RECENT NEWS: Maureen’s family members have created a new Facebook page — “Remembering Maureen Brubaker Farley” — on Facebook. Please take time to visit Maureen’s FB page and share any favorite memories you might have, or take part in discussions about her unsolved murder. A special thanks to Richard Ueding-Lox for getting Maureen’s FB page up and running!
On Friday, September 24, 1971, two young boys out hunting discovered a woman’s body atop the trunk lid of an abandoned car in a wooded ravine near Cedar Rapids’ southwest edge. The victim was 17-year-old Maureen Brubaker Farley, a newly married woman not much older than the boys who found her.
The Linn County medical examiner ruled Farley had been dead no less than 48 hours and no more than 96 hours, and said death was caused by a “massive blow” to the right side of her head, causing a basal skull fracture.
Farley had last been seen alive at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 17.
Who was this Maureen Farley, and who would have wanted such a young, beautiful woman dead?
Courtesy photo Lisa Schenzel
As the eldest of seven siblings, Maureen often babysat and would tell her parents the others had been good so her parents would give them a dime apiece.
A New Beginning’s End
Maureen Brubaker Farley, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. David Brubaker of Sioux City, had just recently left her western hometown and moved across the state to Cedar Rapids to be closer for visits with her husband, David, who was serving time at the men’s reformatory in Anamosa.
She rented a sleeping room at 522 Tenth St. SE and got a waitressing position at Weida’s Restaurant, located at 836 First Ave. NE.
Early on Friday, September 17, 1971, she borrowed money for a pack of cigarettes, though her paycheck would be ready for her later that day.
She never arrived to pick up her check.
On Monday, September 20, when the usually reliable Farley still hadn’t arrived for work by 10:30 a.m., her employer reported her as missing.
Courtesy photo Lisa Schenzel
The Brubakers compiled scrapbooks displaying Maureen’s photos and drawings.
In Farley’s sleeping room, officials found the partial pack of cigarettes. At the residence’s rear, they found Farley’s car – its gas tank full. The young woman, however, was nowhere to be seen.
The Sleeping Lady
Kevin Coppess, 15, of 2357 Blakely Blvd. SE, and Danny Lineweaver, 14, of 2350 Blakely Blvd. SE, gathered their rifles to go hunting. Sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m., they’d just crossed the river on the railroad trestle and were headed up Ely road when they saw a junk car in the ravine. They hadn’t noticed it from the road due to the trees and other foliage.
Lying across the trunk, with one leg propped up and the body lying against the rear window on its back, they saw what they believed to be a woman sleeping. The lady wore clothes, but no shoes.
Thinking no more of it and not wanting to disturb the person sleeping, they continued on down the road to hunt. They eventually approached Highway 30, and not wanting to hunt that close to the road, turned back.
Courtesy Lisa Schenzel
This letter dated Friday the 15th, 1971 was written to Maureen’s mother by Violet Fowler — the mother of one of the boys who found Maureen’s body — who did her best to comfort Mrs. Brubaker.
Upon returning to the junk car, the boys decided to take a better look. The woman was still in the same position as when they’d seen her earlier. Only when they got closer did they notice the discoloration in her body.
Frightened, they began running down the road. They briefly considered stopping at a nearby tavern to get help, but then thought better of that idea; they were carrying guns, and possibly would get into trouble.
Instead, they recrossed the railroad trestle and headed to Lineweaver’s home, where they told his mother, Violet Fowler, they had found a body.
Fowler, who apparently did not believe them at first, asked the boys to take her to the place where they said they’d found her. At approximately 6:40 p.m., Mrs. Fowler saw her — what appeared to be a sleeping woman in a ravine on Ely Road SW, two-tenths of a mile south of the River Road intersection.
Mrs. Fowler took the boys and went to the Milo Skvor farm residence nearby, where she called police.
Public Pleas for Help
[Then] Assistant Cedar Rapids police chief Kenneth Vanous said they believed Mrs. Farley’s death occurred at a place other than where the boys discovered her body. Investigators theorized the young woman had been thrown from a passing vehicle and crashed through heavy vegetation onto the car’s trunk.
Courtesy photo Craig Brubaker
Years after Maureen’s death, Francis Meyer of Anthon, Iowa, discovered this piece of writing in his basement, written by Maureen Brubaker in June 1966 when 12 years old. Maureen had loved coming to the farm during the summer months to ride horses and visit.
After police secured the scene, Maureen Farley’s body was removed and taken to a local hospital where an autopsy would be conducted.
On Monday, Sept. 27, Cedar Rapids police issued a public plea for anyone with information on Farley’s death to come forward and report what they might know.
In another public plea Sept. 29, Asst. Chief Vanous said they were particularly interested in what Farley’s actions were Sept. 17 – the day she was last seen alive – through Sept. 22. Vanous said the girl may have been incapacitated in some way during the time she was missing or at least out of the city. Hoping to jog someone’s memory, he described her as five feet tall and very slim, weighing about 100 pounds, having long brown hair and a light complexion.
Had she been in town or capable, he said, she would have picked up her paycheck because she was in need of money.
The assistant chief said there was no indication of “defense wounds,” which would be evident if Farley had fought with someone. When found, Farley’s clothes were disarrayed, he said, but not torn. Vanous also stated that some of Farley’s personal items were missing, and that they were “very interested” in finding them.
The missing items proved indeed to be an interesting and unusual collection.
Farley’s purse, one of the items missing, contained a driver’s license altered to show she was 21 years old. Other more common items in the purse included make-up articles, rent receipts, family photos, a picture of a marine in uniform, a social security card and a green order pad from the restaurant she carried to make notes.
Courtesy photo Lisa Schenzel
Maureen Brubaker at two years of age.
Also in the purse was a leather wallet with red velvet lining her husband David had made for her at the reformatory.
The purse was described as a brown vinyl bag with two straps and side pockets. It also had a red velvet lining, Vanous said.
Strangely enough, however, the only article of clothing missing from Farley’s body was her shoes. Her feet were clean, indicating she was not going barefooted when she died.
Missing, too, were several pairs of shoes: a pair of yellow patent leather dress shoes; white work shoes; brown sandals; brown moccasins. Vanous made it clear that if anyone found any of the missing items, they were to report to police where the items were found and when.
Despite Maureen Farley having disappeared on a Friday, the autopsy showed no signs of alcohol in her blood, and officials were left wondering what had happened since that morning when she’d borrowed just enough money to purchase cigarettes.
Over the years, numerous suspects were questioned, interrogated, given lie detector tests, and eventually cleared.
Nearly Four Decades Later, a Family Still Waits, Grieves
Courtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
Maureen’s mother and sister, Mary Ann Brubaker and Lisa Schenzel of Sioux City, Iowa, recall the day the family learned of Maureen’s death.
As the 39th anniversary of Maureen Brubaker Farley’s death approached, WHO-TV Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, to meet with Maureen’s family and talk about what happened and where they felt the investigation might be headed.
Maureen’s mother, Mary Ann Brubaker, said Maureen was their first born child, born July 4.
“Everybody said she’ll be a firecracker and be born on July 4, and she was, and she always was a firecracker,” Mrs. Brubaker said. “She was just special, and always wanted to grow up so fast.”
The family recalled getting the phone call from police, and broke into tears as they told Brilbeck the story.
“She just said ‘David, David, they found Maureen and she’s dead,’” Mrs. Brubaker said of the phone call taken by her late husband, who passed away in 2002. “And David said ‘No No No!’ and he kept walking the floor and saying ‘No No No.’”
Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Maureen’s other sister, Angie Via, says she always looked up to her oldest sister and wanted to be like her.
“That really hurt. I always looked up to my sister and wanted to be like her,” said Maureen’s sister, Angie Via.
Maureen’s then-husband David Farley, who also resides in Sioux City and joined the family for the interview, said he remembers Maureen as always being happy.
“I don’t ever remember her arguing or getting mad,” he said.
Though answers to many questions still elude the family, there is one thing they find comforting, albeit in a quite unusual way; the killer placed Maureen’s body atop the car rather than leaving her in the dirt where she may not have been found for months.
“Maybe that was kind of their way of saying they were sorry by placing her somewhere where they figured that, out in the open, she would be found,” said Maureen’s other sister, Lisa Schenzel, who spent 13 years in law enforcement working as both a police officer and deputy sheriff.
Courtesy photo WHO-TV
Craig Brubaker, one of Maureen’s four brothers, said he believes his sister would be pretty much like she was before had she lived.
Craig Brubaker – one of Maureen’s four brothers – wonders what it would be like to have his sister here today.
“I think she probably would be pretty much the same way and I kind of wonder what kind of nieces and nephews ….” he says, before breaking up. And then “… it’s been a long time.”
DNA testing last year produced no new clues for investigators, but they say they plan to review the case again later this year.
As a result of Brilbeck’s WHO-TV story, the Brubaker family is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Maureen’s killer. More importantly, they say, is finding out what happened.
Maureen Ann Brubaker was born Sunday, July 4, 1954 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, to Mary Ann (Meyer) and David Roland Brubaker, weighing in at six pounds and 11 ounces. In addition to her parents, she was survived by her husband, David Farley, two sisters, Angela and Lisa, and four brothers, David, Craig, Robin, and Scott.
The Cedar Rapids Police Department currently has two [volunteer] investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides; Jeff Mellgren, a retired Captain from the Cedar Rapids Police Department, and J.D. Smith, a retired Special Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, head up the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s “Cold Case Unit.” Both Mellgren and Smith work closely with other investigators from the CRPD and other law enforcement agencies on a number of unsolved cases.