About Iowa Cold Cases

IOWA COLD CASES, INC. is a nonprofit organization committed to providing case summaries, articles and updates for Iowa’s unsolved murders and persons who’ve gone missing under suspicious circumstances.

Our mission is to educate the public about these open cases, share and exchange resources in efforts to publicize these unsolved crimes and elicit tips, and ensure every victim’s story is told and kept alive until those responsible are charged and convicted. We work with law enforcement officials at the county, state, and federal level, often serving as a liaison between investigators and those providing information via our website.

As an extension of the Iowa Cold Cases website, ICC’s Facebook page serves as a hub for cold case anniversary notifications and ongoing conversations. Our blog highlights cold cases in the news, recent arrests and upcoming trials, and also features guest blogs and family members’ remembrances.

Our History and Highlights

Jody Ewing

Writer Jody Ewing launched the Iowa Cold Cases website in 2005 after researching and writing a cold case series for the Sioux City Weekender. Her first in the series — the 1974 triple slaying of two young men and a pregnant woman shot execution style in the rental home they shared — would pose a new kind of challenge for the western Iowa author and set the stage for a long-term commitment to tracking down every unsolved case.

No statewide compendium of unsolved murders existed in Iowa — or in any other U.S. state — and few police departments or sheriffs’ offices included unsolved homicides on their respective websites. Little to no information existed on the Internet for the vast majority of cases more than than a few years old. Many victims and case histories were relatively unknown outside communities where the crimes occurred, and some victims’ lives and stories hadn’t been publicly profiled in decades.

Ewing systematically designed a framework and spent more than two years fine-tuning a first-of-its-kind website she hoped other journalists and researchers would find useful and easy to navigate. Case names are listed alphabetically and cross-referenced by city, county, specific years and decades, with an individual case summary page created for each victim.

The Iowa Cold Cases website currently features about 650 unsolved cases, including Ewing’s stepfather of 25 years, Earl Thelander, who in 2007 lost his life at the hands of copper thieves.

In April 2010, Iowa Cold Cases incorporated and became an official state nonprofit organization.

Aaron Brilbeck

Aaron Brilbeck

In July 2010, NBC affiliate WHO-TV Channel 13 in Des Moines aired a special series each Thursday evening profiling a different Iowa unsolved murder or missing persons case. Based on the feedback and interest, WHO-TV reporter Aaron Brilbeck asked Iowa Cold Cases to partner up to continue with Channel 13’s weekly cold case series. Those stories — which aired from July 1, 2010 through February 4, 2011 — may be found on the ICC Videos page.

In July 2015, ICC partnered with the Iowa Newspaper Association and The Des Moines Register for a year-long weekly series titled, “Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s Unsolved Murders.” Every Sunday featured a specific case that ran in daily papers all across the state, followed by publication in participating weeklies on their regular print days. Approximately 200 Iowa newspapers partook in this large-scale project designed to reach anyone from the Missouri to the Mississippi who might know something and, finally, be ready to step forward with a missing puzzle piece and help solve a case.  

Today, most Iowa broadcasters and city newspapers play an active role in profiling Iowa’s cold cases, and we give many thanks to WHO-TV, The Register, The Gazette, The WCF Courier, Mason City Globe Gazette, KCRG and KCCI and many other mediums for reminding Iowans  a loved one’s unsolved murder or disappearance has not been forgotten.

As ICC has grown, several individuals have also contributed invaluable time and efforts toward our goal. Genuine gratitude goes out to Kimberly Frazier, Alice de Sturler of Defrosting Cold Cases, Andrea Olmanson, Doug Beard, Kerry Connolly, Waterloo Police Inv. Brice Lippert, Cedar Rapids Police Inv. Matt Denlinger, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Veronica Lack, Julie Loose, an army of others, and, most importantly, writer/researcher Carol Kean, the sister of ICC victim Julie Benning, who has worked tirelessly to not only see justice served in her sister’s 1975 murder, but who also engages every day with victims’ family members and tipsters, unearthing answers with profound perseverance.

Moving Onward

Iowa Cold Cases continues its mission to bring together, under one roof, a comprehensive accounting of all known Iowa unsolved murders and missing persons cases. We strive to serve somewhat as a hub where victims’ family members and others may share and exchange information as we work toward one prevailing goal: to see these cases closed.

Photos and news reports are always welcome. If you are interested in conducting research and/or writing for Iowa Cold Cases, please contact us.

This site is dedicated to Iowa’s cold case victims, their family members and friends, the countless law enforcement officials and others who’ve committed their lives to seeing justice served, and the media that continue to pursue answers from every angle. Together, everyone makes a difference.

Thank you, one and all, for taking time to visit.

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