Brian DietrichCourtesy photo Dubuque Telegraph Herald
Brian Dietrich

Brian Everett Dietrich

Homicide

Brian Everett Dietrich
30 YOA
Garnavillo, Iowa
Clayton County
Went Missing October 30, 1993
Found dead on Indian Isle south of McGregor, IA
Memorial Day weekend,
Saturday, May 28, 1994

Case summary by Jody Ewing

He’d planned to take his new baby daughter out trick-or-treating that October night in 1993.

Brian Dietrich — the son of [then] Clayton County Sheriff Verdean Dietrich — was known for his biker lifestyle and “living off the land” in rural Garnavillo, Iowa, but made regular trips across the Mississippi River to Prairie du Chien, Wis., to sell ginseng.

He’d made such a trip Saturday, October 30, 1993, his mother, Bonnie Dietrich, said.

Clayton County
Clayton County in Iowa
Garnavillo in Clayton CountyGarnavillo in Clayton County

According to Lt. Lauren Knutson of the Crawford County (Wisconsin) Sheriff’s Office, Dietrich — along with his girlfriend and her brothers — was hanging out at the downtown Schooner Bar in Prairie du Chien.

“At some point in time, there was a scuffle [and] Brian was struck once by one of the brothers,” Knutson told WMTV (NBC) Channel 15 for a story that aired May 17, 2009.

The 30-year-old Dietrich headed home, walking toward the bridge connecting Prairie du Chien with Clayton County, Iowa, but never made it home.

Dietrich’s girlfriend reported him missing several days later, insisting he was in the river.

Knutson firmly believed people knew more than what they were saying, and said on a scale of zero to ten, he’d put [his suspicions] at a ten.

“What we know is what the people with him have told us that night,” he said. “All indications are Brian didn’t jump into the river voluntarily. There was just nothing that ever said he was suicidal.”

Dietrich’s body wouldn’t turn up until the following May — entangled in the roots of Indian Isle.

Body Found

Indian Isle — a one-mile wooded island on the Mississippi River — could be accessed only by boat within the Crawford County jurisdiction. Home to about 20 seasonal cabin dwellers, the secluded island lay one mile south of the Mississippi River bridge near McGregor, Iowa.

On Saturday, May 28, 1994 — Memorial Day weekend — a suspicious odor led one resident out to the shore to investigate.

He discovered the body on the shore; fully clothed, the man lay face down in the sand. The resident immediately notified the Crawford County (Wis.) Sheriff’s Department.

Garnavillo

Garnavillo, Iowa (Courtesy Wikipedia)

Joined by officials from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the deputies examined the body for a cause of death. They could find no wounds, but did find the victim’s clothing and wallet nearby.

The remains were those of Brian Dietrich.

Lt. Knutson, on call at the time, was one of the first responders.

“[The body] appeared to have been in the river for several months,” Knutson told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald in an interview for a story published May 30, 1994.

Dietrich’s body was transported to the University of Wisconsin for an autopsy, and though the coroner eventually ruled the death a drowning, investigators couldn’t shake the feeling they’d had from the very beginning; they strongly believed there was more to this death.

15 Year Later – Revisiting a Mysterious Death

Lauren Knutson retired from the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department in 2006, but never truly left the work behind him.

“This was just too good a case to let go. There were just too many question marks… too many red flags,” he said.

Crawford County Sheriff Jerry Moran and other investigators felt the same way; the final moments of Dietrich’s life had led them to suspect foul play.

In May 2009, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department re-opened the investigation. Few tips trickled in, with none producing any significant breakthrough.

Brian Dietrich's mother, Bonnie, and his daughter HaleyCourtesy photo Dubuque Telegraph Herald
Brian Dietrich’s mother Bonnie (right) talks to the Telegraph Herald about her son’s death. On left is Haley Dietrich, Brian’s daughter.

Another year passed, and in June 2010 — with retirement looming in six months — Moran decided to make the case one of his top priorities.

“I want to develop a plan,” he told the Telegraph Herald in a story published June 5, 2010. “There isn’t much happening, [but] there are some potential witnesses to be interviewed yet.”

The following week Moran met with Captain Dale McCullick and the retired Knutson, both of whom had conducted the bulk of the work on the case.

Dietrich’s mother told the Telegraph Herald she’d never been satisfied with the coroner’s ruling and believed she knew the truth about what really happened to her son. She insisted she would never give up hope.

“I’m not gonna settle for someone getting away with it,” she said.

About Brian Dietrich

Brian Dietrich was born April 5, 1964.

Although some documents cite his date of death as Oct. 30, 1993 — the day he went missing — his gravestone bears the date May 28, 1994 … the day his body was recovered from Indian Isle.

Brian Dietrich gravestoneCourtesy photo Steve, findagrave.com
Brian Dietrich is buried in the Guttenberg Cemetery in Clayton County, Iowa.

Services were held at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, June 1, 1994, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Garnavillo. Dietrich was buried in the Guttenberg Cemetery in Clayton County, Iowa.

Survivors included his parents, Verdean and Bonnie (LaDage) Dietrich of Garnavillo; a daughter, Haley; two sisters, Shelley of Garnavillo and Jan Heck of Dallas, Ga.; maternal grandmother, Mildred LaDage of Guttenberg; and friend, Bonnie Bailey of Guttenberg.

The family asked that memorials be made to the Garnavillo Boy Scout Troop 43 and the Osborne Conservation Center.

Brian’s father, Verdean Lyndall Dietrich, had spent most of his career in law enforcement but passed away on May 28, 2014, without ever knowing for certain what happened to his son. After retiring as Clayton County Sheriff in 2001, Verdean Dietrich went on to serve as Chief of Police for Garnavillo from 2001 through 2010. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Brian Dietrich’s unsolved death, please contact the Crawford County (Wis.) Sheriff’s Office at 608-326-0241, Crime Stoppers at 866-779-7297 or 608-326-8933, or the Clayton County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Office at 563-245-1234.

Sources:
  • Crawford County (Wisconsin) Sheriff’s Office
  • Clayton County (Iowa) Sheriff’s Office
  • “Strange 1993 death to be revisited: Retiring sheriff vows to try and solve a near 17-year-old mystery,”  Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 5, 2010
  • Brian E Dietrich (1964 – 1994) – Find A Grave Memorial
  • Verdean Lyndall Dietrich (1944 – 2014) – Find a Grave Memorial
  • “Cold Case of Former Sheriff’s Son Reopened,” La Crosse Tribune, June 15, 2009
  • “Family Eyes Closure,” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 7, 2009
  • “Family hopes for closure in man’s death,” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, June 2, 2009
  • “Sheriff’s son’s death suspicious: This weekend is the 15th anniversary of the discovery of Brian Dietrich’s body,” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, May 23, 2009
  • “Officials reopen another suspicious-death investigation,” Dubuque Telegraph Herald, May 21, 2009
  • “Crawford County Sheriff reopens second death investigation,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 20, 2009
  • “SPECIAL ASSIGNMENT: Suspicious Death,” WMTV (NBC) Channel 15, May 17, 2009
  • “Autopsy: Man drowned,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, August 27, 1994
  • “Deaths/Eastern Iowa,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 31, 1994
  • “Death investigated,” Cedar Rapids Gazette, May 30, 1994

 

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9 Responses to Brian Dietrich

  1. LuAnn says:

    I read over the cold case file on Brian Dietrich and what I read I feel like what Lt Lauren Knutson said is right, there are people that know what happened to him and not saying anything, because I think they just don’t want to get involved. But what keeps eating @ me,(I keep coming back and looking @ this case) is the comment his girlfriend made. Why would she report him missing after two days and say he’s in the river..How would she know this unless she was involved in his disappearance and eventually his death?. Also was his girlfriend the mother of his daugther Haley??

    I keep thinking that his girlfriend and brothers might have been involved in it. What happened at Schooners bar that night , what or who provoked the fight that eventually led to one of Brian’s girlfriends brothers striking him.?? I’m sure there were alot of people in the bar that night. Did the authorities talk to the bartenders and any other people that might have come in contact with Brian that night to see what happened…..??

    Could this have been drug-related??? Since he was a biker and all , and a free spirit was he the type of person that kept mainly to himself and not say much or was he out-going?? I’m not necessarily saying he was into drugs or anything just because when people think of Bikers and all they think of drugs, beer and raising hell..That doesn’t mean that I think Brian was like that because I don’t know him, but its just a thought that came to my mind about being maybe drug-related.

    Another thing that is bugging me is why was he walking home?? Did he leave the bar after the scuffle and say Hell with it, that he would walk instead of riding home with his girlfriend and brothers..Who drove that night?? Another thing is when he left the bar to walk home, why the hell didn’t his girlfriend go after him?? I would have, definetely left with him. I wouldn’t have let him go by himself by no means…..

    I think when he was walking toward the bridge connecting with Praire Du Chien with Clayton County, Iowa he met with foul play there. I think since they found no wounds on his body that he might have been hit over the head and knocked out cold, and pushed in the river. But then I’m wondering how far is Indian Isle that lays one mile south of the Mississippi Bridge near McGregor, Iowa from where he was last seen in Praire Du Chen…Could his body of been swept downstream from Praire Du Chien to that location of Indian Isle from October of 1993-May of 1994.. How bad was the body decomposition. It also says that the only way you can get to Indian Isle is by boat. Could he have been transported there by boat??

    My suspicions lead to his girlfriend and I think she knows alot more than she is letting on and I think her brothers do too..I can’t believe that nobody has come forward after all these years and I think the person or persons involved in his death, that it would be eating @ them but apparantly not. Because looking @ the picture of Brian he seems like he was a really nice guy, full of life and he was young, and had a baby @ the time, Haley….I feel bad for his family and friends and I hope someday the person/persons responsible for his death will be brought to justice for this senseless crime. I know the coroner ruled that it was a drowning but I just believe that. I think there is alot more to this story then meets the eye. Maybe someday the family of Brian Dietrich will be able to find closure………RIP Brian…………..

  2. Has it been 21 years I remember this man I alway went to sleep over at there house with his younger sister and he was a nice man .. miss him pray they find some answers

  3. Odd that the date of death is apparently the day he was found??

    • Lisa, yes, I know it seems strange, but even if a body’s skeletal remains are found, the date of death will often end up correlating to the date when found. In some instances, if a person goes missing and they are only gone about 2 weeks or so (and decomposition shows they’ve been dead approx. 2 weeks) then family will use the date of death as the date the person went missing. After seven months, it would be hard to tell, even though it’s almost certain Brian Dietrich died the same night he went missing.

    • With Elizabeth and Lyric, their date of death was listed as the day they went missing. Probably a family choice.

    • I agree 100%, Lisa. Families know his/her loved ones and also know whether or not they’d just “up and take off.” On the ICC website, just like Brian’s case above, I use the likely date of death (when he first went missing) to honor his life and memory, rather than the date his body was found. Families “may” have hope a loved one is still alive, but when skeletal remains are found, the person clearly didn’t die within the past 24 hours.

  4. Renae Smith says:

    Vicki Szemkus Renne Traci Szemkus

  5. Not very hard to figure though hard to prove the girl friend’s brothers followed him and threw him over the bridge the current flows south and took the body to Indian Isle where it was found. No one else had a motive.

  6. Easy to figure hard to prove the brothers who fought with him at the Schooner followed him and threw him over the bridge. The current flows south thus the body stock on the shore of indian Isle no one else had a motive and he sure as hell was not going to swim home. The X girlfriend has to know the truth. Unless someone comes up to tell what happened the case will never be solved.

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