Marie “Lisa” Peak (Courtesy photo Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Marie “Lisa” Peak
Marie “Lisa” Peak
September 7, 1976
On Tuesday, Sept. 7, 1976, at approximately 11 a.m., the nude, beaten body of 20-year-old Marie “Lisa” Peak was found lying face down under a lone cottonwood tree in a ditch on the John Anhalt farm beside a gravel road a quarter mile north of Waverly’s city limits. Peak had been sexually assaulted, and, according to autopsy findings, died of suffocation and a broken neck. None of Peak’s clothes were found at the scene.
Peak, the daughter of Knoxville veterinarian and former city councilman Dr. Frank Peak and Mary Peak, had been a sophomore majoring in journalism at Wartburg College in Waverly, and had returned to the campus the day before she disappeared following summer vacation.
Bremer County in Iowa
Friends last saw Peak early afternoon on Labor Day when she said she was going shopping at the Willow Lawn Shopping Center in Waverly. When she didn’t return to her dorm to go on a scheduled date, the friends reported her missing.
Waverly in Bremer County
Earlier in the year, Peak had provided information to authorities regarding a sensational sex and extortion scheme. The information led to the arrest of 40-year-old used car salesman John Joseph Carmody, Jr., of Mason City, Iowa. Carmody had blackmailed more than a dozen women into having sex with him with threats of mafia retaliation if they refused. FBI officials later proved his claims to mafia connections were false. In May 1976 Carmody pleaded guilty to rape and extortion and was sentenced to 40 years at Fort Madison’s Iowa State Penitentiary. Peak spent her May term as a reporter for the Clarksville Star.
Peak and Iowa writer Chuck Offenburger had planned to write a book about the blackmail scheme, and on August 23 had written Carmody of their plans. The week before Peak’s murder, Offenburger received a letter from Ted Enabnit — a Mason City attorney who represented Carmody in the court proceedings — stating “Mr. Carmody and his professional writer associates are and will produce the appropriate literary work to tell Mr. Carmody’s story from the mass of accumulated materials” (Offenburger, The Des Moines Register, Sept. 9, 1976).
Offenburger said Peak had received threats after Carmody was imprisoned from women who said they loved [Carmody] and wanted to marry him (Tri-City Herald, WA, Sept. 10, 1976).
Many wondered if Peak’s murder might be connected to two other Waverly homicides.
The nude body of 19-year-old waitress Julie Ann Benning of Clarksville was found in March approximately six miles from the location where Peak’s body was discovered. Benning had been missing since late November 1975.
A third unsolved murder happened five years earlier when the partially clad body of Valerie Lynn Klossowsky, 14, was found south of Waverly. She also had been strangled.
On May 7, 2010, State and Bremer County officials exhumed Lisa Peak’s body with the hope that by re-examining the body, they might discover new evidence that would help close the case.
Bremer County Attorney Kasey Earl Wadding said that advancements in technology could lead to the discovery of new evidence upon further examination of Ms. Peak’s remains. “You can recover evidence after a long period of time,” Wadding said.
Wadding says he does not have any hard leads and is unsure whether the examination by the Division of Criminal Investigation and State Medical Examiner’s Office will provide any, but that there is the possibility evidence still exists.
Lisa Peak was born December 10, 1956.
If you have any information about Lisa Peak’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or send your information to Iowa Cold Cases via our Contact form.
Sources: (articles listed in chronological order)
- “Probe into Peak murder continues,” Muscatine Journal, Sept. 8, 1976
- “Investigate death of Wartburg co-ed,” Oelwein Daily Register, Sept. 8, 1976
- “Probe of coeds slaying under way,” Waterloo Courier, Sept. 8, 1976
- “Wartburg Shocked by Coed’s Slaying,” Des Moines Register, Sept. 9, 1976
- “No leads in co-ed’s death,” Oelwein Daily Register, Sept. 9, 1976
- “Nothing solid in Peak murder,” Waterloo Courier, Sept. 9, 1976
- “Girl who helped break sex ring slain,” Tri-City Herald, Pasco, Kennewick, Richland, WA, Sept. 10, 1976
- “Slain Coed Planned Book on Sex Ring,” Charleston Daily Mail, Fri., Sept. 10, 1976
- “Sex case tipster raped, strangled,” Independent Press-Telegram, Long Beach, CA, Sept. 10, 1976
- “Sex-blackmail ring tipster murdered,” The Miami News, Sept. 10, 1976
- “Shoes may be link to slayings,” The Telegraph-Herald, Sept. 10, 1976
- “Services held for tipster in sex and blackmail ring,” St. Joseph Gazette, Sept. 10, 1976
- “FBI Assisting Investigation of Waverly deaths,” Des Moines Register, Sept. 11, 1976
- “Link Seen in Slaying of Coed,” Oxnard (CA) Press Courier, Sept. 11, 1976
- “Denies Site of Coed’s Slaying Has Been Found,” Des Moines Register, Sept. 15, 1976
- “BCI tries psychology to find Waverly killer,” Oelwein Daily Register, Sept. 16, 1976
- “Bankers offer $5,000 reward,” The Telegraph-Herald, Sept. 20, 1976
- “Obituaries: Lisa Peak,” Knoxville Alumni Association, October 1976
- “‘Holiday Killer’ hinted in two Bremer slayings,” Waterloo Courier, Nov. 24, 1976
- “Could ‘holiday killer’ be responsible for 2 Waverly slayings?’ Des Moines Register, Nov. 24, 1976
- “Psychic Greta says she ‘sees’ murder but can’t explain why,” Des Moines Register, June 5, 1977
- Offender information on John Joseph Carmody, Iowa Department of Corrections
- “Peak body exhumed,” Journal Express, May 7, 2010
- “Unsolved mystery: Remains of 1976 murder victim unearthed for re-examination,” Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier, May 8, 2010
- “Eastern Iowa Cold Case: Lisa Peak,” KWWL-TV Channel 7, May 8, 2010
- “Cold Case: Remains Of 1976 Murder Victim Exhumed,” WOWT, May 8, 2010
- “COLD CASE: 34 years after her death, investigators hope DNA will help catch Lisa Peak’s killer,”WHO-TV, Des Moines, May 9, 2010
- “Homicide victim’s remains unearthed,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 9, 2010
- “Cold Case: Investigators hope to break 1976 murder of Wartburg student,” Waverly Democrat, May 11, 2010
- “Finding Lisa’s Killer,” The (Wartburg College) Circuit, May 17, 2010
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