- Courtesy photo KCCI Channel 8 Des Moines
- Bill and Kay Wood, married just three years.
Bill and Kay Wood
James William “Bill” Wood, 79
Kaidena “Kay” Wood, 72
2698 Highway R-63
July 30, 2011
Late on Saturday, July 30, 2011, the home of Bill and Kay Wood of rural Norwalk, Iowa, was destroyed by fire. Around midnight and into early Sunday morning, five fire departments responded to 2698 Highway R-63 in Greenfield Township just south of Des Moines’ city limits and the Des Moines International Airport.
The fire extinguished, the couple were nowhere to be found. They’d last been seen midmorning Saturday at an auction house in Stuart, Iowa. An auction flyer depicted a number of pricey items — everything from old guns and diamonds to Indian artifacts and fancy furniture.
- Courtesy photo KCCI Des Moines
- The Wood’s red Chevy pickup turned up at a Kansas City, Mo. apartment complex the day after the fire.
On Sunday, Bill and Kay’s red Chevrolet Silverado pickup turned up at a ritzy apartment complex in Kansas City, Missouri. Witnesses told detectives they’d seen the man with the pickup, and described him as being in his late 40s to early 60s with a slender build, short gray and white hair, and between 6 feet 2 inches and 6 feet 6 inches tall.
That same day, officials discovered a body amongst the charred remains of the couple’s home.
Monday morning, DCI agents began going door to door to questions neighbors. Monday afternoon, Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Michael Motsinger announced that the body found was burned too badly to be identified during an autopsy conducted that afternoon. DNA testing would be done to see if the body was that of Bill or Kay Wood.
Motsinger also said the fire had been termed suspicious, something the community already suspected.
Two hundred miles south, authorities sought out the “person of interest” seen at the Kansas City apartment building. Bill and Kay’s relatives and a number of volunteers spent days searching the area surrounding the Wood’s home.
Young at Heart and In Love
Prior to their marriage, Bill and Kay had both been widowed. They’d just celebrated their third wedding anniversary July 14 — only 16 days before they vanished.
Family members described them as deeply in love, often holding hands like teenagers.
Warren County in Iowa
Norwalk in Warren County
They’d chosen to live in Bill’s home in rural Norwalk south of Des Moines, which quickly filled up with mementoes of each of their lives. Kay — who’d worked at Dahl’s grocery store on Fleur Drive — collected china dolls. Bill, a retired ironworker currently employed with J.W. Perry, Inc. in Des Moines, kept a 1940s gas pump in the front yard and also had a Model A Ford he drove in parades.
J.W. Perry General Manager Andrew Knott told KCCI that Wood’s co-workers were “somber,” and said the fact that Wood was about to turn 80 told a lot about him. “The fact that he’s still working at his age,” Knott said.
Co-workers had planned a surprise 80th birthday party for Bill, scheduled for the following weekend. August 5 would have turned 80.
On Friday, August 19, the Iowa Department of Public Safety announced in a press release that the body found in the home had been positively identified as that of Bill Wood. Autopsy reports showed Wood died of multiple gunshot wounds, though he was not shot in the head as an initial press release stated.
When DCI agents informed family members of their findings that Friday morning, Bill Wood’s brother Henry Wood told KCCI that everyone broke down.
“It’s one thing to think it, but it’s another when somebody comes out and says this is what happened,” Bill Wood said. Wood said it also hurt to hear his brother died in such a violent way.
“It really hurt to think, you know, somebody shot my brother,” he said in the KCCI interview. “Now we know that he was shot, I guess we find some comfort in that that would be better than burning. We hope it was quick. We hope it was painless.”
Kay Wood (Courtesy Iowa Dept. of Public Safety)
Wood said the family would never have closure until Kay was found.
In his comments to the press, DCI Agent Motsinger said officers working the investigation were continuing their efforts to locate her.
“We remain hopeful a suspect will be found and encourage anyone with information to contact DCI or the Warren County Sheriff’s Office,” Motsinger said.
Kay’s daughter Patty Shaw expressed the family’s lost hope after the DCI announced the findings.
“I think in our hearts we were hoping they were together just because you want that,” said Shaw. “If they’re going to go, you want them to be together.”
“He liked nice stuff”
Three weeks after the fire, why questions continued to plague the couple’s family. They explored possible scenarios related to the Stuart auction.
“I think there is a really big chance that something happened in Stuart,” Henry Wood told KCCI in a story that aired Aug. 22. “Bill probably has some antiques that are very rare. He liked nice stuff. He probably had expensive stuff. If he found something he wanted, he bought it.”
- Courtesy photo DCI / KCCI Des Moines
- Witnesses told detectives they’d seen a man with the Wood’s pickup, and described him as being in his late 40s to early 60s with a slender build, short gray and white hair.
The family wondered if Bill and Kay’s love for expensive antiques somehow may have contributed to Bill’s death and Kay’s disappearance.
“Just somebody there that may have seen that they bought something expensive or they could’ve even been talking to somebody and mentioned what they have,” Bill Wood’s sister, Carolyn Harkin, told KCCI. “It has to be a robbery of some sort.”
Family members went to the Stuart City Hall where they posted sketches of the man police said was seen walking away from the Wood’s pick-up in Kansas City. The Iowa DCI still didn’t know the man’s identity.
A month dragged on with many unanswered questions.
The couple’s families told KCCI on Tuesday, Sept. 20 that they’re doing what they can to not get caught up in the rumors surrounding the case.
“We have to continue to be focused and as composed as we possibly can be so we can hear everything that’s happening, see everything that’s happening…so that if someone does call we don’t get caught up in that call,” said Kay’s daughter, Lisa Harris.
Harris said she and her siblings are determined to find their mother and bring her home, regardless of whether it is to get her medical attention or to give her a proper burial.
On Monday, Oct. 10, 2011, the Wood’s families held a press conference announcing a reward fund they have established. They hope a reward might motivate someone to come forward with information. The fund will consist of both cash donations and pledges payable upon conviction.
If you would like to donate, visit woodrewardfund.com.
Anyone with information concerning this case is asked to call the Iowa State Patrol at (515) 323-4360 or the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 961-1122.
- Warren County Sheriff’s Office
- Iowa Department of Public Safety Missing Person Information Clearinghouse
- “Couple Missing After Deadly House Fire,” KCCI News Channel 8, Des Moines, Aug. 1, 2011 (video)
- “Co-Workers Seek Answers In Missing Couple Case,” KCCI, Aug. 1, 2011 (video)
- “Volunteers Seek Clues in Wood Mystery,” KCCI, Aug. 3, 2011
- “Investigators Want Public’s Help In Wood Case,” KCCI, Aug. 4, 2011
- “Family Continues Search For Missing Couple,” KCCI, Aug. 6, 2011 (video)
- “Person of Interest Sought in Missing Couple Case,” KCCI, August 9, 2011
- “Family Talks About Missing Couple Case,” KCCI, Aug. 17, 2011 (video)
- “Missing Couple Case Is Now Homicide Investigation,” KCCI, Aug. 19, 2011
- Iowa Department of Public Safety Press Release, August 19, 2011
- “Authorities Identify Victim in Warren County Fire,” KCCI, Aug. 19, 2011 (video)
- “Authorities: Warren County man was shot multiple times in homicide,” Des Moines Register, Aug. 19, 2011
- “EXCLUSIVE: New Details In Warren County Couple’s Disappearance,” KCCI, Aug. 22, 2011 (video)
- “New Clues in Couple’s Disappearance,” KCCI, Aug. 23, 2011
- “Rumors Fly in Missing Couple Case,” KCCI, Sept. 20, 2011
- “REWARD FUND: A reward fund has been set up for a missing Warren County woman,” WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines, Oct. 9, 2011
- “Family Wants Help to Raise $100K Reward,” KCCI, Oct. 10, 2011
- “One year ago today, couple’s home found on fire,” KCCI, July 30, 2012
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