene and then signing a confession. He also agreed to a lie detector test. The details he supplied seemed plausible to Scott County law enforcement because he had no access to media reports about the finding of Marlene’s body.

Scott County Sheriff Peter Wildman phoned Linn County Attorney Richard R. Nazette and Sheriff Jim Smith with news of the confession and they rushed to Davenport to interrogate the confessor.

But after questioning Kohl, Nazette emerged from the jail to meet with the press and said:

“We are agreed that he is capable of it and certainly we are not discounting him completely. But on the basis of what he told us we just cannot consider him a prime suspect.”

Kohl’s details about locations and times and other specifics didn’t match what Linn County investigators knew. He claimed he stabbed Marlene 3 times in the right side and dumped her body along a country road. However, it was known she was left in a wooded area and later dragged to the road by dogs.

Kohl said he threw her clothing in a ditch along Highway 30 near Palisades Kepler State Park. But her slip and blouse were found with her remains, her purse and skirt were picked up in two separate locations, and her shoes were never found.

He also could not be specific about when and where he encountered Marlene the night of the murder.

The confession was officially discredited. Sheriff Smith told the media:

“We talked to this boy Kohl for 30 minutes and we would have talked longer if we felt it was necessary. He seemed to have absolutely no knowledge of anything except ‘east of Cedar Rapids between 3 and 10 miles.’”

Smith speculated that what Kohl “knew” about the case he had picked up during his interrogation about Marlene’s disappearance in February.

Kohl’s wife explained his false confession by saying that he knew he was going to get life in prison for the sexual assaults and would rather just be hanged (capital punishment was still carried out in Iowa then).

☛ Gary McHugh: The Boyfriend ☚

After his girlfriend disappeared, Gary McHugh was downcast. Marlene’s mother said he often called her just to talk and would say he didn’t care where Marlene had gone or what she had done, he just wanted her to come back.

On April 15, 1959 — about 10 days before Marlene’s body was discovered — he moved to San Francisco and took a job in a cemetery. When Marlene’s mother learned this, she said he probably went to California looking for Marlene. McHugh returned to Cedar Rapids on May 4 and read about the discovery of Marlene’s body in the newspaper. He submitted to questioning again but could not tell law enforcement any more than he had in February.

☛ John T. Harvey: The Employer ☚

By the time Marlene’s body was found, John Harvey had closed his Cedar Rapids TV repair shop where Marlene worked and moved to a farm near Mechanicsville, Iowa. His wife gave birth to a child in April. He was interviewed during the course of the investigation three separate times — twice before the body was found and once afterwards. The last interview was conducted at St. Luke’s Hospital, where he was a patient. He also submitted to a polygraph and his accounts of the night Marlene disappeared never varied.

Harvey told investigators that Marlene said she was going to meet Arthur Scott about being in a play, and that when she went missing he called Scott to ask if he knew where she was.

☛ Arthur Charles Scott, Jr.: The Last Person Seen with Marlene ☚

from the Oelwein Daily Register

Arthur Charles Scott, Jr., 18, was the son of Arthur Charles Scott, Sr., Vice President of Cherry-Burrell Corporation in Cedar Rapids, which manufactured food processing equipment. The Scott family lived in a nice house at 610 Cottage Grove Avenue SE. They had resided in Cedar Rapids only a few months, moving there from a Chicago suburb in December 1958.

Arthur, Jr. attended private schools in the Chicago area. In February of 1959, he enrolled at Coe College, carrying fewer than 12 hours. He had not declared a major but was said to be interested in journalism. He joined a community theater group at the Strand Theater.

The story Arthur Scott, Jr. told at the time of Marlene’s disappearance — that he parted company with her about 12:30 a.m. February 19 outside the Kozy Inn — did not match another account he gave in May after her body was found. The second time, he admitted that Marlene was in his car after they left the Kozy Inn.

Witnesses saw scratches on Scott’s face the day after Marlene vanished, but he claimed he had gotten them in a fall at home.

Five days before Marlene’s body was found, Scott drove through an intersection at Cottage Grove Avenue and Forest Drive SE at night. Cedar Rapids Police gave chase and found his car parked on County Club Parkway SE. The headlights were off and Scott was lying down on the front seat, trying to hide. He pled guilty to running a stop sign and eluding police.

In early May 1959, Scott was questioned about Marlene’s murder for three hours by County Attorney Nazette and by BCI agents Lloyd H. Mallett, Jr. and Pete Carmichael (who was a lie detector specialist, although none was given).

Afterwards, a Cedar Rapids Gazette reporter contacted Scott by phone and asked for an interview. Scott agreed and met the reporter at a Coe College dorm, where he got into a Gazette-owned car to drive and talk privately.

When they paused at a stop sign, a car pulled up beside them and a woman called to Scott. He said, “That’s my mother” and left the reporter’s car and got into his mother’s backseat. Mrs. Scott shook her head and said her son would have nothing else to say. The two drove off.

When law enforcement requested another interview, they were told that the law firm of Elliott, Shuttleworth and Ingersoll had been retained by the Scott family. A representative of the firm, Harry Wilmarth, announced to the Gazette, “We have advised Arthur Scott not to grant interviews to anyone.”

Linn County Attorney Richard R. Nazette told the Gazette:

“I think he has more information, but I don’t know if we’ll talk to him again because he now has counsel. I would presume they have instructed him not to give any more statements.”

Scott would also not take a lie detector test, as authorities wanted. Harry Wilmarth declined comment about Scott’s refusal of a polygraph, noting such tests were not admissible as evidence anyway.

Nazette said that no one can be required to submit to a lie test. When a reporter asked if a person might refuse because it would be an “indignity,” Nazette replied:

“I don’t know why they should. Lots of people take them. I know that if I had a chance to clear myself of a suspicion, I’d have no hesitation about submitting to a lie test. [They have] done more to clear people than to convict them.”

Scott was scheduled to play a leading role in “The Boy Friend,” which was to open at the Strand Theater on May 15. The director of the production informed the Gazette that he would not be appearing.

☛ Mourning Marlene ☚

Funeral services for Marlene were held on Saturday afternoon, May 2 in the Lisbon Methodist Church and she was buried in Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery.

Marlene’s grief-stricken mother Ethyl told the Cedar Rapids Gazette:

“I don’t know how anyone could have done that to Marlene. It couldn’t have been anyone who knew her. It must have been a stranger. I feel sorry for him. She never could believe that people could be bad. Even as a youngster, when we would warn her about dealing with strangers, she couldn’t believe anyone could be bad. Marlene trusted everyone, and that must be what happened . . . .”

☛ Marlene’s Story Kept Alive, Justice Sought ☚

Resident of  Lisbon, Marion, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa, have formed a group seeking delayed justice for Marlene. They keep her story alive and want the truth to be told.

Two of the group — Bob Hill and Beryl O’Connor — believe that Marlene was the victim of bullying at her high school and may have quit attending classes to avoid the trauma, thus setting in motion the events that placed her in Cedar Rapids in the path of a psychopathic killer.

☛ Journalist Dave Morris Documents the Padfield Case ☚

Noted Iowa journalist Dave Morris has written an outstanding and ongoing series of articles about Marlene Padfield for the Mount Vernon/Lisbon Sun. Click on the links below to read these articles, several providing interviews with people who knew Marlene personally:


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



  • ☛ “2 Asked To Take Lie Tests,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 2, 1959.
  • ☛ “Ask State Agents To Aid in Padfield Case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 1, 1959.
  • ☛ “Call Agents In to Help Solve Slaying,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 2, 1959.
  • Cedar Rapids Downtown and Beyond, George T. Henry, 2005.
  • ☛ “Confession From Kohl Questioned,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 8, 1959.
  • ☛ “First Clue in Death of Girl,” Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune, May 4, 1959.
  • ☛ “Former C.R. Resident In Jail at Davenport,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 7, 1959.
  • ☛ “Gary McHugh Offers Help in Padfield Case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 4, 1959.
  • ☛ “Killings go unsolved,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, May 26, 1965.
  • ☛ “Linn’s Baffling Murders,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 28, 1963.
  • ☛ “Marlene Roomed In C.R. a Month,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 10, 1959.
  • ☛ “Marlene Was Anxious To Be Liked by Everyone,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 10, 1959.
  • ☛ “Marlene’s Handbag Is Found,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 14, 1959.
  • ☛ “Murder Confession Discounted,” Waterloo Daily Courier, May 8, 1959.
  • ☛ “Mystery of Girl’s Death Deepens,” Waterloo Daily Courier, May 1, 1959.
  • ☛ “Mystery of Girl’s Death is Deepened,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, May 1, 1959.
  • ☛ “New Clue in Girl’s Death Investigated,” Carroll Daily Times Herald, May 4, 1959.
  • ☛ “No Progress In Probe of Girl’s Death,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 15, 1959.
  • ☛ “Officials Want To Talk More With C. Rapids Youth,” Oelwein Daily Register, May 15, 1959.
  • ☛ “Padfield, Coste Murders At CR Remain Unsolved,” Ames Daily Tribune, May 6, 1960.
  • ☛ “Scott Tells New Version On Marlene,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 13, 1959.
  • ☛ “Skeleton Mystery Deepens: Dogs Find Bones of Young Girl,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 30, 1959.
  • ☛ “Skirt identified,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 19, 1960.
  • ☛ “Student: Marlene Seemed Upset,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 1, 1959.
  • ☛ “Unsolved Slayings Climbing in Iowa,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 24, 1965.
  • ☛ U.S. Census.
  • ☛ “Wacanwadis Camp Fire,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 29, 1951.

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