Aaron Brilbeck

Aaron Brilbeck

I can’t begin to tell you how enjoyable it has been working with Channel 13′s Aaron Brilbeck over the past 7-1/2 months and witnessing the dedication he’s brought to telling the stories behind many Iowa cold cases.

To regularly interview family members who’ve lost loved ones to violent crime can be a daunting job. It requires a genuine passion for the subject matter, a willingness to listen to long-buried hurts, anger, resentments and regrets, and an ability to understand the depths of another person’s pain and then present to the public a story that neither embarrasses the individual nor exploits the victim’s life or his or her final days.

While Aaron has done an exceptional job with all of the above and his commitment to telling victims’ stories remains strong, the weekly series may be cancelled due to the one adversary we all face: time.

On July 1, 2010, WHO-TV Channel 13 in Des Moines (an NBC affiliate) began a five-week series highlighting unsolved homicides and missing persons cases around the state. Aaron Brilbeck — the award-winning journalist behind the weekly series — crisscrossed Iowa interviewing victims’ family members, talking to local law enforcement officials and/or the Department of Criminal Investigation and, when possible, former or retired investigators who originally worked the cases.

Based on viewer feedback and interest, WHO-TV and Iowa Cold Cases partnered up to keep the series going, and in subsequent weeks and months, Aaron delivered some powerful reports including:

  • The 1971 unsolved murder of 17-year-old Maureen (Brubaker) Farley, a newly married Sioux Cityan who’d moved to Cedar Rapids and whose body later was found atop an abandoned vehicle in a wooded ravine;
  • The 1993 Christmas Eve disappearance of 42-year-old Phil Terrell, a father of three whose decomposed body was found two months later in a Warren County creek bed;
  • The Roaring Twenties prohibition-days murder of Thaddeus Mitchell; and
  • The brutal attack on single mom and new grandmother Roberta “Bobbi” Crawford.
Maureen FarleyCourtesy photo Lisa Schenzel
As the eldest of seven siblings, Maureen Brubaker often babysat and would tell her parents the children had been good so her parents would give them a dime apiece.

With each story, Aaron always unearthed intriguing or little known details about the case: the fact that feisty 87-year-old Hazel Reimann broke six fingers trying to fight off her attacker; that a key piece of evidence got left behind at the Marvin Brandland “Trick-or-Treat” murder scene; or even that a week before his death, 19-year-old Cecil Gaddy, paralyzed from the waist down, had called one of sisters to explain why he feared for his life.

While interest in the Iowa Cold Case series remains strong, it also tests the network’s resources in that two valuable staffers — Aaron and a top camera man — are sometimes gone a good part of the day traveling through the state.

For that reason, WHO-TV News Director Rod Peterson is considering canceling the weekly series. Aaron believes, as we do, that the series is a much needed public service that reminds viewers about long forgotten (but still open) cases. All too often, victims’ family members tell us, people forget or pretend the crime never happened. Bringing the stories back out into the open and into living rooms not only gets communities talking about the cases again, but sometimes “shakes loose” previously unknown details from those too fearful to speak earlier.

Ethel and Marvin Brandland
Missed one of Aaron’s reports? Watch online at WHO-TV Special Reports or see the Iowa Cold Cases Videos page.

So, what do you think? Has the Channel 13 Iowa Cold Case series run its course or barely scratched the surface? Would you miss it were it cancelled? Were there other cases (see list here) you still hoped to see covered? Were the 3-5 minute segments too long? Too short? What did the series mean to you?

We invite you to share with the station your thoughts and opinions.

As WHO-TV’s Rod Peterson works toward reaching a decision about the series’ fate, your input could make a difference.

Listed below are a number of different ways you may contact the network. As with any feedback, we ask you keep your comments civil, respectful and on topic. The WHO-TV staff works hard to allocate time and resources to news and stories they feel will best serve the audience’s needs and interests; decisions are not always easy.

Thank you in advance, and know how much your feedback is appreciated by all of us.

WHO-TV 13 Contact Information
  • Send an e-mail to WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines
  • Call (515) 242-3500 and ask to speak with News Director Rod Peterson
  • Fill out the WHO News Idea Form
  • Write to: WHO-TV 13, 1801 Grand Ave., Des Moines, IA 50309
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