Lisa McCuddin

Lisa McCuddin

A day seldom goes by that I don’t receive e-mail asking about an Iowa cold case, but occasionally one arrives that — before I’ve even clicked to open and read it — makes my heart skip a beat or two. They are the ones where I recognize the sender’s last name because it matches a victim’s last name. The message will be highlighted in blue, indicating it’s addressed to my cold cases e-mail address, and when the subject line says something like “My Daughter,” all doubt is indeed removed; a victim’s parent has taken time to write me about his or her daughter — a daughter whose death I’ve most likely written about on the cold cases website.

Due to the vast number of cases listed there, most victim pages include “case summaries” I’ve compiled from collective news media articles, police reports and/or other documentation, rather than a by-lined article. (Links to any referenced articles follow the summary.) But even when I set about putting together each case summary, I give myself mental reminders: This person was somebody’s mother, someone’s daughter and sister; this could have been my brother, my uncle, my grandfather; and How would I feel were I to read this about my daughter or brother or son or sister?

Unsolved murders (and longtime missing persons cases where the victim is assumed deceased) are hard enough on families, and in writing about either, one often walks a fine line between disclosing delicate or unpleasant details about the victim’s life (especially if it played a role in the crime) while still respecting family members’ feelings.

So when a family member writes me for the first time, and particularly if it’s one of the victim’s parents, yes, I do worry if I’ve somehow offended them even though I’ve never gotten any negative calls or mail that would rationalize my fears.

On Friday, I received three e-mails, and by the time I finished reading the third, I suddenly recognized the three true things I consistently see in “cold case families,” and the attributes had been there all along.

Families of cold case victims are kind.

They tend to appreciate and be thankful for any efforts — regardless of how small — others extend on behalf of their loved one. They seem to have an innate sense that people are good, have the best of intentions, and are trying to help. They are long on praise and short on criticism.

Families of cold case victims are patient.

They understand that media will have other stories to cover, police and sheriff’s departments other cases to investigate, and friends and even other family members lives to still lead and move forward.

Families of cold case victims never lose hope. Ever.

Despite dead-end leads and witnesses who refuse to get involved, they never lose hope that those responsible for their loved one’s death will be brought to justice. Whether five years or 40, hope is always viable in a world where advancing DNA technology rivals any aging conscience.

While passing years spent waiting for justice could reasonably make one bitter, the e-mails I’ve received are a testament to the strength, the compassion, and the courage cold case families find within themselves under circumstances many cannot imagine.

Clips from Yesterday’s Letters
(reprinted here with permission)

From Becky McCuddin, mother of Lisa Ann McCuddin, who was shot and killed while riding as a passenger in a vehicle on its way to a Fort Dodge, Iowa, motel on October 2, 2004:

I am so glad you have this website. People don’t believe me when I tell them Iowa has a huge amount of unsolved murders. It is going on 5 years and still no arrest in my daughter’s case. This is not because of lack of trying on the investigator’s part. A lot of it has to do with people not wanting to get involved and coming forward.

Robert Bates

Robert Bates

From Tracy Kaiser, girlfriend of Robert Bruce “Kip” Bates III, who was shot around 10 p.m. on September 27, 2007, while working at the Carter Lake, Iowa, ‘Jump Start Conoco’ convenience store:

Robert was my boyfriend. I gave birth to his daughter a few weeks after he was murdered. This Sept. 27th will mark 2 years since he left us. He was working when someone shot him. He was not supposed to work that night. He was scheduled to work in the morning but switched shifts with someone else. The investigators have confirmed that it was not meant for my boyfriend. They have an idea on who did it but do not have enough evidence to prosecute.

And from Jennifer McCuddin, sister of Lisa Ann McCuddin

I just wanted to send a big thank you for setting up this web site. We are coming up on 5 years and nothing new on her case yet. I have sent this web site to many friends and if it doesn’t help my sister’s case I hope it will help someone’s family.

My sincere thanks to Becky, Tracy and Jennifer for writing. Keep the faith.

Yours in hope,


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