Charles Francis Jaeger
Charles Francis Jaeger
914 Second Ave. SE
Case Number: 84-04212
August 29, 1984
1984 Dyersville murder ‘a very strange case’
A killer remains at large years after Charles Jaeger was shot in his waterbed
By M.D. KITTLE
Dubuque Telegraph Herald assistant city editor
For more than two decades, Ed Jaeger has lived under the weight of a burdensome belief: He knows who killed his brother.
At least he’s got a theory. Jaeger readily admits he can’t prove it and he wouldn’t dare offer a name publicly, but in his heart, well, he’s got his theory.
After nearly 24 years, that’s about all he has from a cold case that has generated little movement and precious few tips. Theories.
“He was a great painter, an artist,” Jaeger said of his kid brother, Charles “Chuck” Jaeger. “We’d get together every weekend. If I didn’t stop by, he’d wonder why I didn’t.”
But the man Ed Jaeger described as a very religious person, also was known as a womanizer who apparently had plenty of girlfriends and, consequently, a troubled marriage. He was a man one neighbor once described as a “big overgrown kid.”
On Aug. 29, 1984, Charles Jaeger reportedly was found in his bed in a pool of his own blood, a bullet lodged in his brain.
He was transported from his Dyersville, Iowa, home to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, where he was pronounced dead. He was 37.
The gun used was never found. No one has ever been charged.
The case remains open in name only. Investigators and prosecutors acknowledge there have been no new leads in years.
But a state law enforcement official suggests the case could be a possible candidate for further review, probed deeper with DNA and other advancements only dreamed of in 1984.
A renewed effort to solve the case would be music to Ed Jaeger’s ears. He said he’s tried to keep his brother’s homicide fresh in the minds of the police officers and prosecutors who once worked to solve it, that he’s asked for copies of the 1,500-page-plus case file, but he has gotten nowhere.
Jaeger, 68, of Hiawatha, Iowa, said he has waited a long time for justice, but his hope seems to have all but left him.
“You think maybe someday, maybe this will break open,” he said. “You hope that, maybe someday, they’ll get caught.”
Without a sound?
Here’s what investigators do know:
Dubuque County in Iowa
Dyersville in Dubuque County
It was a hot summer night as Charles Jaeger lay dying in his waterbed inside 914 Second Ave. SE in Dyersville.
He had been shot in the back of the head with a rifle or a handgun. Jaeger’s wife, Eileen, reportedly found his body, surrounded by splattered blood. She called the Dyersville ambulance at 4 a.m., Aug. 29, according to an autopsy report.
Emergency service personnel rushed Jaeger to the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, where he died at 8:23 p.m.
Law enforcement officials say the doors were locked and there was no sign of forcible entry. Investigators collected Jaeger’s weapons, including two handguns, two shotguns, a .22-caliber rifle and two pellet guns. But the murder weapon was never found.
Dennis Jaeger, a child at the time of his father’s murder, told the TH in 1987 that he and his older brother, Daniel, who was in high school, were in a bedroom next to their parents’ room the night of the slaying. He said they didn’t hear the shot or the ambulance sirens, that a train roaring past, practically in the home’s backyard, muffled any sound.
None of the home’s occupants heard a shot, investigators said.
Dennis and Daniel could not be reached for this story. Neither could their mother, Eileen Jaeger.
Eileen, who told investigators she was sleeping downstairs, reportedly heard some sounds coming from her bedroom, noises that apparently got her attention.
“The wife of the victim at the time indicated there were noises coming from the victim; she thought it was snoring,” said John Quinn, assistant director in charge of field operations for Iowa’s Division of Criminal Investigation, the agency that led the investigation.
“She said she saw a pool of blood and called emergency medical personnel,” said Quinn, who was not a member of the investigative team at the time but is familiar with the case.
The crime scene was compromised from the beginning, by necessity. Paramedics, rushing to save a man’s life, moved Jaeger from the waterbed where he was presumed to have been shot. It was a life-and-death matter, but Quinn said transferring Jaeger’s body without the proper precautions complicated the investigation.
“There are advantages, of course, in getting the position of the victim at the crime scene — for blood splatter analysis, trajectory analysis — so you can compare the crime scene facts with that of the statements from the witnesses,” Quinn said.
Sometimes the smallest details can make a big difference in tracking a killer. Turning off lights at a crime scene, or turning them on, closing a window or opening a shade, the smallest changes can complicate an investigation.
The Division of Criminal Investigation wasn’t called in until after Jaeger was flown to Iowa City.
“The crime scene wasn’t sealed up from the start,” said Jim Wertz, who worked the case as a special agent with DCI. “At first, it didn’t look to be anything other than maybe something medical that had occurred to the victim.”
Wertz recalls Eileen Jaeger came upstairs and heard sounds and didn’t think her husband “was right.” That’s when she called the ambulance.
“I don’t think anybody had indicated he had been shot,” he said. Paramedics thought Charles had “some sort of medical condition that would have caused blood and they did their normal scoop and run and took him to the hospital.”
“At that point you have to take the victim, there’s not much you can do,” Wertz added. “Obviously, that could disturb the scene.”
There are conflicting reports about the cooperation of Jaeger’s wife and children in the investigation. Former Dubuque County Attorney Fred McCaw in a 2004 interview with the TH said the family members, who were considered suspects early on, declined to cooperate.
Dubuque County Attorney Ralph Potter has a different recollection.
“None of them took the Fifth Amendment; they all answered questions,” said Potter, who was a relatively new Dubuque County assistant attorney in 1984.
Potter said information from the family was sparse, in a case complicated by some missing key evidence.
“There was no (murder) weapon found and no witnesses who claimed to know anything, including three close members of the family who were there and who claimed to know nothing,” he said. “There simply wasn’t enough evidence at the time. Obviously, it was a very strange case.”
Love letters and tension
During a search of the two-story Jaeger residence, investigators collected 133 items, including numerous personal letters and love letters sent to Jaeger from women in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Memphis, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and small towns in Nebraska, South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Among the correspondences were 56 letters and postcards from Brenda Moulic, of Hong Kong. She previously told the TH that Jaeger proposed to her when he visited her in July 1984 and said he was divorced.
Ed Jaeger said he knew of his brother’s extramarital affairs. He said Charles asked his wife for a divorce, but she refused.
Ed Jaeger said there was a lot of tension in the house that summer.
“(Eileen) found the letters,” Ed Jaeger said. “I didn’t pay too much attention to it; they were fighting all the time.”
Charles had planned to leave Eileen and had moved some of his possessions to a rented apartment, according to a March 9, 1987, TH story. He also had opened a money market checking account at Monticello State Bank, but didn’t have a chance to write a single check, evidence shows.
The temper of time
Nearly a quarter-century later, the case appears no closer to being solved. Dubuque County Sheriff Ken Runde said the chances of investigators finding a killer seem to diminish with the passing of time.
“You’re always open to any evidence that would lead us in the right direction, but the way it sits right now it doesn’t look very positive,” the sheriff said.
Part of the problem is the fading memories of investigators. Wertz, who recently retired after a 32-year career with DCI, said he has a difficult time remembering some details of the case.
And 24 years can do a lot to evidence. Documents get lost, improper storage can damage collected items, even multiple handling of evidence can corrupt it.
Quinn said the case does have a powerful investigative weapon not offered at the time of the homicide.
“DNA is a gift,” the DCI official said, adding the case could be “solvable” with the assistance of the technology.
Ed Jaeger isn’t the only one with theories. The police and prosecutors have their own ideas about the Jaeger case.
“Yeah, I probably do. Now the question is am I willing to share that with you,” Wertz said. “Probably not, for the integrity of the case.”
Potter agreed a lot of people have different theories, but proof is another matter.
“We need to get over the hurdle of who fired the gun and where is the gun,” he said. “There’s been no one willing to say that all of these years and there’s been no evidence of who had the gun.”
No matter the passage of time, the Jaeger family still lives in the shadow of Charles’ murder. Ed Jaeger said it has destroyed his family, that he’s not spoken to his brothers in years. His brother, Ron Jaeger, declined to comment for the story.
Ed Jaeger said his siblings and his mother and father wanted to put the matter behind them long ago. He said he cannot, knowing that a killer remains free.
“I’m not out to get anybody,” he said, “but if I did something like this to someone, I feel I’d have to pay for it.”
If you have any information about this unsolved crime please contact Iowa Cold Cases via our Contact form.
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