Cold Cases in the News

Current News | 2015 Archives | 2014 Archives | 2013 Archives | 2012 Archives | 2011 Archives | 2010 Archives | 2009 Archives | 2008 and Earlier Archives | in the News


An ongoing series, published statewide, as part of a partnership between Iowa Cold Cases, the Iowa Newspaper Association, and participating newspapers.

Click or tap on any story title to read the full referenced article.

Police scour Iowa lake where human foot was found in June

July 14, 2016 |

BURLINGTON, Ia. — Police are scouring a small eastern Iowa lake looking for additional human remains, weeks after a decomposed human foot was found near a spillway.

The Hawk Eye reports that Burlington police searched Lake West by kayak this week looking for additional body parts.

Police Major Dennis Kramer says investigators have been using various techniques to search the lake in northwest Burlington, including pumping water from the five-acre lake.

The foot was found on June 8 by people clearing brush around the lake. Authorities say it was discovered where a missing 53-year-old Burlington man’s bicycle was found last summer. Police say Steven Leasure has not been seen since May 2, 2015.

‘Ghost bike’ holds hope for cold case

June 29, 2016 |

Dinner will be waiting for you.

Those were the last words Kay Snopek heard from her husband before he pedaled his bicycle into the Boone County countryside the night of Aug. 8, 2007.

Mark Snopek, 53, was struck from behind and killed while riding on a rural county road. The driver of the vehicle has never been identified.

Twenty-four cyclists have been killed in collisions with motor vehicles on Iowa roads since 2011.

His wife gathered with friends this week to erect a memorial near the site of the fatal crash. These “ghost bikes” — riderless bicycles painted white and sometimes adorned with flowers and decorations — mark the scenes of cycling crashes. They have become more common along Iowa roadways.

Full Story

Shakopee Man to be Sentenced in 1999 Murder of Iowa Woman

June 24, 2016 |

An August sentencing has been scheduled for a Minnesota man accused of killing a woman in Iowa in 1999.

Court records say 37-year-old Deshaun Phillips, of Shakopee, Minnesota, entered an Alford plea to a voluntary manslaughter charge Thursday in Linn County District Court in Cedar Rapids. In an Alford plea, a person doesn’t admit guilt but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a likely conviction. His sentencing is set for Aug. 29.

Phillips originally was charged with first-degree murder in the slaying of Judith Weeks. Weeks’ partially clothed body was found April 5, 1999, outside a vacant Cedar Rapids apartment. An autopsy concluded the 44-year-old woman had been struck in the forehead by a sharp object.

Full Story

Man enters Alford plea in 1999 death outside Cedar Rapids home

June 23, 2016 |

CEDAR RAPIDS — The daughter of Judith Weeks said Thursday she was relieved DeShaun Phillips will be “held accountable for my mother’s death” outside a Cedar Rapids home in 1999.

“I feel like we can move on now,” Kristin Twilla, of West Liberty, said after Phillips’ hearing in Linn County District Court. “We have been prisoners for 17 years (waiting for a conviction).”

Phillips, 37, of Shakopee, Minn., originally charged with first-degree murder, entered an Alford plea to voluntary manslaughter on Thursday. In making an Alford plea, a defendant doesn’t admit guilt but admits the prosecution could likely prove the charges based on evidence.

Phillips faces up to 10 years in prison and will be required to pay victim’s restitution. He has been in an Iowa jail since 2013 after fighting extradition from Minnesota, where he was being held on a domestic abuse charge.

Full Story

3 plead guilty to 2011 shooting death in Sioux City

June 10, 2016 |

SIOUX CITY | A press release announcing the guilty pleas of three men involved in the 2011 shooting death of Tony “T-Bone” Canfield announced “Cold Case Murder Solved.”

Courtland Clark, 26, of Flowery Branch, Georgia, Robert Beaver, 35, of Sioux City, and Devery Hibbler, 26, of Dumas, Arkansas, each pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Sioux City to one count of interference with commerce by robbery. Clark and Hibbler also pleaded guilty to one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence causing death.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, plea agreements call for Hibbler to serve 35 years in prison, and Beaver will serve 20 years. Neither will have the possibility of parole or the right to appeal his conviction. Clark faces a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. His sentence will be determined by a judge at sentencing.

Sentencing dates have yet to be set.

Full Story

No answers 2 years after Waterloo veteran found beaten

May 30, 2016 |

Today is a day we remember those who served our country. One veteran, now gone, is not forgotten. His family is still trying to find answers about how he was injured — before he died.

It’s an Iowa cold case involving veteran Dennis Washburn. On Memorial Day two years ago shortly before 1 a.m., someone found Dennis near former Longfellow Elementary School in Waterloo. The vet was lying on the ground, unconscious with a beat up face and a broken neck. He died a few days later.

Family members tell KWWL they think Dennis was beaten up and left for dead, but the state medical examiner ruled his cause of death as undetermined. Police are still looking for answers.

Full Story

Rugland: Always on alert

May 29, 2016 |

Over the last few months, I have read a handful of stories on social media about people acting suspiciously in stores in Iowa and, more specifically Mason City.

One story in particular really grabbed my attention. It was written by a woman who, while shopping at a store in Mason City with her husband and young son, was followed around by two men and a little girl.

The woman and her son separated from her husband to walk to the toy section. That’s when she noticed the men and child. They followed her into every aisle. When the woman and her family checked out, the men grabbed a bag of candy as their sole purchase and checked out, as well.

Full Story

Grassley cites ‘notorious’ Johnny Gosch, Jetseta Gage cases in support of legislation

May 25, 2016

CEDAR RAPIDS — Citing the 34-year-old disappearance of Des Moines newspaper delivery boy Johnny Gosch and the 2005 kidnapping, rape and murder of 10-year-old Jetseta Gage of Cedar Rapids, Sen. Chuck Grassley said U.S. Senate action this week will help protect children from sexual predators.

“Too many kids fall prey to sexual predators,” Grassley said Wednesday.

“The names Johnny Gosch, Eugene Martin and Jetseta Gage, for example, still bring heartbreak to all Iowans,” he said, noting that Gosch and Martin, who disappeared in 1982 and 1984, respectively, have never been found. Gage, was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender.

Full Story

Baby drop boxes? God help us.

May 5, 2016 |

There are times when you just have to wonder what has become of the world.

This week, I received a press release about a new innovation – the baby drop-off box – which is being used in Indiana and will soon probably be available across the country.

Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like.

If you don’t want your child, you toss it in the drop box, like last week’s library books or DVD movies you decided you don’t really want to see after all.

It’s even drive up, like a fast food joint. Because goodness knows we’re too lazy to get out of the car to abandon our babies these days.

I honestly couldn’t believe it when I read it. I thought it was a sick prank or something. It’s not.

Full Story

Dye Returns to Jail After Pre-Trial Release Violations

May 4, 2016 |

OTTUMWA—Zachary Allen Dye, 27, is finding himself back in the Wapello County Jail after having posted bond on March 1st. Dye is currently facing two counts of 1st Degree Murder in the deaths of two Ottumwa men. Seth Anderson, 22, and Nate Messer, 20, both lost their lives in a house fire in Wapello county on March 5th, 2006. The cause of the fire was initially ruled as undetermined. However, after nearly 10-years new information became available that the fire was started intentionally and led to the arrest of Dye and Christopher Joseph Yenger, 28.

Full Story

Law enforcement relics: evidence room techs showcase ‘pieces of history’

May 4, 2016 |

A 1940s Colt semi-automatic pistol, an Iowa driver’s license from 1933 and an Iowa State Sorority sweatshirt from 1968 all sound like items one would find at the Ames Historical Society or any other museum in central Iowa. But these relics are not in a museum, or any antique store.

They are all pieces of evidence in the Story County Sheriff’s Office.

According to Story County Sheriff’s Office Investigations Sgt. Rodney Bunn, items such as these are not usually kept for this long. But they are unique in the sense that they are all evidence in three separate murder cases.

“We keep the homicide stuff not only if (the case) is unsolved — because it could be solved some day — but also because people have a chance to appeal,” Bunn said. “We’ve all seen TV shows where people get released from prison because evidence is found later to prove that they didn’t commit the crime, so that’s why we keep all that stuff on homicides.”

The Colt pistol was used to kill Henry Chavis, who owned the former Ames Canning Company. Chavis was gunned down just outside of the porch to his home on the morning of Nov. 8, 1948. The prominent businessman was shot three times — in the arm, back and neck. The gun was discovered years later in Squaw Creek by two young boys. To this day, the case remains unsolved.

The 1933 Iowa driver’s license came from the wallet of Fred Hollingsworth, who in 1934 was shot in his car just east of Ames. A suspect was arrested and taken to trial, but was acquitted due to insufficient evidence, and to this day, that case, too, has never been solved.

Full Story

After acquittal in death of cab driver, Johnathan Mitchell indicted in cab robbery: Mitchell was acquitted in death of cab driver in 2013

April 26, 2016 |

The man acquitted in the 2011 homicide of a local cab driver has now been charged in federal court for robbing her at the time of her death.

Johnathan Dewayne Mitchell, 38, of Cedar Rapids, was indicted Tuesday of one count of robbery affecting commerce in U.S. District Court. The indictment states Mitchell obstructed commerce — the cab company service — by “violently” robbing Catherine “Cathy” Stickley, 54, who was driving a Century Cab on April 29, 2011.

His initial appearance in federal court hasn’t been set. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in federal prison.

Iowa Cold Case: Who murdered Lisa Peak?

Lisa Peak

Lisa Peak at age 19 (Courtesy photo KWWL and Meredith Van Benthuysen)

April 26, 2016 |

WAVERLY (KWWL) – “It’s been 40 years. It’s about time for it to just be resolved,” said Meredith van Benthuysen, Lisa Peak’s sister.

Peak was a sophomore journalism student at Wartburg College. As a Wartburg college journalism alum, perhaps, that’s why I was so interested in her story.

Heck, I even lived in the same dorm as Peak lived in. When speaking with Peak’s sister, she even mention to me that I’m living the life maybe her sister would have been living.

It’s a case that has stuck with me for several years, but I’m not the only one bothered by this cold case.

Peak was last seen leaving campus and walking toward the shopping center. Her body was later found in a ditch outside of town. She was naked, raped, and murdered.

Still no answers 5 years after Ashley Okland murder

April 8, 2016 | The Des Moines Register

Ashley Okland

Ashley Okland

Five years after the murder of 27-year-old real estate agent Ashley Okland in West Des Moines, the case still remains unsolved.

Friday was the five-year anniversary of Okland’s death, and West Des Moines Police issued a news release to ask anyone with information about the murder to come forward.

“Even with the passage of time, investigators assigned to this case are confident that someone has important knowledge about the time leading up to her death and the identities of those involved,” police said.

A reward of up to $150,000 is available for information leading to the arrest of Okland’s killer.

Magistrate denies supervised release for Anthony Burtch: Bond set at $1 million cash

March 25, 2016 | The Cedar Rapids Gazette

IOWA CITY — Anthony Burtch will remain in custody on a $1 million cash bond after a request to be placed on supervised release was denied. During an initial appearance Friday morning, Burtch’s attorney Lei Bei, said his client fit the criteria for a lower bond or supervised release. Burtch, 57, has lived in Iowa City continuously since 1976, working for a time as a parking cashier before retiring due to disabilities.

“Even after he was investigated,” Bei said.

Bei said his client has diabetes and has suffered from a stroke. He has a pacemaker, shunts in his heart, dietary restrictions and requires a special medication he receives from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. Burtch is a single father to two sons, one of which still lived at home at the time of his arrest, Bei said.

“He’s not a flight risk,” he said. “He’s not a danger to the community.”

Cold Case murder suspect makes initial court appearance

March 25, 2016 |

Thirty years after a murder case goes cold, suspect Anthony Burtch is arrested. His bond is set at one million dollars at his initial court appearance. Burtch’s attorney argues the amount, saying Burtch should have a lower bond.

“He’s not a flight risk,” attorney Lei Bei said. “He has ties to the community, he’s not a danger to society.”

But due to the nature of the charges, the bond remains. The 57-year-old is suspected of shooting and killing Lance DeWoody in 1985.

Burtch has lived in Iowa City for years, but neighbors find it hard to believe the man on their street could be a murderer.

New Mason City Police Chief optimistic about solving Jodi Huisentruit case

March 25, 2016 |

In a recent telephone conversation with FindJodi’s Caroline Lowe, Mason City Police Chief Jeff Brinkley reflected on what it will take to solve the case and what he thinks that resolution would mean to the Mason City community.

Brinkley took over as chief in January 2016 after 20 years with the Ames, Iowa, Police Department.

He’s the fourth Mason City Police Chief since Jodi Huisentruit disappeared on her way to work at KIMT TV on June 27, 1995.

Cold case arrest raises hopes for success in other unsolved crimes

March 25, 2016 |

Law officers are hoping they can solve more of state’s cold cases following this week’s arrest in a three decades old homicide in eastern Iowa.

Iowa DCI Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt says reviewing cold cases is “very labor intensive” and his agency does not have people dedicated solely to the effort.

“All of our agents out in the field across the state of Iowa, there are 29 or 30 of them, they carry case loads of all the current homicides, kidnappings, sexual assaults, and everything else that we get requested to assist with — and almost everyone of those agents also carry two or three cold cases as part of their case load,” Mortvedt said.

Cold Case Murder Suspect’s Bond Set at One Million Dollars

MARCH 25, 2016 | KCRG.COM

Authorities say Burtch, 57, shot and killed Lance DeWoody in Coralville in August of 1985. Workers at the University of Iowa Oakdale campus found DeWoody suffering from gunshot wounds to the head and neck.

Burtch’s attorney argued that his client should not be subject to such a high bond because he is not a flight risk. Burtch is retired from working for the city of Iowa City in the parking department, his attorney said.

Unsolved Mysteries of Cedar Rapids

March 15, 2016 |

With relatively little violent crime to speak of, Cedar Rapids nonetheless has its share of unsolved murder mysteries!

Consider these five most intriguing cold cases from our own neighborhood compiled from Iowa Cold Cases. This organization helps keep these cases open by using the resources of citizens like you offering tips and new information, and the police and journalists who investigate and report on developments.

Read More: Unsolved Mysteries of Cedar Rapids!

Trial delayed for Iowa man charged in 1995 death of woman

March 19, 2016 |

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The trial for a man charged with first-degree murder in the 1995 death of an Iowa City woman has been delayed.

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports ( ) that Steven John Klein, of Mount Vernon, now faces trial on July 25, and the trial is expected to last 10 to 15 days.

Murder trial delayed for man charged in cold case

March 18, 2016 | Iowa City Press-Citizen

The trial for the man charged with first-degree murder in the death of Susan Kersten in Iowa City 20 years ago has been delayed.

Steve Klein of Mount Vernon was arrested in July on homicide charges for the death of Kersten. At a pre-trial hearing Friday afternoon at the Johnson County Courthouse, Klein’s public defender and Johnson County attorneys agreed to a joint motion to delay the trial.

Judge Chad Kepros of Iowa’s Sixth Judicial District suggested the trial be pushed to July 25, and the defense and prosecution agreed. That trial is expected to last 10 to 15 days, Assistant County Attorney Dana Christiansen and Kepros said.

Top 10 Iowa City area news stories of 2015

Dec. 31, 2015 | Iowa City Press-Citizen

From the turnover in the University of Iowa’s president’s office, to development battles over historic and future buildings, to the Hawkeye football team’s stunning run to Pasadena, there was no shortage of banner headlines in the Iowa City area in 2015.

Number 8: Arrest made in 20-year-old cold case (Steven Klein arrested in Susan Kersten murder)

Top 10 Iowa City area news stories of 2015

Jan. 3, 2016 | Iowa City Press-Citizen

From the turnover in the University of Iowa’s president’s office, to development battles over historic and future buildings, to the Hawkeye football team’s stunning run to Pasadena, there was no shortage of banner headlines in the Iowa City area in 2015.

#8: Arrest made in 20-year-old cold case

In the two decades since Susan Kersten‘s body was found in a burned-out car in a field 2 miles south of Iowa City, her death had remained a mystery.

Authorities reached a major breakthrough in the case July 17, when Johnson County sheriff’s investigators announced they had arrested 54-year-old Steven John Klein in Muscatine and charged him with first-degree murder.

Current News | 2015 Archives | 2014 Archives | 2013 Archives | 2012 Archives | 2011 Archives | 2010 Archives | 2009 Archives | 2008 and Earlier Archives | in the News

Share Your Thoughts