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Gerald Best was found stabbed to death on Dec. 30, 1999, in his apartment at 4 N. Madison Ave. in Mason City, Iowa.
Medical Examiner David Sloan said the 50-year-old’s throat had been slashed.
The Mason City Police Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) interviewed dozens of people, but no arrests have ever been made in the case.
In a December 2002 interview with the Mason City Globe Gazette, Best’s brother, Robert Best, said he didn’t feel as if police were doing anything, and didn’t believe there wasn’t enough evidence to make an arrest in the case.
“It looks to me like they’re chasing petty thieves instead of looking for the person who killed my brother,” Robert Best told the Gazette.
Lt. Ron Vande Weerd acknowledged Mason City police weren’t working on the case full-time, but said they still considered it a high priority.
“We’ve interviewed a lot of people and followed up on a lot of leads. And we still get leads,” he said.
Lead Detective Kevin Pals, who left the Mason City Police Department in January 2001 after being elected Cerro Gordo county sheriff, told the Gazette he worked closely with DCI investigator Tom Keenan on Gerald Best’s case. Pals said he worked the case continually for several months and would still be working on it had he not changed jurisdiction.
“We have evidence that was left at the scene and the police know things that the public doesn’t know,” said Pals, who remains optimistic the case can still be solved.
Robert Best, who was out of town at the time of his brother’s murder, told the Gazette he’d conducted his own investigation of sorts and said he often shared information with police. Robert Best said his brother was always good to people, and believed his brother’s generosity may have contributed to his death.
Robert Best also admitted that drugs may have been involved, and Vande Weerd said investigators had not ruled out that possibility.
In September 2011, Gerald Best’s murder case became publicly intertwined with the Jodi Huisentruit missing persons case after Mason City police officer Maria Ohl came under investigation by internal affairs on allegations of misconduct. Ohl was fired August 4, 2011, for allegedly mishandling information she’d received regarding the KIMT-TV morning anchor’s 1995 disappearance.
Ohl reportedly received information from a street informant regarding police misconduct in the Huisentruit case, which she had recorded, and failed to immediately submit the recording as evidence. Ohl alleged that Lt. Frank Stearns, Lt. Ron Vande Weerd and former DCI agent Bill Basler were involved in Huisentruit’s disappearance, and also alleged Lt. Logan Wernet was involved in a cover-up in connection with Gerald Best’s murder.
Ohl claimed that the Rev. Shane Philpott — pastor of the Christian Fellowship Church — had received a phone call from Donald Milk of Minnesota regarding police misconduct and the cover-up, including the information that Huisentruit was buried near a sawmill near Forest city. Ohl held onto the information for three years before coming forward.
Ohl is the reverend’s sister-in-law.
Mason City attorney Susan Bernau called Ohl’s allegations “outrageous.” Ohl was put on paid administrative leave and examined by a psychologist who determined Ohl was unfit or capable of being a police officer.
Ohl was terminated for violating several departmental rules including misuse of evidence, withholding information in a criminal case and insubordination. The DCI later issued a news release stating there was no credible evidence linking police officers or DCI agents to the Huisentruit disappearance.
Gerald Best was born August 21, 1949, in Mason City to Laurence E. and Marilee K. (Pigman) Best. He had three brothers and three sisters. After graduating from high school in Mason City, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967. He was deployed to Vietnam shortly before his 18th birthday.
“He went to Vietnam in August ,” Robert Best said in a Globe Gazette article dated December 8, 2008. “He was a member of the 173rd Airborne Division. In November, two-thirds of his company got wiped out. Gerald was shot in the hand.”
Best received two Purple Hearts for his service in Vietnam.
Robert Best said his brother finished his time in the service, and after returning home went to Hawkeye Tech in Waterloo.
Best worked as a welder in north Iowa and had four children. He was buried at Elmwood Saint Joseph Cemetery in Mason City.
He was preceded in death by his father.
Gerald’s brother Robert Best died April 24, 2011. His mother passed away August 28, 2013.
If you have any information regarding Gerald Best’s unsolved murder, please contact the Mason City Police Department at 641-421-3636.