Dennis Clougherty. Helen Morrow. Eugene Martin. Three victims, three lives gone, and one shared date families can’t forget: August 12.

Twenty-three-year-old Dennis Clougherty was a Vietnam vet preparing to start graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Helen Morrow, 55, surely never imagined her fate when offering employment to a hired hand. And Eugene Martin, only 13, simply wanted to make extra money to attend the Iowa State Fair.

Family members have long since buried Clougherty and Morrow. Eugene Martin’s parents lived and died waiting for answers that have yet to follow them to the grave.

Dennis Clougherty, a 23-year-old Vietnam vet and soon-to-be graduate student, was shot five times while hitchhiking through Iowa.

Dennis Clougherty, a 23-year-old Vietnam vet and soon-to-be graduate student, was shot five times while hitchhiking through Iowa on his way to Torrington, Wyoming.

August 12, 1974 — Dennis Clougherty

Around 4 p.m. on Monday afternoon, August 12, 1974, Dennis Clougherty left Madison, Wisconsin, with plans to hitchhike to Torrington, Wyoming, to retrieve his motorcycle. The bike had broken down in Torrington earlier that year and he’d had to leave it behind for repairs.

The 905-mile route between the two cities — a 15-hour trip on Interstate 80 — would be the fastest, but Clougherty chose the familiar Highway 20, perhaps in the hopes of catching a ride with someone he knew. From Torrington, Clougherty planned to ride the bike to Detroit, Michigan, where he’d promised to attend a weekend family wedding.

Clougherty never made it to the wedding, or to Torrington, or even past the first day of his trip; sometime between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and midnight, he was shot five times in the chest and left along Union Road south of First Street in Cedar Falls, Iowa. A passing motorist discovered his body the following morning. Some of his personal belongs, including a backpack, a clothes bag and Clougherty’s motorcycle helmet, were located approximately five miles south on Viking Road.

An investigation confirmed a motorist picked him up about 7 p.m. Monday while traveling westbound on Highway 20 near Dubuque, and gave him a ride to Independence, IA, dropping Clougherty off at a café there around 8:15 p.m. Clougherty ate at the then-Rush Park Café and left Independence around 9:15 p.m., hitchhiking westbound on Highway 20. Another motorist picked him up and drove him to Waterloo, dropping him off at the Highway 20 and Highway 63 intersection.

Here, two male subjects in their early 20s, driving a brownish/gold 1962-1964 Chevrolet car — possibly a four-door with beige interior — picked up Clougherty around 10:30 p.m. The young military vet and soon-to-be graduate student was never seen alive again.

August 12, 1980 — Helen Morrow

In Eldon, Iowa, witnesses saw Herman Pierce, 48, leave the home of Mrs. Helen Morrow, 55, the evening of August 12, 1980, just moments before flames began shooting from Morrow’s two-story frame house.

Authorities found Mrs. Morrow lying on a bed in a first-floor bedroom, and an autopsy report concluded she died of smoke inhalation.

Police arrested Pierce and held him in jail on an intoxication charge, and though county prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against Pierce on August 26, they reconsidered and decided to convene a grand jury to hear evidence in the case. It was a move they later would regret.

On Friday, October 3, 1980, a four-man, three-woman Wapello County Grand Jury failed to return an indictment against Pierce. He was released from custody and Helen Morrow’s case remains unsolved.

Eugene Martin

Eugene Martin disappeared August 12, 1984, while out delivering newspapers.

August 12, 1984 — Eugene Martin

Eugene Martin got an early start at 5 a.m. to deliver the Des Moines Register newspaper on his regular paper route. His older brother normally accompanied him, but on this day Eugene went alone; the Iowa State Fair was in town, and Eugene wanted to earn some extra money to spend at the fair.

Sometime between 5 and 5:45 a.m., residents living near Southwest 12th Street and Highview Drive observed Gene speaking to a clean-cut white male in his 30s. The teen folded papers as he spoke to the man, and the witnesses said the conversation appeared friendly — almost like a “father-son” sort of conversation.

Less than an hour later, sometime between 6:10 and 6:15, the boy’s newspaper bag was found on the ground outside Des Moines — 10 folded papers still inside.

Authorities issued a nationwide bulletin for a man described as between 30 and 40 years old, 5 feet, 9 inches tall, clean shaven and with a medium build. Federal agents wondered if Eugene’s disappearance might be connected to that of missing Register paperboy Johnny Gosch, 12, who’d gone missing two years earlier on September 5, 1982.

Eugene Martin's aunt, Jeannie McDowell

In July 2010, Eugene Martin’s aunt, Jeannie McDowell, told WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck she believed her dying brother, Eugene’s father, Don Martin, still clung to life with hopes of learning news about his son before he passed. Don Martin died two days after Christmas that same year.

Eugene Martin’s aunt, Jeannie McDowell, told WHO-TV’s Aaron Brilbeck in a July 2010 Iowa Cold Cases segment that she believed her dying brother — Eugene’s father Don Martin, in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and also suffering from cancer — was hanging on and needed some type of closure in his son’s disappearance before he could let himself go. Gene’s mother, Janice, had recently died from diabetes without ever knowing what happened to her child.

Don continued to read and clip from daily papers every article or reference he could find about Eugene, McDowell said.

But like his wife, Don Martin died still waiting for answers; he passed away on December 27, 2010.

Many Iowans believe both Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin were kidnapped and sold into a pedophile sex ring, though nothing has ever been proven to support the theory.

Martin’s remaining family members — like Johnny Gosch’s mother Noreen — continue to wait and hope for the one strong lead that breaks open the case and provides long-awaited answers and justice.


Anyone with information regarding Dennis Clougherty’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Cedar Falls Police Department at (319) 273-8612.

Information concerning Helen Morrow’s unsolved murder should be directed to the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 684-4350.

Tips on the Eugene Martin case may be submitted to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *