Eugene Wade Martin
Age at Report: 13 YOA
DOB: August 17, 1970
Missing From: Des Moines, IA Polk County Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Brown
Weight: 110 lbs.
Case Number: 84-03891
NCIC Number: M-129642239
NCMEC Number: NCMC601815
Incident Type: Involuntary Disappearance
Missing Since: August 12, 1984
On Sunday morning, August 12, 1984, 13-year-old Eugene Martin left his home at approximately 5 a.m. to deliver the Des Moines Register newspaper in the Des Moines area. He wore blue jeans, a red shirt and a gray pullover.
Eugene normally delivered the papers with his older stepbrother, but on this day went alone. The Iowa State Fair was in town, and Eugene — who in his free time enjoyed football, fishing, skating, video games and TV — wanted to make some extra money.
Witnesses said they saw Martin talking to a clean-cut white male in his 30s sometime between 5 and 5:45 a.m. at Southwest 12th Street and Highview Drive. Some stated the two appeared to be engaged in a friendly “father-son” sort of conversation, and others recalled seeing the teen folding papers and talking to the man sometime between 5:45 and 6:05 a.m.
A poster announcing a $94,000 reward for information about Johnny Gosch or Eugene Martin, including $25,000 offered by the Des Moines Register, did nothing to solve either boy’s case.
Between 6:10 and 6:15 a.m., Eugene’s bag was found on the ground outside of Des Moines with 10 folded papers still inside. When customers called to report not receiving their morning newspapers, the manager went out, found the bag and delivered the papers.
At approximately 8:40 a.m., the search for Eugene began. He has not been seen since.
Suspect Likely ‘Loner’
Federal agents said at the time there might be a “definite connection” to the disappearance of another Des Moines paper carrier — 12-year-old Johnny Gosch, who disappeared two years earlier on September 5, 1982 — and described the suspect as a “loner.”
Authorities said they were treating the Martin case as a kidnapping and had issued a nationwide bulletin for a man described as between 30 and 40 years old, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, clean shaven and with a medium build.
“Generally, the person is an introvert, a loner who may or may not be extra guilt-ridden on what he does but will not turn himself in,” said Herb Hawkins, special F.B.I. agent in charge of the Nebraska-Iowa field office in August 1994. Hawkins said some useful information was being gleaned from witnesses.
None of it panned out, however, and neither boy has ever been found.
“… when he left”
In a July 2010 interview with WHO-TV Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck in Des Moines, Eugene’s aunt, Jeannie McDowell, said she believes the cases are connected, though shudders to think of what the teens may have gone through. McDowell also said she does not think Eugene is still alive.
Eugene Martin’s aunt, Jeannie McDowell, spoke with Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck in July 2010 about her nephew and the toll his disappearance took on the family. Courtesy photo WHO-TV
“I hope that he died instantly. I hope he didn’t suffer much,” she told Brilbeck in the second of five cold case installments WHO-TV aired throughout the month.
After losing his youngest son, McDowell said her brother, Don Martin, became withdrawn and spent all his time trying to find out what happened to his boy.
“Eugene was the baby,” McDowell said. “And when he left, it just killed my brother.”
McDowell said her brother went into his own little shell and didn’t want to speak to anybody. Still, day after day he would read every paper and cut out clippings of anything that had to do with Gene.
Courtesy photo KCCI Channel 8 Des Moines
NOTE: Eugene Martin’s father, Donald Martin, passed away on Dec. 27, 2010, due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease and colon cancer. Donald Martin served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War from 1963 to 1966. He earned the Good Conduct Medal, Expert M-1 Rifle Medal, Sharp Shooter M14 Medal, along with the Vietnam Service Medal. Memorial contributions may be made to the National Central for Missing and Exploited Children, 699 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.
As he approaches his 65th birthday in October 2010, Don Martin now is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and cancer is slowly eating away at his body. Eugene’s mother, Janice, recently died from diabetes without ever knowing what happened to her son.
Despite the amount of pain he’s in, McDowell believes her brother is hanging on because of Gene and said they need some type of closure so he can go. If he knows Gene is there “waiting for him,” she said, she thinks he’d go.
At one time, a $94,000 reward was offered — including $25,000 by the Des Moines Register — for information leading to the recovery of either Johnny Gosch or Eugene Martin. It, too, eventually went by the wayside as weeks turned to months, and then years with no viable leads.
“It’s the case I’ll take to the grave.”
James Rowley, the retired Des Moines police detective who worked the Martin case until his retirement in 2001, also recognized the similarities in the two cases but still has questions about how they are linked.
Retired Des Moines police detective James Rowley worked the Eugene Martin case until his retirement in 2001, and has never given up on finding out what happened to the teen. Courtesy photo WHO-TV
“Why the two-year gap?” he stated in an August 12, 2009 interview with the Des Moines Register. That just wasn’t how it normally worked with serial killers and kidnappers. A criminal’s “growing appetite” for crime, he told the Register, doesn’t allow for lengthy holding patterns.
“Where was he before ’82?” Rowley asked. “Where was he between ’82 and ’84, and where was he after ’84?”
Another young Des Moines teen — 13-year-old Marc James Warren Allen — did in fact disappear from Des Moines in 1986. On March 29, 1986, Allen told his mother he planned to walk to a friend’s house down the street, but then just vanished.
Rowley told the Register he has heard all the theories, conspiracy and otherwise, but that none made sense. He’d even traveled to Mexico and Canada to follow up on tips — chasing down somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 leads during the investigation — but found not one credible.
WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the 1984 disappearance of missing Des Moines paperboy Eugene Martin. Air Date: July 8, 2010
Rowley, who worked more than 200 homicides and 50 bank robberies during his tenure as a police officer — helping to solve 80 percent of them — believes the clean-cut man near Martin’s home talked Eugene into leaving his route.
Rowley said Eugene Martin’s case bothers him more than any others he’s worked. In his home garage hangs a poster of Eugene to remind him every day.
An age-progression composite of how Eugene might look today. Eugene has a scar on his right knee and has had a broken right wrist.
“This case haunts me,” he told WHO-TV’s Brilbeck when interviewed for the July cold case series. “It’s the case I’ll take to the grave.”
After nearly 30 years, the former detective still seems amazed they’d never had a solid lead in Eugene’s case. No bone. No fragment. No evidence.
Rowley said he takes the case personally and will leave Eugene’s poster up in his garage until Gene is found or the case is solved.
Due to current budget cuts, Des Moines police currently are not able to work on any cold cases. Investigators, however, would still like to hear from anyone with any information — regardless of how small or insignificant it might seem — and have said they will continue to follow up on any new leads.
Eugene Wade Martin was born August 17, 1970. He has a scar on his right knee and has had a broken right wrist.
If you have any information regarding the disappearance of Eugene Wade Martin, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864 or Iowa Cold Cases via our Contact form.
Sources and References:
Missing Newspaper Boy’s Father Dies, KCCI, Dec. 29, 2010
WHO-TV Channel 13 Des Moines: Aaron Brilbeck reports on the Eugene Martin case, July 8, 2010