Cathy Jo Bohlken
Cathy Jo (Cox) Bohlken
Cathy Jo Bohlken
912 South Haven Dr.
December 26, 1993
Cathy Jo Bohlken, age 22, of Monticello, Iowa was found stabbed to death the day after Christmas in her Monticello duplex located at 912 Southhaven Drive.
According to Monticello Police Chief Burt Walters, Cathy Jo’s father, Dean Cox, discovered his daughter’s body about 9:30 a.m. December 26 after she failed to show up for work at the family business, Karde’s Convenience Store. She’d been bound with yards of duct tape and stabbed more than 50 times.
A roommate, Renee Ballou, and Bohlken’s 4-year-old son, Micheal, also lived at the duplex but Walters said neither was home at the time of the homicide. The boy was staying in rural Monticello with his father, Mike Bohlken, from whom Cathy Jo was divorced.
The homicide reverberated deeply within the small Jones County town of only 3,522 people, where murder were almost nonexistent. Walters had 13 years experience in police work — the last five as chief — and found himself facing his first homicide case. He estimated Bohlken had been stabbed to death sometime between 10 p.m. on Christmas and 9:30 a.m. December 26.
The Jones County Sheriff’s Department and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation stepped in to help with the investigation.
Bohlken had been attending Kirkwood Community College at the time of her murder, and officials developed a circle of suspects stretching 50 miles in all direction. The slaying, they said, was not a random act.
Investigation Proves Costly
After Walters developed three primary suspects, DNA tests — costing from $500 to $1,000 each — were sent to be completed by a private Maryland lab. The tests were sent to the private lab, Walters said, because the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation (DCI) hadn’t yet set up its equipment and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was so busy its lab could only conduct tests in federal cases.
The tests exonerated all three men.
In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published May 3, 1994, Walters said the DNA testing was conducted by attempting to match a “specimen” found at the crime scene with blood taken from the suspects.
“None of the three that we sent in match,” Walters told the Gazette. “These three were individuals who could not be alibied and they certainly were looked at very closely, due to relationships with Cathy. We have cleared them.”
Jones County in Iowa
Monticello in Jones County
Walters declined to name the three suspects, but acknowledged all three were local.
DNA tests were ultimately given to more than 30 of Bohlken’s friends and acquaintances; every one turned up negative.
As the slaying’s first anniversary approached, the small community not only grew tired of waiting for answers but turned on Chief Walters. Gossip and rumors spread rampantly that Walters himself may somehow have been involved in the young woman’s murder. His reputation tainted, Walters submitted a blood sample for DNA testing; it, like the others, did not match.
Walters remained fairly silent when it came to disclosing details about the homicide, insisting some secrets must be kept in order to preserve the investigation’s integrity. It only made impatient townsfolk more skeptical of how he chose to handle the case. He did, however, reveal for the first time that one man had confessed to the murder. In the end, Walters said none of the details matched and that the man had simply been looking for some type of recognition.
By year’s end — with hundreds of overtime hours and other expenses — the investigation already had cost $50,000.
Family Friend charged in Murder
Another year passed before police unexpectedly made an arrest on January 31, 1996. Even more surprising was the suspect’s identity: 18-year-old Travis Jamieson — a friend of Bohlken’s younger brother Michael Cox — who lived just blocks from Karde’s Convenience Store.
- Courtesy photo Cedar Rapids Gazette
- Travis Jamieson and defense attorney Jim Thomas listen as co-counsel Mark Roberts gives the opening statement during Jamieson’s murder trial at the Linn County Courthouse in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Dean Cox learned about the imminent arrest about 4 p.m. that Wednesday afternoon, just two hours before Acting Monticello Police Chief Louis Soppe told media Jamieson was being charged with first-degree murder in Bohlken’s death.
Soppe had just been named acting chief after Walters’ dismissal the previous Friday by Mayor Denny McDermott. Community criticism for Walters had continued after the case went unsolved, though Soppe said the former chief’s dismissal was unrelated to the Bohlken investigation and the [coincidental] timing of the arrest.
Soppe said Jamieson had had minor brushes with the law in the past but would not elaborate.
The news sent shock waves throughout the county; Jamieson would have been only 16 years old at the time Cathy Jo was slain.
Jamieson pleaded innocent and — unable to post the $1 million bail — spent more than a year in jail before he went on trial in March 1997.
On Friday, March 21, 1997, a Linn County jury acquitted the 19-year-old Jamieson in Bohlken’s stabbing death.
About Cathy Jo
Cathy Jo Cox was born April 14, 1971 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. She was the daughter of Dean and Karen Bright Cox.
- Courtesy photo classcreator.com
Cathy attended the Monticello Community Schools where she graduated in 1989. In June 1990 she married Micheal Bohlken. The couple later divorced. Cathy attended travel school in Kansas City, Missouri, and went on to work for Travel and Transport in Cedar Rapids. At the time of her death she was attending Kirkwood Community College and working at Karde’s Convenience Store.
Cathy was survived by her son Micheal, her parents, Dean and Karen Cox, two sisters, Lori Smith of Pascagoula, MS, and Kerri Cox of Monticello, two brothers, Dean Jr. and Michael, both of Monticello, and her grandmother, Eleanor Bright of Oxford Junction.
Services were held at 1:30 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Monticello on Thursday, December 30, 1993, with burial at Oakwood Cemetery, also in Monticello.
Sources and References:
- Find a Grave Memorial
- “Monticello murder victim was stabbed,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dec. 28, 1993
- “Frustration mounts when it’s young people who die,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Jan. 4, 1994
- “DNA tests for 3 suspects in Monticello slaying: Police hope samples of blood will identify killer,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 20, 1994
- “3 cleared in Monticello murder,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 3, 1994
- “Year-old murder keeps Monticello chief restless,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dec. 6, 1994
- “Teen held for Bohlken murder,” Telegraph-Herald, Feb. 1, 1996
- “Man, 18, charged in ’93 killing: Monticello suspect’s mom asserts innocence,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 1, 1996
- “Murder suspect ‘devastated’,” Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Feb. 2, 1996
- “Suspect says ‘he didn’t do this’: DNA evidence led to murder arrest, documents indicate,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 2, 1996
- “Ex-DCI agent: Budget cuts hurt murder probes,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 4, 1996
- ”Jamieson murder trial moves to Linn County: Heavy media coverage cited over 1993 Monticello killing,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 4, 1996
- “Defense witness attacks DNA evidence: Geneticist challenges assumptions, methods used in Jamieson case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Feb. 25, 1997
- “Jamieson trial starting: Families hope for resolution to painful murder case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 10, 1997
- “Bohlken stabbed over 50 times: Monticello victim’s head, wrists wrapped in yards of duct tape,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 12, 1997
- “Jamieson cried when told his DNA tied him to murder, agent testifies: Victim’s brother says defendant talked about wanting sex with her,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 13, 1997
- “Testimony: Jamieson wanted sex,” Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, March 13, 1997
- “DNA expert says Jamieson match is 1 in a million: Defense challenges methods, witness’ hands-off test role,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 18, 1997
- “Bohlken case may be closed: Authorities stymied after suspect acquitted of murder,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 25, 1997
- “Teen acquitted of murder faces civil suit,” Telegraph-Herald, July 24, 1997
- “Suit filed over death,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 25, 1997
- “Jamieson seeks dismissal: Defendant: Wrongful death suit in Bohlken slaying is too late,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Aug. 7, 1997
- “Jamieson civil trial recalls Simpson case,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Jan. 15, 2000
- “Civil jury puts killing blame on Jamieson: $6 million awarded to slain woman’s son,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, Jan. 27, 2000
Copyright © 2013 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.