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“I knew Debbie and remember the murders. Hard to forget something like that. I heard a couple of years ago that they were going to reopen the case but nothing since. I am just wondering why her story isnt included with the others you have listed. It’s a small community & I’m sure that I’m not the only one that is interested.”
I needed that gentle nudge. In fact, on February 18, I’d just completed an intensive online search under newspaper archives for information related to this case. Today, I got the new page added — http://www.iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/debbie-laubenthal-and-ray-henkins/ — on the Oct. 23, 1976, unsolved double murder of Debbie Laubenthal of Bancroft and Ray Henkins of Emmetsburg.
There are still many, many more needing added and recognized.
Iowa has approximately 200 cold cases — 150+ unsolved homicides, six unidentified bodies and 43 long-time missing persons cases — and I’m collecting the details on each and every one and trying to get it added to the Iowa Cold Cases website as quickly as I can.
It isn’t always easy.
Most of Iowa’s police and sheriff’s departments don’t list cold cases or unsolved crimes on their websites. Many online articles drop off newspaper websites after two weeks and the content is no longer accessible. Cold case articles — by their very nature — often involve stories published 20, 30, or even 50 years ago, long before newspapers made content available online.
That largely leaves newspaperarchive.com, a paid subscription service (of which I am a member), for research on many of these cold cases. And, while I was able to locate a number of articles related to the Laubenthal/Henkins murder and the trial, there are still countless years (and Iowa newspapers) that the organization has yet to scan and make available to members.
Beyond the online documents, my research also extends to phone calls and correspondence to city and county law enforcement officials in each case’s jurisdiction. By and large, I’ve found these officials to be more than amenable and cooperative with my inquiries. Still, there is only so much information they can share due to the “open” nature and ongoing investigation of each case.
In most situations, victims’ family members or friends will contact me via the ICC Contact link, and I will follow up with online research and phone calls to respective law enforcement officials. When enough information has been gathered about a cold case, I will then add an individual page for that victim on the ICC website highlighting the details of his or her case.
Since launching the Iowa Cold Cases website in 2005, all my work there has been done on a volunteer basis. I have done it because of my passion and commitment in seeking justice for these victims and their families, but I, too, have financial obligations to meet.
Recently, I have explored the possibility of returning to a cold case series by writing syndicated feature articles highlighting a different Iowa cold case each week or month, each of which would include in-depth interviews with victims’ family members, acquaintances and law enforcement officials. Once the articles have appeared in subscribing newspapers, the stories would be posted on the ICC website. This series, however, is still in the feasibility/study stage.
Until then, I will continue to do my best to add cases to the ICC website and make it as inclusive as possible.
Yours in hope,