Polk County in Iowa
- West Des Moines in Polk County
(aka Mariana Redroban)
DCI Case Number: 98-00744
Walnut Creek Inn
West Des Moines, IA
January 23, 1998
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing
[O]n Friday, January 23, 1998, Ecuadorian immigrant Mariana Redrovan, 15, was stabbed to death in a room at the West Des Moines Walnut Creek Inn where she worked as a housekeeper.
A supervisor found Redrovan’s body in a guest room.
In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published January 24, 1998, Michael Went, deputy director of the INS office in Omaha, Neb., said Redrovan was employed illegally at the Walnut Creek Inn because she did not have proper documentation to enter the country and worked more hours than the law allows for a 15-year-old.
Neal Roth, the hotel’s general manager, said Redrovan presented a driver’s license and a social security card with a last name of “Prieto” and an age of 17 when hired nine months earlier.
Roth said Redrovan worked 28 to 32 hours a week for $6 an hour.
Under labor regulations, 15-year-olds could not work more than four hours a day. Redrovan was working to support her parents, siblings, and other relatives.
An attorney for Iowa’s labor commissioner, Cynthia Tofflemire, told the Gazette the state didn’t receive many reports of illegal employment of under-age immigrants.
“We do have concerns, but I wouldn’t say we get a lot of reports,” Tofflemire said.
Connection to Other Iowa Slayings?
Authorities have long wondered whether Redrovan’s slaying might be connected to the slaying of Zurijeta Sakanovic, a 21-year-old Bosnian refugee who was strangled and stabbed to death in September 1997 at the Budgetel Inn in Clive where she worked, as well as the slayings of Patricia Lange and Julie Davis.
Sakanovic’s body was discovered in one of the hotel’s guest rooms two hours after she reported for work on September 4, 1997. She was found naked from the waist down with her wrists bound.
Investigators have not said whether Redrovan was strangled, and while there are similarities in the slayings, police have not confirmed whether they were committed by the same person.
Sakanovic’s murder came less than one week after the stabbing death of 33-year-old Julie Davis of Marion, Iowa, who died August 28, 1997 at her office near downtown Des Moines. Davis’s murder also remains unsolved.
Donald Arthur Piper of Des Moines — a former hotel maintenance man — was convicted June 18, 2002, in Sakanovic’s murder. At the time of that conviction, the 41-year-old Piper was already serving a life sentence for murdering 36-year-old Patricia Lange, an August 1993 guest at the University Park Holiday Inn in West Des Moines.
Lange, like Sakanovic, was found strangled in a guest room. Piper was convicted of first-degree murder in 2000 for Lange’s death and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Officials linked Piper to Lange’s homicide through DNA evidence recovered from the hotel bedspread and a sock.
Courtesy The Gazette, Jan. 8, 2002
Polk County District Court Judge D.J. Stovall denied a motion for a mistrial after jurors returned the verdict in Lange’s case.
In January 1999, authorities confirmed that a West Des Moines police officer and a Polk County prosecutor also questioned Roberto Rodriquez Perez to see whether a statement he’d recently made referred to Redrovan’s slaying. Perez was sentenced January 20, 1999, for the April 14 slaying of Connie Sue Osburn at a Denny’s restaurant.
“We have nothing to link him to the crime,” West Des Moines police Sgt. Lee Hart is quoted as saying in a January 21, 1999 article published in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus. “We are aware of his statement, but now we have nothing concrete, nothing to corroborate.”
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Redrovan’s case was one of approximately 150 listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as cases the division hoped to solve using advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
The DCI remains committed to the resolution of Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.
Piper remains a person of interest in Redrovan’s slaying.
If you have any information about Mariana Redrovan’s unsolved murder please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the West Des Moines Police Department at (515) 222-3320.
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
- The National Institute of the Study of Violence, Iowa
- Criminal Justice Panda: Don Piper
- “Monsters Among Us: Donald Arthur Piper convicted of the murder of 2 women, still a suspect in 2 others,” My Life of Crime, April 29, 2012
- “STATE v. PIPER,” caselaw.findlaw.com, No. 01-1239, Decided: June 11, 2003
- “Jury convicts Piper in motel worker slaying,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 19, 2002
- “Closing arguments scheduled in Piper trial,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 16, 2002
- “Judge in Piper case declares mistrial,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, January 15, 2002
- “Judge considers declaring Piper mistrial: Officer’s testimony refers to 2 other motel murder cases,” by Elizabeth Kutter, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 12, 2002
- “Jury selection begins in Des Moines man’s 2nd murder trial,” by Elizabeth Kutter, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 8, 2002
- “Convicted murderer’s 2nd trial begins today,” by Elizabeth Kutter, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 7, 2002
- “Man convicted of murder,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 5, 2001
- “Jury hasn’t reached consensus in Piper trial,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, June 2, 2001
- “Piper denies killing woman,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, May 24, 2001
- “Murder suspect in drug therapy,” The (Spencer) Daily Reporter, February 7, 2001
- “Man arrested in second hotel slaying,” The Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, April 8, 2000
- “Man arrested in 6-year-old hotel slaying,” The Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, January 22, 2000
- “Man convicted of killing waitress talks of other killing,” The Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus, January 21, 1999
- “Slayings spur caution for basketball tournament,” From Associated Press and Gazette staff reports, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 7, 1998
- “D.M. police reluctant to say slayings are by serial killer,” by the Associated Press/ The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 21, 1998
- “Des Moines immigrants fear they’re target of motel killer,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 24, 1998
- “Housekeeper found slain in West Des Moines motel,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 17, 1998
- “Bosnian family plans to leave Iowa after murder,” The Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, September 8, 1997
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