Naomi Wilson (Courtesy Iowa Department of Public Safety)
Naomi (Pollard) Wilson
Age at Report: 32 YOA
DOB: August 20, 1948
Weight: 112 lbs.
Height: 5′ 03″
Race: African American
Incident Type: Endangered / physical
Missing From: 1618 13th Ave. SE
Cedar Rapids, IA
NCIC Number: M-955526709
Missing Since: April 12, 1981
Case summary compiled by Jody Ewing
- Linn County in Iowa
Cedar Rapids in Linn County
Naomi Wilson was reported missing to the Cedar Rapids Police Department in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, April 12, 1981.
She was last seen by her boyfriend — Colbert “Billy” Beets — at her Cedar Rapids home located at 1618 13th Ave. SE, about 4 p.m. The couple had been dating about three years.
Raised in Birmingham, Ala., Wilson had moved to Chicago after high school, where she married Bennie Wilson, Colbert Beets’ nephew. The couple had moved to Cedar Rapids in the late ’70s and divorced three years earlier, at which time Wilson began dating Colbert Beets and got to know the rest of the Beets family.
According to Colbert Beets, Wilson did not attend church that day as she usually did but otherwise behaved normally. Beets told police he went to Wilson’s residence after attending the church’s noon services, and that he and Wilson left her residence within minutes of each other.
She wore a two-piece black pantsuit, he said, and planned to get gas for her vehicle before going to visit a friend with whom she worked at the Harnischfeger Corporation plant.
Beets said he went to his mother’s house with some ice, but said he passed Wilson’s car about an hour after he left her residence.
Wilson never made it to her friend’s house for the Sunday evening visit.
Expected to work Monday night at Harnischfeger — where she first worked in materials-handling and later at a factory “checkpoint” — Wilson didn’t show up there, either.
Those who knew her said it was uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning. Described as a level-headed and reliable individual, she’d just purchased her Cedar Rapids home and her vehicle the previous summer, and hadn’t given any indications there might be problems at work or in her personal relationships.
“From what we’ve found out about her, it’s not like her to not show up for work,” Assistant Chief James Barnes of the detective bureau said in a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated April 16, 1981. “She had good work habits.”
Beets brothers deeply involved in Wilson’s life, take lead in search parties, occupy Wilson’s home
Two days after she went missing, one of Colbert Beets’ brothers (not identified by first name) found Wilson’s white 1978 Ford Fairmont (license plate no. DOY 622) in a K-Mart parking lot at 2727 16th Ave. SW., just two-tenths of a mile from the Rev. Wendell Beets’ church at 2325 16th Avenue SW.
Wilson, however, was nowhere to be found.
According to The Gazette’s April 16, 1981 story, the Rev. Paul Beets (one of the Beets brothers) borrowed four walkie-talkie units from the Linn County Civil Defense Department, and on Wednesday morning, April 15, led about 30 citizens in a search for Wilson. Civil defense director Bill Bjorenson said Beets and the volunteers started the search near the west-side K-Mart parking lot — the same area where Wilson’s car had been found.
Wallace Johnson, assistant chief of police in charge of the patrol division, said police had no evidence to suggest foul play was involved in Wilson’s disappearance.
By September 1981 — just five months after the 32-year-old woman mysteriously vanished — Colbert Beets had moved into and was living in Wilson’s house. He was not, however, paying the monthly mortgage.
Charges of drag racing and reckless driving were filed that same month against Richard Beets, 17, after his car slammed into the rear of a station wagon driven by James E. Pirtle, causing Pirtle’s car to roll over.
Richard Beets listed his address as 1743 Sixth Avenue SE, the same address as the Rev. Paul Beets. Passengers in Beets’ car at the time of the incident included Melissa Carr, 16, of 720 15th St. SE, and someone who identified himself as “Colbert Beets, 17,” and gave his address as 1618 13th Ave. SE — Naomi Wilson’s home address.
The passenger was not Colbert Beets, but teenager Terry Lee Beets, who allegedly had tried to pass for Colbert Beets.
Colbert Beets continued living in Naomi Wilson’s home for nearly a year — without making any of the mortgage payments — before the bank finally foreclosed in January 1982.
Burglaries, check fraud, embezzlement, arson fires, rape and sexual assault charges follow Beets brothers, sons, for decades
In the years long before Naomi Wilson went missing and the years after her mysterious disappearance, the Beets brothers — and their sons — continued to make news as both plaintiffs and defendants in a number of investigations and other unusual mishaps and misfortunes. A brief timeline of events follows.
- On April 10, 1968, The Gazette reports that a federal warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution has been filed again 22-year-old Wendell A. Beets, formerly of Cedar Rapids. Beets faces some 15 counts of writing bad checks, plus a forgery charge. This comes on the heels of a 30-day suspended sentence on check charges twice in early 1967.
- The Gazette reports on April 30, 1968 that Wendell Beets, who lists his address as Thornton, Ark., has been located by the FBI in Arkansas. Two warrants had been issued for Beets’ arrest — a municipal court warrant and a felony bench warrant — but he refuses to waive extradition. Beets returns to Cedar Rapids on Monday, April 29, 1968, and turns himself in to the Rev. John Thomas. District Court Judge I. Paul Naughton gives Beets a 7-year sentence on a false uttering of a check charge, and Beets is placed on probation to Rev. Thomas under the condition that Beets makes restitution for all outstanding checks.
Paula Oberbroeckling (Courtesy Susan Taylor Chehak)
- Paula Jean Oberbroeckling, 18, disappears after leaving her 116 10th St. NW Cedar Rapids residence in the early morning hours on Saturday, July 11, 1970. Her remains, though not immediately identifiable due to decomposition, are found Nov. 29, 1970. According to the What Happened to Paula website, the Cedar Rapids police chief had the opinion that Wendell Beets was wholly aware of what happened to Paula Oberbroeckling and his (Beets’) sister’s role Paula’s murder.
- In 1978, Naomi Wilson and her husband Bennie Wilson are divorced, and Naomi begins dating Colbert L. “Billy” Beets.
- Colbert Beets, 1019 Sixth St. SE in Cedar Rapids, files bankruptcy in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids in September 1979, listing debts of $16,879.54 and assets of $17,275. He claims $15,275 as exempt.
- The Gazette publishes a “Sheriff’s Sale Notice” on Jan. 2, 1980, against Gospel Tabernacle Church of Jesus Christ, Donald Kopecky and Paul Beets.
- On Jan. 17, 1980, five charges are filed against Charles R. Tate, 19, after allegedly arguing with and hitting Terese Beets of 1743 Sixth Ave. SE, and then driving to her residence and threatening to injure the Rev. Paul Beets with a 18-1/4-inch machete.
- In July 1980, Naomi Wilson purchases a Cedar Rapids home at 1618 13th Avenue SE and begins buying things to fix it up.
- On Aug. 15, 1980, the Rev. Paul Beets of the Gospel Tabernacle Church at 716 Eighth Ave. SW files a theft complaint against Walter Hickey of Hickey’s Truck Service over a disagreement about the price of repairs on a church-owned bus and the bond Beets says he was forced to pay to gain possession of the bus.
- On Dec. 2, 1980, the Rev. Paul Beets alleges that someone entered and burglarized his residence sometime between 1 and 3 p.m. Items stolen from his 1743 Sixth Ave. SE home, Beets says, include a television, a silverware set, a full-length leather coat, and the reverend’s police-band scanner radio. The insurance claim for losses exceeds $4,000, according to police reports and The Gazette.
- On Sunday, April 12, 1981, Colbert Beets says he went to Naomi’s home mid-afternoon, and the two departed the home in separate vehicles at 4 p.m. He says he passes Wilson on the street one hour later, but Wilson vanishes without a trace and is never seen again. Colbert Beets alleges he searched for Wilson until 3 a.m. Monday.
- When a Harnischfeger employee phones Colbert Beets Monday, April 13 to say Wilson didn’t show up for work, Beets calls police.
- On Tuesday, April 14 at 2:55 p.m., one of Colbert Beets’ brothers finds Wilson’s white Ford Fairmont near the west-side K-Mart parking lot, just two-tenths of a mile from the Rev. Wendell Beets’ church at 2325 16th Avenue SW. Cedar Rapids police check the car and its trunk at the scene, and then Colbert Beets drives the car back home to Wilson’s 13th Avenue SE home.
- On Wednesday morning, April 15, 1981, the Rev. Paul Beets borrows four walkie-talkies and leads 30 citizens on an apparent search for Wilson.
- In a Gazette article published April 25, 1981, Colbert Beets criticizes Cedar Rapids police for not taking fingerprints off Wilson’s car at the scene when found, but does not explain why he didn’t address those concerns on April 14 before driving her car back home. In his Gazette interview with staff writer Kurt Rogahn, Beets says he suspects foul play in his girlfriend’s disappearance. Wilson’s brother, John Pollard, says he has a more positive attitude about the case, and that his parents in Birmingham are already upset at having lost two of Pollard’s brothers — one in 1958 and one in 1972.
- On Sept. 13, 1981, Richard Beets of 1743 Sixth Ave. SE is charged with drag racing and reckless driving after his car crashes into the rear of a station wagon, causing it to roll over. Richard Beets’ car also crosses the median and crashes into the side of an unoccupied apartment house at 1407 Mount Vernon Rd. SE. Three people are injured in the two incidents. Coincidentally, Naomi Wilson’s ex-husband lived at that same Mount Vernon Rd. residence in 1976.
- On Saturday night, Nov. 21, 1981, the “Soul Survivors” gospel singing group from Waterloo performs Rev. Paul Beets’ Gospel Tabernacle Church at 716 Eighth Ave. SW in honor of the Rev. Paul Beets’ service to the church.
- Marcus Beets, son of Colbert and Sandra (Waddell) Beets, is born in Cedar Rapids Sept. 25, 1982.
- On Monday, Aug. 17, 1987, the Rev. Paul Beets, now pastor of another Gospel Tabernacle Church located at 749 Old Marion Rd. NE in Cedar Rapids, leaves for a two-week-long theological conference in South Korea hosted by The Unification Church — also known as the “Moonies” — led by the Rev. Sun Myung Moon.
- By October 1987, the relocated Gospel Tabernacle Church lists both Paul Beets and his brother Wendell Beets as church pastors.
- Courtesy photo wordoffaithcogic.org
- Two years after the Rev. Wendell A. Beets was found guilty of sexually abusing a teen parishioner for years, he was back in business as a pastor serving in capacities that often included Sunday School students and youth.
In 1992, allegations surface that the Rev. Wendell Beets — now leading the new Sound Doctrine Church — has sexually abused a teen parishioner for years. The accusation brings forth similar allegations, and in early August 1992, Wendell Beets admits — in front of 50 members of his 150 parishioners — to sexual impropriety and misdeeds. Wendell Beets resigns from his new church, but before leaving town with his family tells Louise Ellis — a minister in Beets’ former church and the victim’s mother — that “Nobody’s going to stop me from preaching.”
- Authorities issue a warrant for the 47-year-old Rev. Wendell Beets’ arrest, and at 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 23, 1992, arrest him on charges of criminal sexual misconduct. By the time The Gazette goes to press for Thursday’s paper, Beets has already posted the $26,00 bond and been released.
- In a one-day trial Wednesday, Dec. 15, 1993, Associate Linn County District Judge Michael Newmeister finds Wendell Beets guilty of assault with intent to commit sexual abuse against one of his young female parishioners.
- Less than two years later, brothers Colbert and Wendell Beets are back in business together as reverends of the Gospel Tabernacle Church.
- On Nov. 28, 1995, The Gazette reports that Colbert Beets’ son, 31-year-old Tony L. Beets of 1019 Sixth St. SE, has been charged with felony assault with intent to commit sexual abuse with bodily injury. Tony Beets is accused of entering the residence of a female acquaintance, carrying a knife, striking her and announcing he is going to force her to have sex. The woman escaped.
- On June 21, 1997, 22-year-old Traci Ann Evenson of 438-1/2 Ninth Ave. SW is beaten and suffocated in her Cedar Rapids apartment. The Rev. Wendell Beets, now senior pastor of Word of Faith Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, officiates the services. Traci’s unsolved murder is also included here on the Iowa Cold Cases website.
- Richard DeForest Beets, the 33-year-old son of the Rev. Paul V. Beets Sr. and Nedra (Phillips) (Beets) Juenger, allegedly commits suicide by drowning on Monday, Nov. 3, 1997. His uncle, Elder Wendell A. Beets of the Gospel Tabernacle Church, conducts the memorial services.
- On Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2003, Colbert Beets’ 21-year-old son Marcus Beets, a premier drummer, dies from an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound. During a memorial celebration of his life, his uncle, Pastor Wendell Beets, says of his nephew’s death: “This is a tragedy, but it has a Divine purpose.” Wendell Beets also says “This didn’t happen for no reason,” and urged those present not to give up on God but to “Cleanse yourself of your sins.” Marcus’ uncle, the (now) Bishop Paul Beets, helps conduct his nephew’s services.
In subsequent years, the Beets brothers continued to make news and suffer financial and personal difficulties as they swapped church locations on a regular basis, dealt with year-after-year property tax delinquencies and one by one by one officiated funeral services for their closest family friends and young family members who met mysterious deaths after very short “illnesses” or alleged “suicides.”
Iowa Cold Cases victim catches eye of Doe Network volunteer
In May 2010, a volunteer with The Doe Network — an organization that performs research and provides information to law enforcement about unexplained disappearances and unidentified victims — read about Naomi’s disappearance on the Iowa Cold Cases website and saw similarities to a woman listed in the Texas Missing and Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse Online Bulletin. The female homicide victim had been found on Peach Street in Houston, Texas, on August 7, 1981.
- Courtesy photo The Doe Network
- This unidentified female homicide victim found in Houston in August 1981 was compared to Naomi Wilson, who went missing from Iowa in April 1991.
Her height, weight, age, and other physical characteristics appeared to match those of Iowa’s Naomi Wilson.
The Doe Network volunteer submitted the possible match to the Texas Department of Public Safety, who in turn contacted the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Missing Person Information Clearinghouse and the Cedar Rapids Police Department.
Police had no dental records or fingerprints or a DNA profile for Wilson, who was childless, to compare to the Texas body, but Iowa Cold Cases provided the Doe Network volunteer with family information that put him in touch with Naomi Pollard Wilson’s two surviving brothers, who said they would provide their DNA.
The Pollard family said they were encouraged, because even if the DNA failed to match the Texas victim, it would now be in the system for future comparisons to other unidentified bodies that might be their loved one.
Foul play has long been suspected in Naomi Wilson’s disappearance, but without a body and with little evidence to indicate what happened to her, the case remains cold.
About Naomi Wilson
Naomi (Pollard) Wilson was born August 20, 1948 in Birmingham, Ala., where she and her brothers were raised.
After high school Naomi moved to Chicago, where she married Bennie Wilson, the Beets brothers’ nephew. The couple divorced in 1978 sometime after moving to Cedar Rapids, and Naomi began dating Colbert “Billy” Beets.
Bernie Wilson remarried and moved to Denver.
Naomi was employed by the Harnischfeger Corporation, where she first worked in materials handling and later at a factory “checkpoint.”
In addition to her parents, she was survived by two brothers, John and Lorenzo Pollard, of Atlanta, who came to Iowa to help search for her. Two other brothers preceded her in death.
Her remains have never been recovered or positively identified, and her case remains unsolved.
If you have information regarding Naomi Wilson’s unsolved disappearance and suspected murder, please contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department at (319) 286-5374, or the Missing Person Information Clearinghouse / Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 1-800-346-5507.
If you have any information about the unidentified woman found in Houston on August 7, 1981, please contact the Texas Department of Public Safety in Austin, Texas at (512) 424-5074 or (800) 346-3243. You may also contact The Doe Network at (931) 397-3893.
- Iowa Department of Public Safety Missing Person Information Clearinghouse
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
- Cedar Rapids Police Department
- Texas Department of Public Safety
- The Doe Network
- Attorney Andrea Olmanson, ongoing correspondence
- Iowa Cold Cases: Paula Jean Oberbroeckling
- Iowa Cold Cases: Traci Ann Evenson
- “Elder Wendell A. Beets, Senior Pastor,” Word of Faith Pentecostal Church of God in Christ, March 29, 2014
- Beets Family Tree, whathappenedtopaula.com
- “Find the lost, naming the unnamed,” by Deb Nicklay, The Globe Gazette, March 30, 2008
- “Marion, Iowa Obituaries: Lavernia “Smokey” (Beets) Johnson,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, February 12, 2008
- “Delinquent Property Tax List,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, June 1, 2006
- “C.R. drum corps performs at service for suicide victim,” by Elizabeth Kutter, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 9, 2003
- Missing Persons Bulletin, Iowa Department of Public Safety, October 2001
- “Wendell A. Beets, Appellant, Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Iowa vs. Iowa Department of Corrections, Services, Director; State of Iowa,” Filed Jan. 8, 1999; Submitted Oct. 19, 1998, before BOWMAN, Chief Judge, RICHARD S. ARNOLD, and MORRIS SHEPPARD ARNOLD, Circuit Judges, caselaw.lp.findlaw.com.
- “Assault Charges: Tony L. Beets,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, November 28, 1995
- “Deaths: Eastern Iowa: Services: Alvin “Bo” R. Beets,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 25, 1995
- “Ex-minister found guilty of assault,” by Tom Fruehling, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, Dec. 16, 1993
- “Pastor quits amid sex allegations,” by Rick Smith, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, August 29, 1992
- “Murder, Missing, Unsolved: Answers elusive in many murders, disappearances,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 22, 1992
- “Minister arrested Wednesday,” by Donna Lee Olson, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, September 24, 1991
- “Iowans to attend Moon church meeting,” by Lyle Muller, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, August 16, 1987
- “Missing persons pose different kind of puzzle,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, September 18, 1983
- The Charley Project: Naomi Wilson
- “Anniversary service,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, November 21, 1981
- “Car crashes into house; 3 injured,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Sunday, September 13, 1981
- “Where is Naomi Wilson?” by Kurt Rogahn, The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, April 25, 1981
- “Friends help search for missing C.R. woman,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, April 16, 1981
- “Burglaries reported,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, December 2, 1980
- “C.R. News Roundup: Theft complaint,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Friday, August 15, 1980
- “5 charges against man,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Thursday, January 17, 1980
- “LEGAL NOTICES: SHERIFF’S SALE NOTICE,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, January 2, 1980
- “Bankruptcies: Colbert L. Beets,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wednesday, September 5, 1979
- “Armed Forces,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, November 20, 1970
- “Former C.R. Man Sentenced on Check Count,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Tuesday, April 30, 1968
- “Federal Warrant Out on Wendell Beets,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Wednesday, April 10, 1968
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