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Arlys Ponce — a 42-year-old mother of three — was found dead on the floor of her Norwalk, Iowa home on October 8, 1997.
Ponce’s son had arrived at the residence at approximately 3:15 p.m., and when his mother failed to answer the door, he peered through a window and saw her body lying on the floor.
The son contacted a neighbor, telling her he couldn’t get into the house but that he could see his mother lying on the floor. The neighbor contacted police, who entered the residence and discovered Arlys Ponce had been beaten and stabbed to death.
Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) agents, who were called in to help Norwalk authorities with the case, said Ponce had died of multiple stab wounds.
In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Oct. 11, 1997, DCI spokesman John Blessman said “we’re interviewing people and running out leads as they come in,” but declined to specify whether investigators were zeroing in on a suspect in the homicide that occurred in the community of 6,000 people south of Des Moines.
Ponce’s death marked the third incident since Aug. 28 in which a woman was discovered dead of multiple stab wounds. Julie Bell Davis, 33, of Marion, was slain at an east-side Des Moines business where she worked once or twice a week, and Zurijeta Sakanovic, 21, was killed Sept. 4 in a Clive hotel where she worked as a housekeeper.
Some wondered if the three women’s murders might be connected.
“We have looked into that. We’re open to that, but at this point, no, we don’t have anything that would tie in any of the three homicides,” Des Moines Police Lt. Kelly Willis told the Gazette. “We have looked at that possibility but at this point there’s nothing that would indicate that they are related.”
Donald Arthur Piper, a serial killer who preyed on women he found in motels, was later convicted of first-degree murder in Sakanovic’s death.
When the Iowa DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Arlys Ponce’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
The DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.
Arlys Ponce was born January 9, 1955. She married Robert C. Ponce on Feb. 14, 1982, and the couple had three children.
Arlys died from stab wounds in her Norwalk, Iowa home on Oct. 8, 1997.
She is buried at the Norwalk Cemetery in Warren County, Iowa.