Patricia Veach Christmas 1968Patricia “Trish” Veach, Christmas 1968
Courtesy photo William T. Veach

Patricia Ann Veach

Homicide

Patricia Ann Veach
8 YOA
805 S.W. Lally St.
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 69-12925
July 10, 1969

Case summary by Jody Ewing

On Thursday morning, July 10, 1969, 8-year-old Patricia Ann Veach was found dead in her bedroom at her Des Moines home. She had been sexually molested, and police said she either was strangled or smothered by her slayer.

On Monday, July 14, Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Leo Luka said an autopsy showed Patricia had been smothered to death, but said he was uncertain whether it was accomplished “with a pillow or a hand.”

In an Associated Press story published July 15 in the Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dr. Luka added that laboratory analyses of blood and hair found on the scene were incomplete.

Patricia’s father, William “Bill” Veach, told police he’d gone to check on his daughter about 7:25 a.m. Thursday morning after discovering the home’s front door screen slashed near the latch.

Mr. Veach said he found his daughter lying on her back, uncovered and clad only in her pajama top, and that there was blood on her body and on the bed.

Patricia Veach with her parents, Bill and Etta Veach, and her brother, Billy, at her grandparents’ 40th wedding anniversary in June 1969.
Courtesy photo William T. Veach
No unusual noises in house that night

Patricia lived with her parents, Bill and Etta Veach, and her older brother, Billy, at 805 S.W. Lally Street on Des Moines’ south side. Billy had spent the night with his paternal grandparents.

The Veaches told police they’d gone to bed around 2 a.m. and that their daughter was all right at that time. They said they’d heard no unusual noises in the house, and that their dog — who was kept in the basement overnight — had not barked.

Police canvassed the neighborhood in search of persons who might have seen someone or heard something near the Veach’s home.

In an Associated Press article dated Monday, July 14, 1969, Police Detective Capt. Cleatus M. Leaming said his men had questioned more than 500 persons by Sunday and that there were seven detectives and two identification officers assigned to the case.

Leaming also stated that neither he nor his department had any clues regarding the identity of Patricia’s killer.

On Tuesday, July 15, police questioned an alleged vagrant in connection with the young girl’s death, but the man pled innocent to the vagrancy charges and was jailed in lieu of a $100 bond.

WDC-astronauts-patricia-veachOn Thursday, July 17, 1969, an AP brief in the Waterloo Daily Courier announced lie detector tests would be given soon to suspects in the case. The brief appeared just below the Daily Courier’s page one story hailing Apollo 11 explorers Michael Collins, Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr. for having soared past the halfway point of their journey to the moon.

A poem by John G. MaGee, Jr. ran below the astronauts’ photo and parallel to the brief on Patricia Veach, and though meant to correspond to the space crew photo, the words seemed to capture the very essence of a young girl’s journey to a final resting place. It read:

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds—and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of—wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew—
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

MaGee wrote the poem before being killed in action over Germany in December 1941 while serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Patricia Veach, like John MaGee, seemed to dance the skies on laughter.

billy-patricia-veach-linda-long-1968Patricia Veach, center, with her brother, Billy, and cousin, Linda Long, in the summer of 1968.
Courtesy photo William T. Veach
A bubbly, outgoing child

She was a very bubbly, outgoing child, her brother said in an August 2010 email to Iowa Cold Cases.

According to Billy Veach, the family has few photos of Patricia where she isn’t making a funny face or sticking out her tongue.

“[She was] always making faces at a camera. Always teasing and laughing,” Veach wrote. “She could run like a deer. She loved school and was very smart.”

Two weeks prior to her murder, Patricia had served as the flower girl for her Uncle David and Aunt Mona’s wedding.

The young Midwestern girl could have soared, and today would just be reaching the prime of her life.

Her death came just seven months after the 1968 Christmas Eve slaying of 10-year-old Pamela Powers, a suburban Urbandale girl who had been abducted from the Des Moines YMCA.

In July 1977, 33-year-old Anthony Erthel Williams was convicted by a Linn County district court jury of first-degree murder for Powers’ slaying. On Friday, August 19, 1977, proclaiming his innocence and sanity to the end, Williams was sentenced for the second time to life in prison for the death of a child.

“Little children are walking the streets of Iowa in danger because of the limitations that have been placed on me and my attorneys,” the Gazette reported Williams as saying in an emotional statement to the court prior to his sentencing. Williams referred to Patricia Veach’s unsolved murder and molestation, and said her death showed that the person who took the life of Pamela Powers was free to commit the Veach killing in July 1969.

A brother’s commitment to clear family name

Patricia’s brother Billy remembers all too well the weeks, months, and years following his little sister’s murder — and the decades under which he felt his father lived under a cloud of suspicion. His father was questioned daily the first week after Patricia’s murder, and by month’s end the family could no longer make it through the night in the SW Lally St. home.

When the time came for Patricia’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Thomas McFall, to return to Ballymena in Northern Ireland, Mr. Veach surprised his wife and son with tickets to go to Ireland with her. Etta and Billy spent August in Ireland away from the Iowa madness, and Bill Veach had another surprise when the two returned home; he was moving them into a new home he’d bought while they were away.

grays-lake-mem-bridge-plaque-patricia-veach-2010Memorial plaque on Grey’s Lake Memorial Walking Bridge
Courtesy photo William T. Veach

Community members in the new neighborhood still eyed the family with suspicion and passed around a petition trying to keep the family out. Billy told Iowa Cold Cases he lived in fear his father would never be fully cleared. Out of 81 pieces of evidence, the State Crime Lab had obtained only a few DNA markers — not enough at the time to run through the FBI database.

On July 26, 2010 — three days before what would have been Patricia’s 50th birthday — her brother and parents purchased a memorial plaque in her memory and had it mounted on the Grey’s Lake Memorial Walking Bridge.

It was a tough week, Billy Veach said, but despite tears there were also smiles as the family — which Veach says is close — remembered the good times.

On Tuesday, March 8, 2011, Billy said he received word the family had waited decades to hear; the State Crime Lab had resubmitted evidence to check for familial DNA. According to Sgt. Steve Woody, Billy said, they were “able to definitively exclude my dad, his brothers and myself from any suspicion.”

Billy said when he told his father about the results, they both broke down in tears.

patricia-veach-6-28-69-david-mona-weddingJust two weeks shy of her murder, Patricia Ann Veach was the flower girl at her Uncle David and Aunt Mona’s wedding.
Courtesy photo William T. Veach

“Patricia’s murder has left a huge hole in our hearts,” he said. “It has never made any sense to us who could do such a vile thing to someone so young and beautiful.”

The hardest part, he said, was still not knowing who did it, or why.

About Patricia Veach

Patricia Ann Veach was born July 29, 1960, to William and Etta Veach.

Memorial services were held Monday, July 14, 1969, at Hamilton Funeral Home with burial at Sunset Memorial Gardens.

In addition to her parents, Patricia was survived by her brother, William T.; paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Veach of Des Moines; and maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas McFall of Ballymena, Northern Ireland.

Information Needed

If you have any information about the murder of Patricia Ann Veach, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864.

Sources:
  • Des Moines Police Department, correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Personal Correspondence with William T. Veach
  • “William Protests, But Gets Life Term,” (Associated Press), The Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 20, 1977
  • “Lie Tests,” AP/Waterloo Daily Courier, July 17, 1969
  • “Means Uncertain in Murder of D.M. Girl,” (Associated Press), The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 15, 1969
  • “No New Clues In D.M. Killing; 500 Questioned,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 14, 1969
  • “No New Leads in Slaying of DM Girl,” Waterloo Daily Courier, July 14, 1969
  • “No Veach case leads,” The Muscatine Journal, July 14, 1969
  • “Patricia Veach Obituary,” The Des Moines Register, July 13, 1969
  • “Incident with Prowler Recalls Slaying in D.M.,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 13, 1969
  • “Girl, 9, Found Slain in D.M.” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 10, 1969

 

Copyright © 2014 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Add a Comment

38 Responses to Patricia Veach

  1. Martin says:

    Were any of the neighbors ever questioned as suspects? There was one acquantance of my parents who lived next door to the murder scene whom I recall as being a bit strange; my family always said they wondered if he did it.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Martin, I’m fairly certain the police would have questioned most of the neighbors, but I’m intrigued about this neighbor. We wouldn’t want to publicly name names here on the site, but if you have more information would you be willing to send it along in an e-mail? If you click on the Contact link in the menu bar, you can either fill out the form or use the e-mail links given on the page’s top right side. This was such a sad, tragic case, but even after 42 years, I believe it’s possible to still be solved. Thanks for contacting us!
      Jody

  2. Marie Derrey says:

    Was all of the girls uncles questioned and cleared. My Aunt was married to one of them. He had a reputation in our family as a molester.
    My mother told me, that a few days after the death of this child, my Aunt called her and told her she found a pair of mens bloody under wear hid in her basement.
    Mom said, she told her sister to call the police, and she would be right over to her house to give moral support.
    When she arrived my aunt told her she had burnt the shorts because she was afraid they would blame her husband.
    I thought mom said she had called the police any way. I always wondered why nothing came of that call, does any one know if that call was ever made?
    They are all passed away now, but ever one in our family knew of this happening way back at the time of the childs death.

    • Lois says:

      Which Uncle are you talking about? I am related to the family and I have been in misused by one of my uncles but he is dead now.
      Lois Sears

  3. Martin says:

    Marie, right now, you need to call the Des Moines police. If I were betting, your aunt or even your mom never did so at the time. It’s too late for justice but it’s never too late to try to provide some measure of closure to the girl’s family.
    Making a call like this is very difficult. I live in the Omaha area and have been researching the murders of Thomas Hunter and Shirlee Sherman in March 2008. I was sitting on information for months nbot wanting to make then referral because it seemed to point toward one of the boy’s family, but have done so. Sometimes we have to do these things, if only to lay matters to rest. Please, do the right thing and God bless.

  4. Jim A says:

    My inlaws were very close to the Veach family and they are convince the dad did it.
    Patricia played in our neighborhood, I was 10 when she was killed and it scared the hell out of me… Wish they had DNA back then.

    • Sanderson says:

      In the 60’s there was no legal obligation upon the accused to provide a blood sample, nor was there any lawful means by which the police could obtain one without his concent. In fact, the court emphasized there was no statutory authority by which the police could obtain a warrant to seize a bodily substance from an accused for the purposes of DNA testing. Defence counsel could properly advise their clients not to submit to DNA testing voluntarely and any police action to seize bodily samles without consent would be considered illegal. The evidence was inadmissible

  5. S.Anderson says:

    The screen was cut from the inside of the house

  6. Jim A says:

    I’ve never heard of any DNA test being done??? I heard evidence was lost in a flood too….. I guess after 40 years stories grow taller on down the line.

    I wish they would find the piece of scum, but he may already be dead.

    • Sanderson says:

      I also understood DNA testing was never done because of the above statement. I Also heard any evidence was lost in a flood.

      • Sanderson says:

        The family lived in a very very small home. From what I remember the brother had been sleeping on the porch but had stayed the night with his grandmother that night. The parents had a few people over that evening for drinks. When the child was found the screen had been cut but the screen had been cut from the inside of the house. It makes you wonder was the screen cut from the inside of the house by someone who had left that night with knowledge the brother was gone and to re-enter or was it cut from the inside to look as if someone had broke in? In those years my family would go on vacation for 2 weeks at a time and not even lock our doors. That stopped after this very sad sad tragedy.

        • Sanderson says:

          It just makes me wonder because the home was so very small that anyone would have had the guts to even attempt coming in and committing such a crime in fear of being

          heard.

        • Cindy says:

          The brother was not sleeping on the porch. I don’t know where you got your information but his room was in the basement.

  7. Martin says:

    Were all family members’ DNA tested against the sample? Earlier someone mentioned an uncle that was susect, if he were related by marriage only, and is deceased, couldn’t he still be a suspect? Or, was a test run using one of his children? There’s a lot we do not know here.
    I had never heard about the screen being cut from inside; that makes you go hmmm. It would suggest someone trying to make it look as if there had been a break in.

  8. Lee VanderLinden says:

    To the people who have responded in the past few week, really this isn’t a chat site. Did you actually read the above article word for word. Did you stop to think of the anguish that the family has gone through and is now going through because of your senseless comments?
    sign me LVL, friend of the Veach family.

  9. Martin says:

    Lee,

    It was never my intent nor do I think was it the intent of anyone posting on this case to create anguish for the family. I am truly sorry if anything I said had that effect. You must however understand; I cannot speak for the other posters but although so much time has elapsed we still want justice for this little girl. I would think at least you could appreciate that. No it is not a chat site, it is so far as I know a discussion board, that is what I felt we were doing. Part of discussion is to throw out all possibilities, if only to eliminate them. Sadly in many cases a family member is involved. Please, do not take offense when possibilities are simply aired.
    IMO, I do not believe any family was involved in this tragic case.

  10. Terry Z says:

    I was a classmate of Patricia’s and I remember the summer when she was killed very well. I have had also the pleasure of meeting and talking to her brother. I was terrified as any 10 year old would be. And after talking to Bill I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it was for the family. He told me a few months ago that after all these years they finally cleared him his father and an uncle. For forty years these folks not only had to endure the loss of Patricia but the finger pointing and behind the back whispers. I am saddened that things like this happen more frequently now that we are supposed to be older and wiser. I also hope that if the one who did this is caught. If not may they burn in the hereafter. My sincere condolences to the Veach Family I was not able to do that 41 years ago but I have never forgooten

  11. Patty Van Pilsum says:

    I was wondering if the evidence provided by a family member is public.
    I would alsolike to know how long ago this volunteer by family members to provide DNA to the authorities took place.

    I agree with Marie Derry on the uncle in the family.

    I have always believed that the uncle and the father both may have had something to do with this childs murder.

  12. Patty Van Pilsum says:

    Patty Van Pilsum

    I agree with Marie Derry and share her thoughts on the uncle in the Patricia Veach family.

    I was wondering if the information on the DNA provided by willing family members is public and whom I would contact to view it, I also recently read an old article on this case that stated lie detector tests were being issued..
    I am wondering if that information is public also and where one might view that as well.

    I have always thought the Dad and the Uncle were both directly involved with that precious childs murder.

  13. Patty Van Pilsum says:

    Patty Van Pilsum

    And since some of the family members have been deceased for 15 years and possibly even longer, I am assuming that a family member signed a release for the DNA to be tested of the deceased family.

    2011 is a long time to wait for DNA testing surrounding the murder of this little girl…

  14. Cheryl Gable Fontanini says:

    My sister Kay was Tricia’s best friend. I can assure you, Tricia’s father and brother had NOTHING to do with her murder. My sister spent many sleep-overs at the Veach house and has stated that Tricia’s family was/is very caring and loving. Please stop wasting your time with horrible accusations about Tricia’s father and brother. This poor family has suffered enough.

    • Bwadle says:

      Wouldn’t life be simple if we could determine if someone is good or bad by how caring and loving they might act in public. All of our children would be safe. Attorneys would be out of work. There are many people who are involved in the church, summer camps, priest, etc. that have committed horrible crimes. One can’t rule out someone just because they show a loving and caring behavior.

  15. Cheryl Gable Fontanini says:

    In addition, the police have done DNA testing on evidence from the scene, and both Mr. Veach and Billy were CLEARED.

  16. Martin says:

    If we assume the DNA cleared the family members, we still are left with the issue of the screen being cut from inside. I was thinking this over and it occurs to me that an intruder might have chosen to exit the house through that window. Maybe he got in earlier and had been hiding, maybe in the basement. I doubt Law Enforcement could go back and check neighbors families’ DNA at this late date but it might prove interesting.

    • Lee VanderLinden says:

      Martin – give it a rest – enough already.

      • Martin says:

        Lee, well, I don’t know how to respond to you or if I even should. You seem to think I am insensitive to even make any comments- why, I wonder? I don’t see you making this sort of statement to other posters. I have the same right to post as you do. No, I will not shut up and go away. But neither will I be irresponsible and make pointless speculations, which I don’t think I am doing. I just threw out a possible suggestion as to what happened. If this bothers you so much, maybe you should quit reading this thread. There seem to be others who do want to discuss this. I am sorry for your pain and assure you I mean well.

    • Patty Van Pilsum says:

      I was wondering if any of the guests at the Veaches Party the night before were from Ireland since I have heard this through the family, and I was wondering if any of them had been questioned in connection with this Murder Case

  17. Bwadle says:

    To Martin it was the screen door that was cut from the inside.

  18. jolene says:

    Has the family considered having a paranormal team come in and investagate and see if they can get answers from the girl?! Its far fetched but what have they got to lose it may work wont know tell u try!

  19. Patty Van Pilsum says:

    I had enquired in an earlier statement regarding any guests that were from Ireland that may have been at the Veach residence at there get together the night of Patricia’s murder for two reasons, one reason was due to a family grapevine that some of the guests were from Ireland and that police were speculating that the murder might have left the country, this information was past of “the family grapevine”. the other reason for my statement was that I had an odd conversation with a car salesman at a car dealership in WDM IA, my uncle, ex husband and myself were car shopping, while we were waiting for a credit report to come back the car salesman looked at the back of my uncles credit card and then looked at me and asked if I was related to Patty Veach, he an undisturbed Irish accent… I said yes, and then my uncle spoke up and told the car salesman that Veach’s East Side Fish Market was family owned, in part by our family, and also her family…the car salesman responded to all of us that her death was a terrible tragedy, and we all agreed..we decided against a car purchase that day…I found the car salesmans statement to be unsetteling, I thought it was unprofessional of him and odd timing, and I was un easy because he looked at me when he asked that question…I know it has been a’long time since I had this encounter with this Irish car salesman, but as I said earlier, it was an unsetteling moment..

  20. Martin says:

    I am no expert on these matters but years agho I ran across references to the fact that Ireland has organized crime families, much as the Mafia does. Some of these groups have a reach into America; even into law enforcement. They deal mostly in con games but are dangerous people to run afoul of. If one of their own was involved in this, it may account for some of the questions. One constant in crime research is to look for anything happening justn beforehand that was out of the ordinary- having houseguests from Ireland would be, I would think.

  21. Patty Van Pilsum says:

    Martin,

    Thank You for the education on your last statement..I greatly appreciated it.

    I would like to add to my last statement posted, I had always heard through that “family grapevine” …that Patricia’s mother was from Ireland, so it wasnt that big of a deal to hear of Irish house guests,

    However that unsetteling situation regarding the car salesman will always remain..

    Patty Jo

  22. Laurie Fleming says:

    Trisha was my childhood best friend and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her. I will NEVER forget the day this happened. I was 10 years old – that is such a young age to deal with something so tragic. We considered ourselves as family and to this day I still refer to her parents as my Auntie & Uncle and her brother Billy as my cousin.
    I am so thankful that Uncle Bill & Billy have both been cleared by DNA – I always knew that they had NEVER done this to their daughter/sister. People are so low, insensitve, uncaring to even suspect this.
    Rest in peace my cousin Trisha. You are always in my heart. Til we meet again.
    I love you!

  23. Theresa says:

    Obviously the person who did this had been in the house before, being it was dark and having to know which room she was in, staying silent so the dog didn’t hear anything from the basement. The blood is troubling because it sounds like there was more than just a deflowering.

  24. Marie says:

    I never believed the father or brother had anything to do with this childs death.
    After all these years of believing we knew who did this, I now have serious doubts.
    I was told by a member of the veach family of an other member of the family that tried to molest another little girl in the family, This person said he was also at the party the night the child died.

    He was one who would know the boy was staying with the grandparents, and also the dog would have gotten use to him through the evening, He could well have slipped drugs in the parents last drink of the evening. I was told he left town a few days after this crime occured. There are at least three people in that family that know who he is. They should speak to the police, but then again they may be afraid to do so. he was not from Ireland.
    I talked to the police and the man I spoke to said the DNA was to degraded to get anything from. While I do not believe Bill Veach is guilty in any way. I do believe it was amember of the Veach family, and surely they would want this man caught.
    I wish the family memeber I spoke to, would come foreward. it is frightening to have some one who could do such a thing, still free in our society.

  25. JAB says:

    I was only nine at the time and this murder still bothers me to this day. I collaborate the story posted by Marie Derrey. As a little girl I remember my aunt saying she found bloody clothes in her basement, my aunt being married to Patricia’s uncle. This is the first I have seen her picture and what a beautiful little girl she was. So sad the killer has never been brought to justice and closure provided to her family.

  26. To JAB and everyone else commenting on this cold case…Thank you for your comments and continuing to visit and think about Patricia. If you have information, no matter how big or small, that you wish to share but you’re uneasy about contacting law enforcement, you may contact us and even remain anonymous. Until the person or persons, man or woman, is/are brought to justice for the sexual assault and murder of young Patricia Veach, this will remain an unsolved homicide. She would be 53 years old this year.

    We want everyone to post comments and when you do please remember that the family members and friends of the victim are reading what you write. Iowa Cold Cases honors Patricia’s life – the spirit and happiness she brought to everyone who knew her and we continue to offer our sincere condolences to her family and friends. Thanks again, everyone ~Kerry at Iowa Cold Cases

  27. Dave says:

    Does anyone in this case remember a person that wore a purple vest (or blue) with a long sleeve white shirt with ruffles and dark unruly long hair.

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