The Defective Shotgun: Murders of Claud and Anna Miller 1949

Murder Victim

Claud Francis Miller
64-year-old Farmer

Anna Henrietta Miller
61-year-old Farm Wife

Cause of Deaths: Gunshot
Motive: Obtaining an Inheritance

Murder Scene and Date

2 miles north of Camp Dodge
Polk County
April 4, 1949


By Nancy Bowers
Written February 2011

Claud and Anna Miller Camp Dodge home
(from the Davenport Democrat and Leader)

The years following WWII were difficult for Iowa county road worker Frank Oren Miller. After his 1945 Army discharge, his drinking became increasingly heavy. In 1948, he separated from his wife.

Frank moved in with his parents, Claud and Anna Miller of northern rural Polk County.

The elder Millers lived in a neat, white home on an acreage along Highway 141 two miles north of Camp Dodge.

Things did not go well among the Millers; the parents and son often argued about 34-year-old Frank’s heavy drinking.

Frank Miller, son of victims Claud and Anna (from the Waterloo Daily Courier)

The Miller family spent Sunday afternoon, April 3, in Hubbard visiting Frank’s sister, Ruth Miller Crippin.

When they returned home, Frank went out for the evening. He later said he played shuffleboard all night at the Dodge Inn near Camp Dodge.

In the early hours of Monday, April 4, 1949, Frank Miller drove home from the nightclub. He was highly intoxicated, as he often was.

☛ Horror in the Basement ☚

Frank said that when he parked at the Miller residence about 4:00 a.m., he saw a light in the basement. He went inside and up to his second-floor bedroom and then down to the basement to investigate the burning light.

When he saw his mother’s body on the basement floor, Frank ran out of the house and drove to the home of neighbors a quarter of a mile away.

He told them what he’d seen and asked them to return to the Miller home with him. The neighbors called Polk County Deputy Sheriff Jim Mosier, who summoned Sheriff Howard C. Reppert and Deputy Sheriff Bob Barton.

Polk County Deputy Sheriff Bob Barton examines the shotgun
(from the Waterloo Daily Courier).

When officials arrived at the Miller home, they found the couple sprawled on the basement floor about six feet apart. Claud was wearing work clothes but was in his stocking feet. Henrietta was barefoot and had a dress on over her nightgown.

Both were shot in the heart by a single-action .12 gauge shotgun that lay on the floor between them. Two empty shells were nearby.

Some investigators speculated that Claud was shot first and that Henrietta, who quickly pulled a dress on over her nightgown, was fired on when she came to investigate.

The Coroner estimated time of death as 3:30 a.m., not long before Frank Miller said he returned home.

The bodies were taken to a funeral home, where Frank was allowed to view them. Then, he returned to the murder house to “re-enact” his account of the story.

Frank said he believed his father shot his mother and turned the gun on himself.

The Sheriff, however, did not believe the deaths were a murder-suicide because the shells seemed to have been manually removed and the breech closed after the shots were fired, which would have been impossible given Claud’s wounds.

Sheriff Reppert accompanied Frank Miller to his parents’ funeral at Hubbard on Wednesday, April 6, where Miller mourned along with his sister, estranged wife, and extended family.

☛ Suspect is Charged ☚

Frank Miller. far right, at the funeral
(from the Mason City Globe-Gazette).

After the funeral, Frank Miller — his eyes still red from weeping — was charged with murder. He was held without bond in the Polk County Jail.

Frank Miller insisted on his innocence. He maintained that the shotgun, which was in poor condition, always broke open when fired or dropped. Experiments with the gun reinforced his claim.

The Sheriff agreed that Claud Miller could possibly have shot Anna, turned the gun on himself, and dropped the weapon, which opened and discharged the shells on impact.

A Coroner’s inquest Friday evening, April 6 at the Polk County Courthouse heard 16 witnesses, including Frank Miller, law enforcement, and Miller neighbors. The verdict was “murder by a person unknown.”

Despite the inquest ruling, investigators were still suspicious enough of Frank that he was held until a grand jury could hear the evidence presented by Polk County Attorney Ed S. Thayer.

On July 1, the grand jury refused to indict Frank Miller in the murders of his parents and he was freed from jail for the first time since April 4.

No one else was ever charged in the Millers’ deaths.

☛ The Lives of the Victims ☚

Claud Francis Miller was born in Coralville on April 23, 1884 to Sinna Veneman and Oren Miller.

Anna Henrietta Puttkamer was born in Eldora on January 7, 1888 to Henrietta “Etta” Stinefeld and Henry Puttkamer, Sr. She had six sisters — Minnie E. Puttkamer Snovel, Mary Puttkamer Ratzke, Lena Puttkamer Sumner, Martha Puttkamer Khlem Brand, Lizzie Puttkamer Walters, and Margaret J. Puttkamer Willson Dass. There were four brothers: Herbert, Henry, Jr., Charles J., and William Puttkamer.

Claud and Anna married December 23, 1909 in Bondurant, where they lived for five years. Their daughter, Ruth Marie Miller, was born there in 1911 and son Frank Oren Miller in 1915. The Millers moved to an area near Eldora known as the “Y,” where they farmed for 35 years. In 1944, they relocated to northern Polk County.

photo by Neal Bowers

Claud’s and Anna’s joint funeral was conducted April 6 at Boeke Funeral Home in Hubbard by the Rev. Dewey Lamprecht and they were buried in the Hubbard Cemetery.

Their son Frank Oren Miller died at the age of 75 on March 2, 1991 in Faribault, Minnesota.

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



  • ☛ “Call 16 to Testify Friday Night in Miller Inquest,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, April 8, 1949.
  • ☛ “Elderly Camp Dodge Couple Shot to Death,” Ames Daily Tribune, April 4, 1949.
  • ☛ “Free Man Arrested After Parents Slain,” Waterloo Daily Courier, July 1, 1949.
  • ☛ “Habeas Corpus Writ Denied Frank Miller,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, June 11, 1949.
  • ☛ “Iowa Couple Slain; Son Questioned,” Davenport Democrat and Leader, April 4, 1949.
  • ☛ “Iowan Charged With Murder In Death Of Parents,” Muscatine Journal and News-Tribune, April 7, 1949.
  • ☛ “Man, Wife found slain,” Burlington Hawk-Eye Gazette, April 4, 1949.
  • ☛ “Miller Held Without Bond for Murder,” Waterloo Daily Courier, April 7, 1949.
  • ☛ “Miller Rites,” Hardin County Index, April 14, 1949.
  • ☛ “Question Son in Slaying of Man and Wife,” Waterloo Daily Courier, April 4, 1949.
  • ☛ “Refuse To Indict Son In Parents’ Deaths,” Mt. Pleasant News, July 1, 1949.
  • ☛ “Son Is Held in Death of Farm Couple,” Mason City Globe-Gazette, April 4, 1949.

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