Betty Swetnam's houseCourtesy Sioux City Police Department
Betty Swetnam, 74, suffered a brutal and violet death in this west-side Sioux City, Iowa home. The elderly woman operated a massage business out of her basement.

Elizabeth Jane “Betty” Swetnam


Betty J. Swetnam
73 YOA
1610 West 19th St.
Sioux City, Iowa
Woodbury County
December 31, 1993

Betty Swetnam, a 73-year-old grandmother who operated a massage business out of her 1610 West 19th St. Sioux City home’s basement, was brutally stabbed to death on Friday December 31, 1993.

Family members had tried to contact Swetnam New Year’s Eve as well as New Year’s Day, and became troubled when unable to reach her. Their concern grew after contacting Betty’s neighbor and learning Swetnam’s gray car was still parked in her driveway.

Woodbury County in Iowa
Woodbury County in Iowa
Sioux City in Woodbury CountySioux City in Woodbury County

At 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, January 1, the family sent a grandson and a granddaughter’s husband to check on Swetnam’s welfare.

When they arrived, they could hear the television on inside but could not get anyone to answer the door. The grandson went around to the side door off the carport and found that door unlocked. Upon entry, the grandson observed his grandmother at the bottom of the basement steps, dead.

In the meantime, Sioux City Police had been dispatched to the home because a daughter, who lived out of town, had also tried unsuccessfully to contact her mother, and had asked officers to check on her mother’s welfare.

Police arrived just as the grandson discovered his grandmother’s body.

The crime was considered both brutal and violent; Betty Swetnam had received numerous stab wounds, many of which were fatal.

Investigators found the home had also been ransacked with drawers dumped out of dressers.

Officials interviewed every client named in Swetnam’s book as well as all relatives and associates. Despite an exhaustive investigation, no viable suspects were developed and the case remains open.

About Betty Swetnam
betty-swetnam-gravestoneCourtesy photo Dennis Johnson,
Elizabeth “Betty” Swetnam is buried at the Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Iowa.

Elizabeth Jane “Betty” (Sexton) Swetnam was born Oct. 10, 1920, in Miner County, South Dakota, to Henry C. Sexton and Katherine (Lins) Sexton.

Her siblings included Helen Sexton Waterbury (1916 – 2004), Mildred Dorothy Sexton Cross (1917 – 1940), John Louis Sexton (1919 – 2000), Hilda A. Sexton Hannett (1923 – 1983), Melvin L. Sexton (1927 – 1991), Myron Donald Sexton (1931 – 2011), and Ronald Gene Sexton (1934 – 2014).

She was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City, Woodbury County.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Betty Swetnam’s unsolved murder please contact the Sioux City Police Department at 712-279-6390.


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