Lee County in Iowa
Lee County in Iowa
Keokuk in Lee CountyKeokuk in Lee County

Arthur Leon Ransford


Arthur Leon Ransford
36 YOA
Case # 84-02367
Disappeared from Rural Route M
Keokuk, IA
November 22, 1983
Body found south of Montrose, IA
Lee County
May 13, 1984


Case information provided by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation
Arthur Leon Ransford, a 36-year-old Vietnam veteran, went missing from his Keokuk, Iowa home in Lee County on Tuesday, November 22, 1983. His wife reported him missing Thanksgiving Day.

Montrose in Lee County

Montrose in Lee County

On Sunday, May 13, 1984, Ransford’s body was found about two miles south of Montrose, enclosed in a large yellow bag and buried under cement blocks in a wooded area overlooking the Mississippi River.

The father of two had been shot in the head before being bagged and buried on the river bluff.

The Lee County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) investigated the homicide.

DCI Chief Thomas Ruxlow said officials positively identified Ransford’s remains on Friday, May 18, 1984, using fingerprints.

Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 19, 1984

Courtesy The Gazette, May 19, 1984

When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Arthur Ransford’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 ran out in December 2011, the DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases. The DCI will continue 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 Iowa’s cold cases and continues to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.

About Arthur Ransford

Arthur Leon Ransford was born March 20, 1947 in Memphis, Missouri, in Scotland County to Thelma Maxine (Long) and William Byron Ransford.

He served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and was survived by his wife, a daughter, and a son, Michael Ransford.

Military rites were conducted May 22, 1984, with interment following in the Keokuk National Cemetery for Veterans.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Arthur Ransford’s unsolved murder please contact the Lee County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 372-1152, (319) 524-1414 or 1-800-382-8900, or contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or via email at dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us.



13 Responses to Arthur Ransford

  1. Theresa says:

    Wondering if this is a lead. This company has been in business since 1970. Could possibly produce a list of fund raisers in the area and then the fund raisers may still have a listing of all who ordered.

    39-Gallon “Yellow”
    Fundraising Trash Bags
    Bags Sell For $12.00 Per Roll
    Cost Per Roll (call for price -1-800-821-8466)

  2. It says security problems with this site. Go back. Then it closes the window and I’m back to my news feed.

  3. I haven’t been able to access the site from my phone for awhile now due to the “security” issue. I have no problem from my laptop though.

  4. No issues with access with PC, Laptop or Tablet…must be a phone thing

  5. Ginger Kruse says:

    No I had the same on my kindle lately it says not a secure site doesn’t do it every time tho

  6. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Theresa, that’s a great lead you developed there. One question is where is this company located. It would be a long shot if they still had records of sales from back then.

    Also, I would hope that the local police would have looked at that. Since, a would seem odd to place his body in a yellow bag, and then try to hide it a wooded area under some cinder blocks.

    I would think someone local would have remembered seeing yellow bags being used by someone. I was over at a neighbor’s house earlier this evening. One of the family members was flipping through the channels on the television and she stopped on a football game, most likely a college game. One of the teams was wearing yellow uniforms. It stuck out like a sore thumb, as they say.

    Also, there is no information on the caliber of the firearm used. Also, not much on his background, besides having served in Vietnam, being married and having two kids. We don’t know what he was doing on Thanksgiving Day, when he disappeared. We don’t know what he did for a living.

    • Jack Jackson says:


      According to the Des Moines Register on May 19, 1984, and the Quad-City Times on May 20, 1984, it isn’t clear what he was doing on Thanksgiving Day. His mother said he failed to contact her that day. He was married, but note that the kids were not from his marriage at the time of his death. He had been married for five years to his first wife before they were divorced. He got married to his second wife the month before he disappeared. Three days after he disappeared, his second wife filed for divorce (prior to his body being discovered, of course). He had been unemployed for an extended period of time prior to his disappearance.

      His mother described him as someone who didn’t have a lot of close relationships and wasn’t particularly social. She wasn’t aware he had been reported missing until after she had been told his body had been found. Her other sons (Ransford’s brothers) had known, but chose not to tell their mother about it so as not to “worry” her.

  7. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, thanks for the information. He fills in a few blanks. But, a lot of unanswered questions. His wife reports him missing, and then files paperwork seeking a divorce, after being married for a month. That’s real nice. Makes me wonder why she married him.

    As a veteran and former employee of the VA, I would expect that he had issues from his time in Vietnam. This could explain his not having close relationships. However, I wonder if he ever went to the VA for any kind of help or medical treatment.

    Also. I wonder if anyone followed up on the yellow in color 39 gallon trash bags that Theresa mentioned in 2012. I don’t think the manufacturer would have sales records going back that far.

    I get frustrated that they don’t mention what caliber of firearm that was used to murder him. Also. I would assume that he was shot someone else and his body buried there. So, I wonder if where his body was found is a well traveled area, or off the beaten track.

    • Jack Jackson says:


      I don’t think that the bags Theresa mentioned are relevant. Jody’s write-up says that the body was in a yellow bag, but it doesn’t say that it was a “trash bag”. I think the information from the Des Moines Register illustrates why it probably wasn’t a 39 gallon trash bag:

      “Mushroom hunters had found a billfold in the area before discovering the body, which was clad only in shorts, wrapped first in a rug and then in a sheet of plastic and then covered with bricks and concrete blocks. The hands and feet were tied, and there was binding around the waist […]”

      I seriously doubt a body concealed inside a rug would fit into a 39 gallon trash bag. It sounds like the plastic used was almost more of a home improvement or construction type product.

      Also, the use of the rug, I think, answers your question about where the murder occurred — probably elsewhere if they used a rug to conceal the body before burying it.

      Jody’s post says the body was found about two miles south of Montrose in a wooded area — there seems to be pretty much only one area that fits this description: Galland School State Park Reserve, and the associated sections of land. It contains a stretch of trees adjacent to the road which follows the Mississippi river from Keokuk to Montrose (Mississippi River Road, AKA County Road X28), laying approximately across the river from Nauvoo, Illinois. If you drove out of Keokuk going north on that road you would eventually be driving alongside the treeline (opposite the river). The trees are on/on top of a hill, and the road is at the bottom of it next to the river. In certain areas, the road is slightly further from the river and there are smaller treelines which separate the two. I would say the park section of these trees is off the beaten path in the sense that a road does not run through it, but on the other hand, Mississippi River Rd does run next to it for its entire length on the east side. The area is also somewhat populated (in a rural Iowa sense), probably due to its proximity to the river. It was apparently visited by mushroom hunters, so was not too inaccessible, it seems. There are public places to park, e.g., a “rest area”, though I’m not sure if that was there in 1983. Here is a link to that if you want to see it: https://goo.gl/maps/wegM3e8thKD2

      I found something I think is very interesting. I found a picture of the victim’s grave marker on the internet. It is a military headstone in Keokuk National Cemetery. Here is what I think is irregular: the stone has been damaged and altered. Whether those two things are related I don’t know. It has gouges and breaks on the face and edges, but most interestingly, it almost looks like someone has crudely filled in the death death inscription with DIY cement. You can still see “NOV 22” under the cement, if you look closely. I wonder what precipitated this. Probably not important, but caught my eye. You can see for yourself at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/80266525/arthur-leon-ransford

  8. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, thanks for the details. The fact that his body was wrapped in a rug is interesting. I wonder if the rug is old or new. It could in a sense point to him being killed in a location such as a home being built or remodeled. I would lean to a place being remodeled.

    It makes me wonder if the evidence has been retested because of the new forensic testing available. You figure that the bindings and plastic might provide something useful.

    I looked at the picture of the headstone, and noticed the death date damage. Since, it is a VA cemetery they are the ones who made the headstone, and are responsible for the upkeep. They also provide a headstone for veterans buried in civilian cemetery. However, they normally provide a flatstone.

    I may give them a call and they can check it out. Maybe they can replace it.

    Did he live on Rural Route M, or in the city of Keokuk.

  9. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, I was thinking about the stuff including the plastic, bricks and cement blocks. It would give the impression that they came from a construction site. However, you would not expect in one sense to see a rug there, especially if a new house was being built. A new rug would get damaged sitting outside. I don’t think that their were bricks and cement blocks in the area, where his body was found.

    The binding of the hands, feet and waist, makes me wonder. It sort would take time, after shooting him, to bind him, wrap him in a rug and then the plastic sheeting. It sorts of points to his murder as something planned. Also, the second wife, decides to seek a divorce three days after disappearance. That makes me suspicious big time. She was only married to him for a month. Did she fall out of love that fast. She supposedly married him for a reason.

    I wonder if he was getting any disability from his service in Vietnam. Also, if what he did he do when he was working. Since, there are not a lot of jobs, in the civilian world, that requires a background as a combat infantryman.

    I did not contact the cemetery. I was resting up from dealing with nice slush/snow we got Sunday into Monday morning. I do the snow removal for a number of neighbors. I was out chopping up ice in a neighbors driveway. This was complements of the snow plows, where I live in Oak Lawn, Illinois.

    I was looking at the area on Google Earth at the library earlier. I saw the spillway or whatever it is just above what should be U.S. Highway 136. I was wondering why the offender or offenders did not dump his body in the Mississippi, and let it drift way with the current. The water would have eliminated some forensic evidence.

  10. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, Arthur Leon Ransford, was born in Scotland County, Missouri, where his Social Security Number 497-52-4675, was issued in 1964. I don’t know where that is in relation to Keokuk, Iowa. He served in the U.S. Army from May 10, 1966 to May 9, 1968. This is according to Social Security Death Index and Application & Claims and his VA BIRLS Death File.

  11. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, do we need a road trip, to visit the area. I find it interesting that a police department in Western Illinois, that is using billboards to highlight a missing person case for a young girl. It appears they are trying to shame the person or persons involved to come forward. Maybe we can do something similar in Keokuk, and stir things up.

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