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Cold case anniversaries are always tough. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the anniversary of a loved one’s unsolved homicide, a birthday he or she would have celebrated, or even the date the body may have been found.
The most important lesson I’ve learned in my years writing about cold cases is that it doesn’t matter whether the crime occurred last year or 40 years ago; to a victim’s loved ones, it always feels like yesterday.
You’ve probably marked an anniversary yourself, even if the loss came by natural or accidental causes. Something like, “Dad would have been 63 years old today.”
The seven days between Oct. 18 and Oct. 24, 2016, mark anniversary dates for 14 Iowa cold cases and 15 victims (one case a double homicide). Anyone with any information is urged to contact the investigating agency listed on the respective pages.
On Sunday, October 24, 1971, Karen Theresa Streed, 21, was found dead in the old Amana millrace canal located between West Amana and South Amana, Iowa. She had been missing one week and sustained four gunshot wounds to her head.
Streed, an American Optical Company employee, told co-workers she planned to hitchhike to Iowa City to see her husband, Ron Streed, a student at the University of Iowa. The couple lived at 112 Seventh St. SW in Cedar Rapids, and Ronald Streed commuted to classes at U of I.
Mrs. Streed was last seen Monday evening, Oct. 18, at Sixth Street and Sixteenth Ave. SW in Cedar Rapids at about 6 p.m. She was wearing a black poncho cape, a light-colored T-shirt, Levi jeans and boots.
In the early morning hours on Friday, October 18, 1974, someone shot Douglas A. Nielsen during a house party at the Mr. and Mrs. Earl Garrison home in Humboldt, Iowa. Nielsen, 17, sustained a .22 caliber gunshot wound to his lower back’s kidney area.
Nielsen’s body was found at about 1 a.m. in the Garrison’s basement game room, where investigators said they also seized several other weapons.
After a month-long investigation by Iowa BCI and city and county authorities, an impaneled grand jury met November 25, 1974, to hear evidence in the case.
In December 1974, the Humboldt County grand jury indicted Larry Eugene Garrison, 22, of rural Livermore, on an open charge of murder in connection with Nielsen’s death. Garrison was arraigned before Humboldt County District Court Judge Jack Hill and released after posting ten percent of the $20,000 bond.
On February 19, 1975, County Attorney Williams asked that the murder charge against Garrison be dismissed because of insufficient evidence and because two polygraph examinations showed Garrison “had not committed the crime and had no knowledge of what might have occurred” at his parents’ home where he’d thrown the party.
Judge Newt Draheim of Clarion granted Williams’ motion and dismissed the murder charge against Garrison.
Rodney Olsen, a 32-year-old rural Mason City farmer, left his farm around 1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, 1986, with intentions of visiting someone and was never seen alive again. Olsen had a young son and farmed northeast of Mason City. He had moved from his native Britt area not too long before he disappeared.
Several months later, Olsen’s car, a black 1978 Pontiac Sunbird, was found in a Forest City trailer park. Officials were unable to uncover any clues as to what happened to Olsen.
Melissa “Missy” Dawn Hasley, a 31-year-old mother of three, was reported missing to the Des Moines Police Department on Friday, Oct. 18, 2002.
Hasley was last seen alive between 11:45 p.m. and 1:45 a.m. in October 2002 at a party at an apartment complex near the 1700 block of Grand Avenue. Earlier that evening, Hasley attended another party at Oak Ridge Apartments before later going to the Grand Avenue party.
Witnesses reported hearing Hasley in the bathroom with two other people, and later saw her sitting on the fire escape. The witnesses said when they heard the fire door go off, they believed Hasley left the building through an alley door on the building’s north side.
No one has seen Hasley since the night of the parties.
Wilma June Nissen would have turned 62 years old on Oct. 19, 2016.
Early on Oct. 4, 1978, a telephone company employee stumbled upon a severely decomposed body while laying cable near West Lyon School on Highway 182. Advanced decomposition left the face unrecognizable.
Investigators believe her killer dumped her body sometime between July and August that same year. Only two whole teeth remained in the skull and the lower jaw could not be found.
The victim would not be identified as Wilma June Nissen until almost 30 years later.
Lyon County officials have offered a $10,000 reward for information in Nissen’s homicide, and have published in-depth biographical details about Nissen’s life on their Wilma June Nissen web site.
Rhonda Anette Knutson would have celebrated her 47th birthday October 19. An unknown individual bludgeoned the 22-year-old Knutson to death Sept. 7, 1992, while she worked the night shift at the Phillips 66 convenience store in Williamstown, Iowa, in Chickasaw County.
A Cedar Rapids Gazette article published the day after Knutson’s murder identified a suspect — a trucker — sought for questioning in the case. Three days later on Sept. 11, the Gazette published composite sketches of two suspects — both believed to be truckers — whom witnesses allegedly saw in the convenience store the morning Knutson died.
The Gazette described both men as heavy-set Caucasians with dark hair, and between the ages of 35 and 45. Witnesses described the first suspect as having a beard and mustache, and pulling a white and silver trailer behind a conventional tractor.
Johnie E. “John” Clinton — a 68-year-old retiree and World War II veteran who often sat strumming his guitar on his Des Moines home’s front porch — was stabbed to death in his kitchen sometime between October 18 and October 20, 1978.
Des Moines Police Officer Fred Allen discovered Clinton’s body Friday, October 27, and officials determined Clinton, who lived alone in the small 1525 Walker Street home, had been dead anywhere from seven to nine days.
Neighbors described Clinton as pleasant and quiet, and simply assumed he wasn’t home when they didn’t see his 1972 gold Plymouth Satellite parked in the driveway.
Davenport police found Jorge “Louie” Gutierrez, Sr., a 47-year-old construction worker from East Moline, Ill., wrapped in a sleeping bag in the bed of his maroon 1983 Chevrolet pickup truck in the early afternoon on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2004.
Officials believed Gutierrez — who died from blunt force trauma to the head — had been killed two days earlier on Oct. 17.
The truck, covered in Dallas Cowboys stickers and signs, sat parked along the Mississippi River in the 3400 block of South Concorde Street in Davenport, Iowa.
There is a $1000 reward for information leading to an arrest in his unsolved homicide.
Brandy Ratliff Jr., 31, was killed in a drive-by shooting while sitting on a couch inside his cousin’s home at 1608 E. Capitol Ave. in Des Moines on October 19, 2008.
Jesus Garcia, 35, and his nephew, Alfredo Garcia, 13, were arrested and charged with first-degree murder shortly after the shooting, but police later determined witnesses lied to them and charges were dropped.
Ratliff’s fiancée, Parris Swafford, 29, said Ratliff was in the living room with his cousin, Jermaine Hargrove, and at least two others when a bullet came through the window behind Ratliff and hit him in the back. He died en route to Mercy Medical Center. The bullet came through a window covered with plastic after being blown out with a shotgun blast nine days earlier.
On Oct. 20, 2012, Marlon Barber, Jr., a 15-year-old Dubuque teen, was shot in the chest and stomach as he and his friends walked away from a party. He died early in the morning while in surgery. Another teen also sustained a gunshot wound during the incident, but treated at a hospital and released.
Police responded to the 2000 block of Jackson Street Saturday night, just before midnight. At the scene, officers found Barber Jr., of 920 1/2 West Fifth Street, Dubuque, on the ground suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.
“I don’t want to speculate too much on what the true nature of the initial dispute was, other than the fact that it was very minor in comparison to the loss of a life,” Dubuque police chief Mark Dalsing said at the time. “Whether it was over a female, whether it was over who looked at who wrong, it’s ridiculous that something so minor could cause the death of one person and hospitalization of another.”
Sometime on Monday night, Oct. 22, 1973, someone stabbed 21-year-old Mary K. Senne to death in her east Des Moines home. Police suspected the murder occurred between 6 and 6:30 p.m. after an intruder cut the telephone line.
Polk County Medical Examiner R.C. Wooters said someone stabbed Senne twice in the stomach and one time in the throat. There were signs of a slight struggle, Wooters said, but Senne had not been sexually molested.
Senne’s husband, Douglas Senne, 23, said he discovered his wife’s body when he came home about 7:30 p.m.
Mrs. Senne, clad in a yellow sweater and black slacks, lay face up on the living room carpet in a pool of blood in the couple’s residence at 4119 E. University Ave.
Mary Senne, employed by AID Insurance Services at 701 Fifth Avenue in Des Moines, was the daughter of a Galesburg, Ill., surgeon.
On Saturday morning, Oct. 23, 1976, Debbie Rose Laubenthal, 18, of rural Bancroft and Raymond Morris Henkins, 30, Emmetsburg, were found shot to death on either side of Palo Alto County roadway B-19 near the intersection of N-60 two miles north of Depew, Iowa.
Farmer Clarence Berkland, who was picking corn in the vicinity when he stumbled upon the bodies, first thought it was a Halloween prank but summoned authorities after discovering both victims had been shot with a 45-caliber weapon.
Both victims suffered multiple wounds.
Debbie Laubenthal was a nursing student at Iowa Lakes Community College and in March 1976 participated in the Miss Shamrock Pageant in Emmetsburg. She was adopted by the Laubenthals in Sioux City, IA, and had lived in Bancroft all her life.
Henkins was born in Spring Valley, Ill., and had moved to Emmetsburg with his family as a small child. He had worked for Pocahontas Farm Management in the years prior to his death.
Nile and Norma Jean Smith of Emmetsburg, both 23, were charged with murder in the slaying but acquitted by a Dickinson County jury on July 9, 1977.
Thirty-year-old Mediacom employee Robert “Corey” Poffenberger was shot and killed in the driveway of his 2211 East 37th St. Des Moines home early Friday morning, Oct. 24, 2003.
Poffenberger, who’d bought the bank forfeiture home from Wells Fargo Bank just five months earlier, sustained several shots to his chest and was found outside his vehicle’s open door, the engine still idling.
In October 2006, Polk County Crime Stoppers, with the financial support of Poffenberger’s family, announced a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for Poffenberger’s death.
The funds have thus far gone unclaimed.
Stanley “Mike” Golinsky, 56, an active member of Des Moines’ Rockpower Church, was found dead under a downtown railroad bridge on Wednesday, October 24, 2012.
A 911 phone call placed at 4:08 p.m. led Des Moines police officers to the Principal Park area near Vine and Southwest First streets, where they located a body beneath the railroad bridge near a bike trail on the Des Moines River’s west bank.
Des Moines police sergeant Chris Scott said investigators believe the suspect or suspects killed Golinsky at the crime scene and did not “dump” his body there after killing him elsewhere.
Polk County Crime Stoppers has offered a reward up to $1000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
Visit each victim’s case summary page for more information about the crime. And, as always, if you know anything about any of these cases -– regardless of how insignificant the detail may seem –- please contact the investigating agency listed on the victim’s respective page.