Billy Lee Clark

Billy Lee Clark

Billy Lee Clark


Billy Lee Clark
43 YOA
Ottumwa, IA
Wapello County
August 1, 1975


Sometime on Friday, August 1, 1975, Billy Lee Clark of Ottumwa, Iowa, was shot in the back in a rural Wapello County pasture.

The 43-year-old’s body, found lying next to his pick-up truck, was discovered the following day at approximately 2:23 p.m. on a farm owned by Martin Bergland, about seven miles west of Ottumwa on Route 4.

Wapello County in Iowa
Wapello County in Iowa
Ottumwa in Wapello CountyOttumwa in Wapello County

Clark, who resided at 1454 Swanson in Ottumwa, would have celebrated his 44th birthday the following week.

Clark’s body was taken to Des Moines for an autopsy, and cause of death was ruled a shotgun blast to Clark’s back.

One month after the slaying, Wapello County Sheriff Bud Erwin said more than 50 persons had been interviewed in connection with the case, but there were no arrests.

Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) Special Agent Wayne Sheston assisted the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation. Two other BCI investigators, along with two agents from nearby territories and two lab personnel workers also spent time processing the murder scene and working the case.

“We and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation have conducted a very thorough investigation, but we need something more to go on than circumstantial evidence,” Sheriff Erwin said in an Ottumwa Courier article published Friday, Dec. 5, 1975.

Investigators cited several factors that made so difficult to solve, including:

  • The scene of the crime was so remote–a pasture approximately a half mile from the nearest road.
  • The wooded area in rolling hills made it unlikely anyone had witnessed the murder.
  • The weather at the time was hot and dry, and the hard ground showed little in the way of tracks.
  • The body wasn’t found until the day after the shooting, giving investigators few clues to go on and the slayer plenty of time to remove incriminating evidence.

Officials never closed the case, though later said they think Clark’s killer died shortly after the murder.

About Billy Lee Clark

Billy Lee Clark was born August 9, 1931 in Iowa Falls, the son of Lee and Marnia Hayden Clark. He’d lived in Ottumwa nearly 15 years and most recently had been employed by John Deere Ottumwa Works.

Billy Lee Clark gravestoneCourtesy photo Rich Richards,
Billy Lee Clark is buried in Shaul Cemetery in Ottumwa.

He was survived by one son, Gary Lee of Williams; two daughters, Lois and Phyllis Clark, both of Ottumwa; five brothers, Merele of Welton, Jerry and David both of Wheatland, Lynn of Nevada and Timothy of Abilene, Texas; sisters Darlene Downs of Ackley, Shurwyn Zimmerman of Cottage Grove, Minn., Avon Mertschbrock of Fort Madison, Norma Moore of Abilene, Texas, and Nacita Flores and Melody Black, both of Crane, Texas.

He was preceded in death by one son and his parents.

Memorial services were held Wednesday, August 6, at 1:30 p.m. at Jay Funeral Home with the Rev. A.D. Pringle of the Ottumwa Baptist Temple officiating. Clark was buried in Shaul Cemetery in Ottumwa.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Billy Lee Clark’s unsolved murder please contact the Wapello County Sheriff’s Office at 641-684-4350.

  • “Searching for answers: Area unsolved murders continue to haunt law enforcement officials, families,” by Matt Milner, The Ottumwa Courier, January 6, 2007 (published online January 8, 2007)
  • “Billy Clark murder investigation continues,” The Ottumwa Courier, Friday, December 5, 1975
  • “Authorities continue hunt for murderer,” The Ottumwa Courier, Tuesday, August 5, 1975
  • “Ottumwan murdered,” The Ottumwa Courier, Monday, August 4, 1975, Page One
  • Find a Grave Memorial
  • United States Social Security Death Index


12 Responses to Billy Lee Clark

  1. There are cruel people out there. It breaks my heart so unfair. Very sad.

  2. Beth Walker, only a true coward would shoot someone in the back. This is a very sad case.

  3. Sher, our website traffic skyrocketed on Friday due to the number of people viewing a page for Lynn Schuller. It could have caused a temporary crash on our server, but I just checked and Billy’s page is loading correctly. Thanks for letting us know. Jody at I.C.C.

  4. Sher Stookey says:

    Couldn’t click on this..said there was a database error.

  5. Beth McFall says:

    WTF?? Who does that?

  6. Im so sorry. this all breaks my heart.

  7. Lonny D. Clark says:

    It is my observation that the police of Wapello county couldn’t find their ass with both hands. I looked at the cold cases in that county for a ten year period and could easily see that they have several cases that have the same pattern. I would call and tell them but I don’t have time to waste on Barney Fife and Goober types! I am and will find the person and or persons responsible for the Murder of my Uncle! I find it quite odd that the police say they think Clark’s killer died shortly after the murder-(WTF!!!). Sounds like to me they knew damn good and well who done it, perhaps it might have been someone the police knew? I SMELL A COVER-UP!!!

    • Coady says:

      I thought the exact same thing when I read that they believed that he died shortly after the murder. I stand by you 100% in your opinion. As far as I could tell there was no reason for them to assume that the killer is deceased. I am very sorry for your loss. I know that it was a long time ago, however you deserve answers.

    • Erin says:

      Have you notified the FBI of what you have uncovered? If this is the actions of someone who has done it before and maybe STILL doing it, but in another state… I say, if you can’t trust the little dogs, go to bigger ones… bug the hell out of them! =P At least it would be off your conscience to know you did your best to obtain justice.

    • Josh says:

      Cover up definitly

    • Ronzo says:

      It does sound like they have an idea who might if done it, they are truly a shady bunch back then ? Now I don’t know now if they are any better, I would check records of those who passed away after this incident maybe a deceased name would be recognized someone he knew or your family knows???

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