Wapello County in Iowa

Wapello County in Iowa

Cold Cases in Wapello County, Iowa

*Please Note: The cases listed below are within Wapello County but may fall under a city police department’s jurisdiction. They are included here for cross-reference purposes. More specific information may be found on each victim’s individual page.


James Lewis Chamberlain
41 YOA
Beneath Wabash Railroad Trestle
Ottumwa, Iowa
Wapello County
May 25, 1893

On Thursday, May 25, 1893, James Chamberlain, a carpenter who lived on Ottumwa’s south side, was struck by a blow to the head and found lying in mud and water beneath the Wabash Railroad trestle in the city’s old Richmond section. He died four days later on May 29.


Mary Jayne Jones

Homicide — SOLVED
Mary Jayne Jones
17 YOA
Blakesburg, IA (Wapello County)
Case # 74-00243
April 9, 1974

Mary Jayne Jones, 17, of Ottumwa, Iowa, was found slain in a farmhouse near Blakesburg, Iowa, on Tuesday, April 9, 1974. She had been shot once in the head and once in the heart at close range with a high-powered rifle.

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014, Robert “Gene” Pilcher, 68, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in Mary Jayne’s death. Under the plea deal, both sides recommended a 10-year sentence, which Judge Richard Meadows imposed on Pilcher. Pilcher will receive credit for the two years served since his arrest, and also will quality for reductions for good behavior. He may be out of prison in as little as five years.


Billy Lee Clark
43 YOA
Ottumwa, IA
Wapello County
August 1, 1975

Billy Lee Clark was shot to death on August 1, 1975. Police never closed the case, though they later said they think Clark’s killer died shortly after the murder.


John Robert Hill
51 YOA
Ottumwa, IA
Wapello County
Case # 76-00925
November 22, 1976

On Monday, November 22, 1976, two young men found John Robert Hill, 51, lying face down at the Ottumwa Launderette that Hill owned and operated. Hill was stabbed 21 times and shot.


Double Homicide
John Franklin, Sr., 35, and Michelle Franklin, 22
Eddyville, IA
Wapello County
January 3, 1978

John Franklin, Sr., 35, a central Iowa factory worker, and his 22-year-old wife Michelle were shot to death in their Eddyville, Iowa, home on Tuesday, January 3, 1978, in what officials called a double homicide. Michelle’s mother, Willa Mae Brower, discovered the bodies the following morning.


Francis Jordon

Francis Jordon, Sr.

Francis F. Jordon, Sr.
42 YOA
Cliffland Park area
Ottumwa, IA
Wapello County
July 12, 1978

In the early morning hours on Wednesday, July 12, 1978, Francis Jordon was killed after two men knocked on his door saying they had car trouble and needed help. Jordon’s son later found his father’s body thrown over the bank beside the Des Moines River out across Cliffland Park. The 42-year-old Jordon had been brutally beaten to death.


Helen Morrow
55 YOA
Eldon, IA
Wapello County
August 12, 1980

Mrs. Helen Morrow was found lying on a bed in a first floor room of her fire-ravaged two-story home in Eldon, IA, on August 12, 1980. An autopsy report showed she died of smoke inhalation.


Melvin R. Adams
55 YOA
South of Agency, IA
Wapello County
February 13, 1983

On February 13, 1983, 55-year-old Melvin Royale “Mez” Adams was killed with a sharp instrument in a cabin near the Cliffland Bridge over the Des Moines River in Wappelo County south of Agency.


Justin Hook

Justin Hook

Triple Homicide – SOLVED
Sarah Link, 41 YOA
Justin Hook, 20 YOA
Tina Lade, 19 YOA

Drakesville, IA and Eldon, IA (Davis & Wapello Counties)
Case # 84-01854
April 13 – 18, 1984

Sarah Link

Sarah Link

On Friday, April 13, 1984, the body of 20-year-old Justin Hook, Jr., was found outside near his burned-out mobile home in rural Drakesville. Hook had been killed by blows to the head. The following Monday, April 16, a farmer found the body of Hook’s mother, Sarah Link, 41, on a hilly wooded section of his land just north of Eldon. She, too, had died from blunt force trauma to the head.

Tina Lade

Tina Lade

On Wednesday, April 18, trained police dogs discovered the body of Hook’s fiancee, Tina Marie Lade, 19, in a ravine about a half-mile from where Mrs. Link’s body had been found. Miss Lade had died from blows to the head as well.

In a Executed convict linked to 1984 triple homicide in southeast Iowa | TheGazette held Friday, Jan. 10, 2014 at the Wapello County’s Sheriff’s Office, authorities announced that Andrew Wessel Six was responsible for the murders of all three victims.



Dennison Stookesberry

Dennison Stookesberry

Missing Person
Dennison Stookesberry
Age at Report: 56
Missing From: Blakesburg, IA
Wapello County
Date Reported Missing: February 15, 1999

Dennison Stookesberry was reported missing to the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office in Ottumwa on February 15, 1999, after last being seen on Feb. 8. He left behind his four dogs, medication to treat his diabetes and heart problems, and his dinner still in the microwave oven. Authorities believe Stookesberry is deceased, and foul play is suspected in his disappearance.


Double Homicide — ARRESTS MADE
Nathan David Messer, 20
Seth Anderson, 22
11612 140th Street
Ottumwa, Iowa
Wapello County
March 5, 2006

Nathan Messer, 20, and Seth Anderson, 22, were killed Sunday, March 5, 2006 when arsonists started a fire inside a rural Wapello County home after a Saturday night party. On Jan. 25, 2016 — nearly 10 years after the double homicide — the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Wapello County Sheriff’s Office arrested Christopher Joseph Yenger, 28, of Ottumwa, and Zachary Allen Dye, 27, of Council Bluffs, and charged them with two counts of felony murder. A trial date has not yet been set.


5 Responses to Wapello County

  1. Sharon Lee says:

    I may have information about a homicide. I do not know the date. Elaine (Daisy) Hauser-Griffiths was doing community service through the courts where I was office manager. She told me of a murder that she witnessed. I did go to the Ottumwa Police Dept and told an officer who took down a report. Later a "private detective" called me. The police had released the report to him. He was investigating a missing person that he thought was murdered. "Daisy" told me that Clifford Collett had murdered the man over a drug deal of some sort. The detective wanted more information than what I knew such as the color of the car…she was too frighten of Clifford Collett to tell me any more details than she had already told me. The detective told me that he thinks the man killed may be related to a couple from Albia that their son was missing. She told me that his body was put in a car at the Rock Quarry west of Chillicothe, Iowa. I guess there is some type of deep water that the car with the body is in. She is now deceased.

  2. Dakota says:

    Stupid thing to put over the internet putting names on blast.

  3. Jeff Swinson says:

    So did they sonar that body of water? I can see the one it is by your decription. I believe it is Douds Stone and Google Maps shows a body of water right on that property.

  4. Kim says:

    Authorites made two arrests in a 2006 Wapello Co. case where two young men died in a house fire. The cause of the fire was ruled undetermined and the case closed, but it was recently reopened when new information came to light. The case isn’t listed on this site, but I’m sharing the link because any time any cold case is solved, it’s good news.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Kim, once I received the IDPS press releases, I did go ahead and add the case to the website because it’s a way of tracking the number of cold cases that are getting solved, and also so people will have a page where they can provide any further input. When arrests are made, officials do announce a case is closed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the suspect(s) will be found guilty at trial.

      Some years back I figured it would be a great disservice to our readers here if we automatically “removed” all info about a case from the website once it got solved. (There are plenty of readers and researchers interested in just “how” these cases came to be solved, what methods were used to solve them, etc.) I’ve noted on the person’s page when the case has been solved, and they also get listed on our Solved page. Here’s the page I put up for Nathan Messer and Seth Anderson: https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/nathan-messer-and-seth-anderson/

      The fact that people (and there were a lot of people at that party) were ready to come forward and admit what they know is truly inspiring. Some stay silent for decades. I only wish more people out there would be willing to contact officials with what they know in other cases. Also, there is always safety in numbers! I think we should get legislators to draft a bill to designate one week (or better yet, a month) each year as Cold Case Awareness Month where people are strongly encouraged to come forward and provide information that could help solve more of these cases.

      I’m just happy right now that Nathan and Seth’s families will finally learn the truth about what happened to them. I also loved what SAC Mike Motsinger had to say about the arrests: “It just goes to show when people think they get away with murder we are always there, always willing to look at things and hopefully everyone is looking over their shoulders because we do take things seriously and take homicides seriously — and find them,” Motsinger said during the press conference the day following the arrests.

      These killers need to fear every knock at the door. Again, there is safety in numbers and they can’t silence ALL those who know what really happened. Wouldn’t a “Cold Case Camp Courageous” month be wonderful!

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts