Lee County in Iowa
Keokuk in Lee County
Delores Antonia “Toni” Martinez Hornung
Delores Antonia “Toni” Martinez Hornung
Case # 99-01605
February 14, 1999
Delores A. “Toni” (Martinez) Hornung, 48, was shot to death in her Keokuk, Iowa home on Valentine’s Day, 1999. Her boyfriend, Lewis Greer of Bonaparte, Iowa, was arrested and charged with her murder, but was acquitted by a Lee County jury.
The following article about Toni Hornung was published in the Daily Gate City on the 13th anniversary of Toni’s death.
Feb. 14 Heartbreaking for Family
By Cindy Iutzi, Daily Gate City Staff Writer
Published in the Daily Gate City on Feb. 14, 2012
When Dolores (Toni Martinez) Hornung, 48, of Keokuk was found murdered on Feb. 14, 1999, in her Keokuk home, it changed Valentine’s Day forever for her loved ones.
“I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day,” said Hornung’s mother Alice Brown on Monday. “Someone, something took her from me.”
Every year around her daughter’s birthday, Brown honors her daughter with a photo in the Daily Gate City. She or another family member calls the Keokuk Police Department to see if they’ve come up with anything new that might lead to the arrest and conviction of Hornung’s murderer.
“Things get softer after the years go by,” Brown said. “But I always hope they’ll find out why and who before I die.”
The Keokuk Police Department and Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations investigated Hornung’s death and subsequently arrested Lewis Greer of Bonaparte for the killing. However, after a four-day trial in the South Lee County Courthouse in Keokuk, a jury acquitted Greer of Hornung’s murder, refusing to consider lesser charges. Greer was released and walked out of the courtroom a free man.
The weapon used for the murder was determined to be a 30-30 rifle, but it was never found. Investigators followed every lead, but never could find any witnesses.
“We did everything we could,” said Keokuk Police Chief Tom Crew. “The DCI was the lead agency. We used all the information we could find, but the courts acquitted (Greer). It’s always frustrating for the police department and the family. We always go at these cases 110 percent to bring people to justice. But in this case, we were at the mercy of the court. The conclusion (juries) come to sometimes baffle us. It leaves us with a heavy feeling.
“We understand the family is frustrated. They want some closure through a conviction. If it was your loved one, nothing would be enough. There’s never going to be enough. I have the utmost empathy for the family and their loss over the years.”
The case remains open at the Keokuk Police Department and at a non-profit organization called Iowa Cold Cases Inc. at iowacoldcases.org.
For a while, the Hornung case also was part of the DCI’s Cold Case Unit in Des Moines, but the unit recently was defunded.
The cold case unit was created in 2008 but never was funded by the state, instead receiving funds from the federal government. Two full-time investigators and a lab tech initially were assigned to the unit. However, in 2010 the federal Community Orientated Policing Services grant funding was cut leading to manpower reduction in the unit. In the summer of 2011, the funding ran out. The unit was disbanded in the fall of 2011.
“The Cold Case Unit was DNA-driven,” said Bill Kitsman, DCI special agent in charge. “What we do now is look at cold cases from time to time when we get leads such as crime stoppers leads. We always look at those.”
A parallel but civilian-driven non-profit organization, Iowa Cold Cases, Inc., has “case summaries, articles and updates for all Iowa open homicides and missing persons cases where foul play is suspected, according to its website at iowacoldcases.org.” The organization started up in 2005 with a “mission … to educate the public about these open cases, share and exchange resources in efforts to publicize these unsolved crimes, and ensure every victim’s story is told and kept alive until those responsible are held accountable.”
The organization was created by Jody Ewing of Sioux City when she discovered that the State of Iowa had no centralized online database listing victims’ names and case details.
In January, Ewing wrote on the website: “Somebody knows something. They always do. Yet, people still fear coming forward with what they know, even when they realize it could very well help solve an unsolved murder. Did you ever wonder why they remain silent?
“We asked our readers last May, and the answers might surprise you. Our poll results, based on the options provided:
29 percent said they personally know the killer and fear retaliation.
27 percent said they believe there’s no such thing as an “anonymous tip.”
17 percent said they fear their own dark background might be exposed if they contact authorities.
17 percent also said they were somehow involved in committing the crime and/or covering it up.
9 percent chose “Other,” saying they don’t want to be labeled as a snitch; they are not sure if the information they have is true, and only suspect it; all of the above; all of the above plus apathy; and that they can’t remember.
2 percent said they honestly don’t care about the murder victims or whether the cases get solved.”
In June 2011, the website ran another poll question: If 100 percent anonymity were guaranteed, would you be willing to let Iowa Cold Cases serve as a liaison between you and the police?
Of the responses, 95 percent said yes and 5 percent said no. The website guarantees anonymity.
“Remind yourself that every single night, someone’s mother or father or sister or brother or husband or wife or child goes to bed wondering about the last moments of his or her loved one’s life,” Ewing wrote. “Think back: Do you have knowledge about something — perhaps one small detail about the crime never reported in the papers, never mentioned on TV? Did you hear someone give conflicting accounts of his/her whereabouts that day/night? Do you have reason to believe … reason to suspect … something you’d rather forget?”
In addition to Hornung, Keokuk has been the scene of four unsolved murders since 1904.
John Murphy, age unknown, of North Sixth and Concert streets, was shot on the morning of Nov. 27, 1904, by an unknown man at his corner while his way to work. According to the site, he planned on attending church after work. The shooting appeared unprovoked.
Earl Paris, 31, a night watchman at Iowa Fiber Box Company in Keokuk, was shot on Feb. 18, 1928, while on duty.
Richard Buchanan and Willard Charles Woodring were killed Oct. 9, 1960, in Keokuk. Woodring, 42, “was owner and operator of a house of prostitution, commonly referred to as the Hawkeye Hotel, according to the website. Buchanan, 49, was a customer. The men were shot and killed during a robbery by a young male gunman in a black leather jacket who was accompanied by a young red head in a lavender dress, according to website notes.
Call the Keokuk Police Department at 524-2741 to get more information about how to share information regarding a cold case.
Copyright © 2012 Daily Gate City. All rights reserved.
About Toni Martinez Hornung
Delores A. “Toni” Martinez was born December 12, 1950, in Portland, Maine, to Pete Jr. and Alice A. Olvis Martinez. She had been a resident of Portland from 1970–1975.
Toni was a seamstress and noted for her quilts and beadwork.
While living in Portland, she was a member of the Thunderbird Society, the Nauvoo Ward of the Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
She was survived by a son and daughter and many other relatives and close friends.
If you have any information regarding Delores “Toni” Hornung’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Keokuk Police Department at 319-524-2741 or the Lee County Attorney’s Office at 319-524-9590.
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, December 6, 2009
- “Feb. 14 Heartbreaking for Family,” The Daily Gate City, February 14, 2012
- “Lethality Incidence With Firearms Domestic Abuse Murders 1995 – YTD 2010,” Attorney General’s Office, February 17, 2010
- “Man acquitted in shooting death,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 26, 1999
- “Murder trial of Bonaparte man set,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 5, 1999
- “Iowa man charged in Keokuk killing,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 10, 1999
- “Delores A. ‘Toni’ Martinez Former Resident of Portland,” The Portland (ME) Press Herald, March 6, 1999