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Bryan Eugene Pence, a 21-year-old Sinclair Service Station employee, was shot in the back around 10 p.m. on Thursday, May 29, 1986, during a store robbery at 3725 Frederick M. Hubbell Ave. in Des Moines.
Des Moines Police Detective Charles Soderquist discovered Pence’s body after driving by the service station and seeing, through the glass, three individuals walking toward the gas station’s restroom inside the facility.
There were no cars parked outside to indicate any customers were inside, so Soderquist turned around and headed back to the station, where he found Pence lying face up on the bathroom floor.
In a Des Moines Register article dated May 31, 1986, Soderquist said that after he circled back and approached the station, he saw two young males running west and away from the gas station. He described one of the teens as wearing what appeared to be a shower cap, and believed the other was a black male.
Rather than chase down the two individuals, Soderquist felt his first priority was to go inside the service station to check on the employee’s welfare. By the time he discovered Pence’s body, the two suspects had managed to disappear into the night.
Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. R.C. Wooters said Pence died at the scene from a small-caliber bullet wound to his back left shoulder blade. The bullet had penetrated Pence’s heart and left lung.
Pence, who was married with a young son at home, had complained in the past about the lack of security at the Sinclair stations where he’d worked.
The Register reported that Pence had been robbed on two other occasions during the past year while working at the 2305 Easton Blvd. and 301 E. 15th Street stations.
Bryan Pence was born in Chariton, Iowa, on August 5, 1964, to William Edgar and Mary Pence. He lived in Altoona, Iowa, most of his life.
Survivors included his wife, Wanda; a son, Nicholas of Altoona; his mother, Mary Pence Hall of Altoona; a sister, Annette Larson of Des Moines; a brother, Bill of Altoona; and his grandparents, Wayne and Mary Pence of Des Moines. He was preceded in death by his father.
Memorial services were held Monday, June 1 at 1 p.m. at Rising Sun Church of Christ with burial following in the Laurel Hill Cemetery.
If you have any information about Bryan Pence’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864.