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On Sunday, July 22, 1984, relatives found 58-year-old Arnold Sansgaard’s nude body dead on the living room floor of the rural Story City, Iowa home he shared with his mother, Della, in northeast Boone County.
Relatives had gone to check on Sansgaard when a mail carrier notified them about mail piling up at the residence.
According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), Sansgaard died from two shallow stab wounds to the right side of his chest area. State Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Bennett said the victim had been dead approximately one week.
Sansgaard’s mother was visiting her daughter in Nashua when her son was killed.
After Sansgaard’s slaying, officials said they believed his attacker left the farm driving Sansgaard’s blue 1977 Datsun 210. The vehicle was found abandoned at an Effingham, Ill. Catholic church about 100 miles northeast of St. Louis, Mo., one day after relatives found Sansgaard’s body.
On July 16, 1984 — six days before the gruesome discovery — a Chisago County, Minnesota sheriff’s deputy made a traffic stop on the same ’77 Datsun about 50 miles north of Minneapolis after the car was seen weaving in traffic. The driver, who appeared quite nervous, spoke slowly with a southern accent and identified himself as Arnold Sansgaard.
The man had severe burn scars on his right arm, forearm, and neck area and possibly on his left arm, and told the deputy he’d suffered the burns as a flamethrower while serving in Vietnam. He said he was a Veterans Administration outpatient in Madison, Wisconsin, and took medication for a nervous condition.
Sansgaard, more than 20 years the driver’s senior, had served in the Korean War.
Sansgaard’s relatives hadn’t yet discovered his body so hadn’t reported his car as missing, and the deputy issued the Datsun’s driver a routine traffic warning, but not before taking careful note of the man’s facial features.
After learning of Sansgaard’s homicide, the deputy described the man to a sketch artist, who worked up a portrait to be released to the public.
On Thursday, July 26, 1984, the DCI released a detailed description of the man seen driving Sansgaard’s car. They described him as 6-foot-2 inches tall, about 37 years old, weighing 170 pounds, with medium-length dark brown hair, clean-shaven and possibly wearing glasses.
They released a sketch of the suspect and released a second sketch at a later date.
Three months later, Christopher Paul Nitsick was arrested for stealing Sansgaard’s car. According to a story in the Ames Daily Tribune, Nitsick was arrested in Omaha on a Nebraska warrant for auto theft. Nitsick had waived extradition to Iowa, where he faced second-degree theft charges for stealing Sansgaard’s Datsun.
The Boone County Attorney’s Office spokesman told the press Nitsick would be questioned in Sansgaard’s murder. According to a June 4, 2011 story in the Tribune, Nitsick proved to be a “minor footnote” in Sansgaard’s homicide investigation.
“This man turned himself over to Nebraska authorities claiming to have killed Sansgaard,” Boone County Sheriff Ron Fehr — a road deputy at the time Sansgaard was killed — told the Tribune. “After he was interviewed, it was determined that he was not telling the truth. He was just looking for attention.”
When Boone County Sheriff’s Deputy Jim Lukawski retired in July 2001, he said he still couldn’t close the book on Sansgaard’s 17-year-old murder case.
“Over the years, we’ve chased down numerous leads, made a trip or two to Minnesota or Nebraska, but nothing has ever developed out of it,” Lukawski, a 25-year sheriff’s department veteran, said in Cedar Rapids Gazette article published Sunday, July 22, 2001. “We just haven’t had any luck on this one — nothing has gone our way.”
Lukawski said he always keeps his eyes open for [the suspect], and that if he sees someone that looks like him, he always takes that second look.
“It’s frustrating that we haven’t brought this to a just conclusion,” he said.
In the same news article, Steven Conlon, the DCI’s assistant director, said unsolved homicides always are kept open, and that cases much older than Sansgaard’s have been solved, many because of new technology.
When the Iowa DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Arnold Sansgaard’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.
Iowa DCI Special Agent Michael Motsinger told the Tribune there were no new leads to report in the cold case.
“Items of evidentiary value were resubmitted to the lab in 2009, and nothing new was developed,” Motsinger said. “There were some partial DNA profiles developed, but were too weak to identify.”
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.
Arnold L. Sansgaard was born November 19, 1925, and served in the Korean War.
He was buried at Roland Cemetery in Roland, Iowa, in Story County.
If you have any information about Arnold Sansgaard’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Boone County Sheriff’s Office at 515-433-0524. Anonymous tips can be emailed to Tips@boonecounty.iowa.gov. To report a crime by cell phone, send text to: 274637 (CRIMES). In the message box, text the word BOONE and then your message.