Cecil Travis Gaddy

Cecil Travis Gaddy (courtesy Alicia Gaddy)

Cecil Travis Gaddy


Cecil Travis Gaddy
19 YOA
315 E. Shaw St.
Osceola, IA
Clarke County
January 31, 2004


Case summary by Jody Ewing and Aaron Brilbeck

Cecil Travis Gaddy found happiness in many things.

He worked as a farm hand and repaired small engines. He taught himself to play guitar and enjoyed writing songs. He had a keen interest in computers, and routinely fixed problems for those who came to him for help.

Clarke County in Iowa

Clarke County in Iowa

Osceola Iowa

Osceola in Clarke County

Life took its first cruel turn when the 16-year-old teen, his pregnant sister and her husband and another friend were passengers in a van and the driver lost control. When the vehicle started to roll, Cecil used his body to protect his sister, but eventually was thrown through the windshield and left with a broken back.

Paralyzed from the waist down, Cecil struggled to regain his independence and keep up with his favorite activities. Though he couldn’t walk, he could still use his hands, and his trusty wheelchair could take him nearly anywhere he wanted to go.

Cecil Gaddy Courtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
After the accident, Cecil Gaddy worked on keeping his upper body strong.

After high school he rented his own house at 315 E. Shaw St. in Osceola and kept the place spotless.  However, Cecil’s personal items and pain medication began to disappear when some “friends” started hanging around at his house. 

In January of 2004, Cecil called his sister, Alicia Gaddy. He told her his friends wanted him to set up a meth lab in his home but he’d refused to let them do it. He told Alicia he’d also cut them off from his money and his pain meds, and was afraid of what they might do.

Less than a week later on Saturday, January 31, Osceola fire officials responded to a call stating Gaddy’s East Shaw Street home was on fire. They found Gaddy’s deceased body in a back bedroom — lying face down.

Though officials were quick to rule Gaddy’s death an “accident” caused by a house fire, details later emerged that showed the young man’s fiery death was anything but accidental.

Total Body Burns; Wheelchair Outside
Cecil Gaddy house after fireCourtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
Gaddy’s East Shaw Street Osceola home after the fire.

State Fire Marshal inspector David Linkletter, who investigated the case, said the fire started on the living room sofa, though Gaddy’s body was found on his bed in a back bedroom.

Gaddy’s wheelchair, a necessity for him to move from room to room, was found outside in the snow, several feet away from a house equipped with a ramp.

According to the State Fire Marshal’s report, there was approximately eight inches of snow on the ground at the time, and the wheelchair’s location raised several questions from the beginning:

  • Why would Cecil have left his wheelchair outside the home in the snow?
  • Paralyzed from the waist down, how would he have crawled across the snow-covered yard and into the house?
  • If someone had taken him out and later brought him home, why would they have dumped the wheelchair in the yard rather than taking it into his home?
  • Was it not a remarkable coincidence that Cecil was never without his wheelchair but that a fire allegedly started on a sofa in a room where he wasn’t present?

Perhaps most telling is Gaddy’s death certificate (copy on file with Iowa Cold Cases), stating the victim’s “IMMEDIATE CAUSE” of death as “Burns — total body.”

Nowhere on the death certificate is there any mention of smoke inhalation.

The “Approximate Interval Between Onset and Death” — the time it took Cecil Gaddy to die — is a single handwritten word: minutes.

The document also states that autopsy findings were not available prior to the completion of the signed Cause of Death certificate.

According to Gaddy’s family, there was no way he could have dragged himself into the home. It was the only way for him to get around once inside — including from the living room to the bedroom — and he never would have left it outside.

Alicia Gaddy Courtesy photo WHO-TV, Channel 13
Alicia Gaddy at her home in Phoenix, AZ.
Still Waiting for Answers

Seven years after her brother’s death, Alicia Gaddy — who lived in Phoenix, Ariz. at the time — spoke to Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck via Skype about what she remembers from that night, what she saw, and her brother’s friends, whom she described as a bunch of leeches.

“They would be at his house grabbing at him for all the money he had,” Alicia told Brilbeck in a report that aired Feb. 4, 2011. “All the pills that he had. Medication. He just wouldn’t have anything left for himself. It was sad. It was horrible.”

Alicia said her brother felt he had no true friends he could count on, and that everybody was just taking advantage of him. She also recalled getting the news about her brother being trapped in the blaze and rushing over to his home.

“The house was on fire. They were still trying to put it out and the wheelchair was outside,” she said.

Cecil Gaddy's wheelchair outside home Courtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
WHO-TV’s original 2004 footage of the fire clearly shows Gaddy’s wheelchair outside the home despite the ramp the teen could have used. Eight inches of snow had been worn down by the number of firefighters, investigators, and others present on scene the night of the fire.

The State Fire Marshal’s report indicated: “Mr. Gaddy’s wheel chair was observed outside the home’s front door. The ground surrounding the home was covered with deep snow averaging 8-inches.” (The snow would quickly be trampled and worn down by the number of responders on scene.)

“The Clarke County Police named it an accident pretty much the same day and there was no investigation,” Alicia Gaddy said. “And, they could not find the cause of the fire.”

Channel 13’s Brilbeck asked Osceola Police Chief Marty Duffus — who didn’t work for the police department at the time of the fire and reluctantly agreed to the 2011 interview — why the wheelchair would have been outside.

“I would have the same question. How’d the chair get there?” Duffus said. “But there again, I don’t know who to ask.”

Despite knowing where the fire had started, investigators acknowledged they’d never been able to nail down a cause. Gaddy was a smoker, but his body hadn’t been found anywhere near the sofa.

Aaron Brilbeck and Osceola Police Chief Marty DuffusCourtesy photo WHO-TV, Channel 13, Des Moines
Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck shows Osceola Police Chief Marty Duffus original WHO-TV footage of the fire that captured on tape Cecil Gaddy’s wheelchair outside the home.

With so much time passed since the fire, Duffus said finding evidence to reopen the case was almost impossible.

“I hope I don’t sound glib, cold, whatever, but the fact of the matter is, if those were the concerns they should have been brought up while the best possibility of some sort of evidence may have existed,” he said.

Family members, however, said they suspected arson from the very beginning and had voiced their suspicions to Osceola police and fire department officials before the fire was even completely extinguished.

The family said they’d also spoken extensively with the State Fire Marshal’s Office beginning on the investigation’s first day and in the weeks and months following the fire.

Officials questioned several of Gaddy’s friends, and none admitted to seeing him the night before the fire.

In his February 2011 interview with Channel 13’s Brilbeck, Duffus said the only way the case would be reopened was if someone came forward with new, credible information.

Cecil Gaddy with his nephew and niece Courtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
Cecil Gaddy was a proud uncle who loved spending time with his niece and two nephews.

It wasn’t the news Alicia had hoped to hear; all she’d wanted was answers. She’d not only lost her brother, but also her best friend, she told Brilbeck. And, her son would never get the chance to know his uncle.

“It’s very upsetting. I always imagined this, you know, hanging out and doing all sorts of things. Playing music,” Alicia said. “Now it’s never gonna happen. And it’s just … it’s really upsetting. I don’t know how else to put it, I guess.”

The State Fire Marshal’s office told Channel 13 they spent three months investigating the case, and that the lead investigator lost a lot of sleep trying to figure out why the wheelchair was in the front yard, but had never come up with any answers. The State Fire Marshal’s office would, however, be willing to reopen the case if anyone should contact them with new information, a department spokesperson said.

Cecil Gaddy as a boyCourtesy photo WHO-TV, Des Moines
Cecil Gaddy as a young boy.

The site where the home once stood is now an empty lot where someone stores two boats.

About Cecil Gaddy

Cecil Travis Gaddy was born April 8, 1984, in Des Moines, Iowa, to Bobby Gaddy and Denise Roberts Gaddy. He grew up and attended school in Murray, and had lived in Osceola for the few years prior to his death.

He attended the Baptist Church in Murray and loved spending time with his niece and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his father, Bobby Gaddy, and great-grandfather, Cecil Montelle Chew.

cecil-gaddy-gravestone-from-alicia Courtesy photo Alicia Gaddy
Cecil Gaddy’s family chose a customized stone that reflected Cecil’s love for playing the guitar and writing music.

He was survived by his mother, Denise Gaddy and her friend, Kirk Sanderson of Osceola; two sisters, Teresa Luncsford and Alicia Gaddy of Osceola; a niece, Candace, and nephews Eathan and Logan; grandparents, Russell and Beverly Roberts of Truro; great-grandmother, Mildred Chew of Osceola; several aunts, uncles and cousins; other relatives and a host of friends.

Services were held at 11 a.m. on Thursday, February 5, 2004, at the Hopeville Methodist Church, with Pastor Dwayne Henrichs and Alan Rusk officiating. Honorary bearers were Cody Fulkerson and Ryan Fulkerson. Interment was in the Hopeville Cemetery.

WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the mystery – and the questions – behind Cecil Gaddy’s death. Air date: February 4, 2011

Information Needed

If you have any information about Cecil Gaddy’s unsolved murder, please contact Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Mike Motsinger at (515) 725-6010 or the Iowa State Fire Marshal’s Division at 515-725-6145.

Sources and Additional Information:
Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

73 Responses to Cecil Gaddy

  1. Anna says:

    Cecil was my best friend when I was in facility in Leon and I’m so pissed off that these people have gotten away with murdering him. All these years. I’ve never even been able to visit his grave idk where it’s at and I’ve moved all over the place. Please contact me annarebeccablack.1986@gmail.com especially if you’re his sister if you want to talk I’m here

    • doofy says:

      you could probably look up find a grave, you may be able to find it that way, sorry about your loss.

    • Karla Ciecalone says:

      If there’s nothing to “hide”, why not have the police report opened up and name his “friends” that they interviewed. There are people that knows exactly what happened.

  2. Jamie Dalton says:

    This breaks my heart. He was 100% killed by his friends and they are ridiculous for not looking for foul play when the evidence was still there. Forever praying.

  3. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I don’t understand how the Clark County authorities decided that it was an accident. It appears that they did not want to take the time to conduct an investigation. I guess seeing the clean undamaged wheelchair parked outside in the snow, did not click with any of them. I guess they normally see wheelchairs parked in 8 inches of snow at numerous fires.

    I my neck of the woods, the fire departments routinely conduct an investigation to determine the cause of a fire. If someone was seriously injured or found dead, there would be a major investigation. They would be not be stating it was accidental fire, within a day. That’s why there is a State Fire Marshal, also they could have called in the ATF, to assist.

    I am sure that he as a smoker contributed to their assumption. They must have assumed that he left a cigarette, that was not properly extinguished, and it fell on to the couch. But, the elephant in the room is still that wheelchair sitting in 8 inches of snow outside, while the person who uses it is dead in his bedroom. Why was a rush to judgement? Was there another fire or fires to deal with? Too many questions that Clark County and others need to answer.

  4. Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

    This is one of the cold cases that infuriates me to no end. A young man who was dealt a tough blow while protecting his sister & family – a truly impressive act of heroism that deserves respect. This is a very solvable case, I pray that someone that knows about this comes forward and gives this family the peace they deserve. Come on now!

    • Willy says:

      Wish the Fuc#%$ Osceola police department would grow some balls, roll the dice, and arrest the worthless shitbags they interviewed that were known to hang out and leach off this guy…. c’mon assholes, do the right thing, better yet, DO YOUR JOB….IGNORING IT WON’T MAKE IT GO AWAY

      • Stay Strong, Keep Fighting For Justice! says:

        Exactly, they need to shake things up. Identify the weakest link, most likely to talk and charge that person. Get him/her rattled so they start talking. Nothing is likely to happen at this point unless they push it to make it happen.

  5. How on earth did he get to a back bedroom when his wheelchair was outside in the snow?! Good grief. This was a murder.

  6. LuAnn says:

    So sad..My thoughts & prayers to Cecil’s family..Lets get this case solved so the family can have some closure. ..Fly High Cecil!!

  7. Diana Wilson says:

    Prayers. He is a hero. He saved his sister and her baby. Whoever did this to him is a coward!!!!

  8. Jay Gardner says:

    Prayers for family peace

  9. Mary Roche says:

    How awful! I hope you find the scum that did this. How heartbreaking.

  10. Even prison is not bad enough for the evil monster that did this to him. I hope whoever did it is caught soon.

  11. A.j. Gaddy says:

    Happy Birthday big brother! Love you always

  12. So sad ….how can they sleep at night justice will come…

  13. Cheda says:

    When the police, dectectives whoever, drop the ball on something as important as this, it ALWAYS makes me look at them like they had something to do with. They do so much dirt, like murder and never get caught. Did anyone notice that this pepperdine chick has no fb from 2002 to 2007. I bet those years are significant to this death…Gods speed in finding these punks

  14. YaGurl Che says:

    A.j. Gaddy, God will bring your family justice, for He knows what coward did this

  15. A.j. Gaddy says:

    Thank you all so much for your support for my family and I. Some people have no respect for the deceased!

  16. I hope they burn in hell

  17. Only a psychopath could do such a thing. That man was to noble to did like that. I bet he cherished every moment of his life knowing what his sacrifice meant to his family. We need more selfless people like him in the world.

  18. Alicia says:

    Sabastiano Dattolico~ Thank you for clearing your comment up. I am, however, a very compassionate person which is why I accept your apology. No worries.

  19. Sad that one of the honorary bearers died an unsolved death as well.

  20. Becky says:

    it was under as you can clearly see his wheelchair was outside where he was nowhere near hmm duh that is a perfect reason to know it was

  21. Sara Jones says:

    This is so sad, but those names mentioned more than likely had something to do with it. Drugs are evil and will make people . Do stupid ridiculous crap to cover up bad stuff. I Bletchley reopen and start from scratch and catch these idiots.

  22. Nancy Watson says:

    I’m Praying for your family and they need to reopen this case and punish the ones that caused this to your brother. She is already involved in the double murder so why not start with her prayers for your family that they solve this case

  23. I would love to share this and post but since it has false accusations about my husband and I in it I will not. I just got off the phone with Osceola PD and they said we have NEVER been suspects and the information you posted about us is a complete LIE. I want justice for Cecil too but don’t accuse the people that tried to HELP ur brother and listen to the woman whose husband is most likely the one who did this. There is a reason the police looked into Bill and not us! Furthermore I have spoke to this website about taking down this post unless our names are removed. Every single thing said about us is a LIE. Cecil was our friend and we loved him, we would NEVER have done anything to hurt him. And I cannot believe you would dare say otherwise.

    • I’ve corresponded offline with Lecy but would like to clarify semantics here so there is no confusion. Nowhere in Cecil’s case summary did it accuse Lecy or her husband of being ‘suspects’ in Cecil’s death. The OPD may have told Lecy she and her husband were not considered suspects, but the second half of Lecy’s second sentence (…and the information you posted about us is a complete lie) were Lecy’s words and not something said by the OPD. I felt this distinction worth noting, but nonetheless have deleted the recent reference to the Gorslines on Cecil’s page summary to prevent any confusion as to their relationship with him. Lecy and I are engaged in a civil conversation offlist and share the same goal: to see justice served in Cecil’s senseless death. Jody at ICC

    • You think his sisters husband did this?

  24. Holly Rice says:

    How cruel can someone be?!

  25. Hey people…you can help by sharing this on your page.
    Get it out there again.

  26. I have a page for my best friend who is also a homicide, cold case victim. I will be sharing this story on her page. Justice for Rosie. I pray u find justice also.

  27. Heartbreaking. .I pray someone finds the courage to speak up if they know who did this.

  28. A.j. Gaddy says:

    Hey all, thank you for your kind hearted words…he was an amazing man and my family misses him so very much. I am disgusted that nobody has the courage to speak up but I pray and pray someday they will. Thank you all again and god bless!

  29. Cowards to pick on the defenseless

  30. I remember reading through cold cases a few years ago, seeing this story and just smh. I don’t understand how some people can live with themselves. I hope that if there’s a connection here, justice is served. Thoughts and prays for the family.

  31. All of these cases are horrible, but this is one of the worst things I’ve ever read.

  32. Alicia says:

    It has been 11 years today since my big brother was called to heaven. After all these years, hope that justice will be done for Cecil is never lost. He was an amazing man and true to all those he met. I pray that anyone with any information at all can find it in their hearts to come forward. Although we are patient, our family and friends deserves closure. Thank you all that take the time to write kinds words and encouragement, our family greatly appreciates it.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Alicia, you and your family have been on my mind all day. It’s such a painful reminder of what happened to Cecil, but I think “B” nailed it with the comment: “This case is completely solvable.” It is absolutely solvable. There are too many people who know exactly what happened, and they just haven’t realized the difference between them “voluntarily” contacting officials with what they know, versus them waiting to talk until they’re “asked” by law enforcement to come in to answer a few questions.

      I strongly urge anyone with any information at all to voluntarily come forward now. If not, he or she may want to read up on Iowa Code, Title XVI (Criminal Law and Procedure) and pay particular attention to Chapter 703 – Parties to Crime (includes Aiding and Abetting, Joint Criminal Conduct, and Accessory After the Fact); Chapter 706 – Conspiracy; Chapter 707 – Homicide and Related Crimes; and Chapter 719 – Obstructing Justice.

      Alicia and her family deserve answers, and Cecil deserves justice. Make no mistake: This case is not going to just disappear or go away.

      One of my favorite analogies is the stitched, framed verse that hung on the wall in Warden Norton’s office in the film “The Shawshank Redemption,” which read: His judgment cometh, and that right soon … but that in this case, the one who cometh will be bringing handcuffs.

  33. What kind of horrid person would do this? Very sad! :(

  34. What a horrible thing todo to someone. Somebody knows who did this. Be a decent human being and come forward.

  35. This is heart breaking

  36. I hope there is a connection, Cecil deserves some justice.

  37. Joshua Brown says:

    sick people out there.

  38. B says:

    Cecil sounded like a sweet kid, his potential lost.

    Just wanted to add that it’s shameful that a facebook commenter would suggest the family doesn’t care about their loved one’s murder being solved because they haven’t put up a reward. Most of the families of victims of unsolved homicides would put money into a reward or hiring a private investigator, they simply don’t have the fiscal resources to do so. For many of these people, a significant chapter in their lives ends when a person they loved is killed inexplicably. This case is completely solvable, and I hope that it will be in the near future.

  39. Lori says:

    This is so sad. Cecil who saved his sister in the car accident ends up paralyzed only to die in the worse way possible. I believe he was murdered and probably by his so called friends. I pray to God the killer(s) tell someone and then that someone does the noble thing. God bless you Alicia.

    • A.j. Gaddy says:

      Thank you Lori, I pray someday I will get a phone call that his case has been solved. Until then, I will wait and do whatever I can to help it along. Thank you for your kind words and genuine thoughtfulness. :)

  40. There’s a small group of individuals in Osceola who know what happened, and the DCI is well aware of those names and the roles they played in Cecil’s life. Most likely, it’s going to come down to one of them making a plea deal in exchange for telling DCI officials what they know. Those who know what happened and choose to remain silent need to familiarize themselves with Iowa Code 703, which concerns “Parties to Crime” and includes Aiding and Abetting as well as Accessory After the Fact.

  41. A.j. Gaddy says:

    I really don’t know how to feel after reading this….I am so grateful for Jody and everyone @ ICC and DCI! Cecil would have been forgoten if it wasn’t for all of you working with me to solve his case. I know he would be forever grateful as well. I do hope the time comes soon when someone can be a good human being and give ANY information they know so my family, friends and I can have peace and final closure. Thank you all for keeping him in your hearts and thoughts. Jody Ewing, I love you and could not have gotten this far without you!

  42. Just when I think humans couldn’t get any worse, then I read this. Thanks for posting, the hunt must continue for these bad people. I just don’t understand why people do what they do. My sympathies to the family.

  43. Alicia Gaddy says:

    It has been 9 years today since my brother was taken from this family. We miss him terribly, but most of all we have questions that will linger in our minds until his case is solved.Cecil was always a funny, kind and giving person. I hope that the person/people responsible for his life feel guilt and shame for as long as they live; although I would never wish what they did on any person. May he R.I.P. with the angels. Love you always and forever Cecil. Xoxoxo,
    Lil Sis

  44. A.j. Gaddy says:

    Thanks Jody for posting this! And thank you all for your kind thoughts, my family and I are hoping for some closure soon.

  45. how sad! I hope someone comes forward who knows something :(

  46. Lori Casey says:

    This is heartbreaking! :(

  47. Kris Starks says:

    I remember this case! WOW…pretty easy to figure out that either he was pushed outside and carried back in, or more than likely he was taken out of the wheelchair and it was pushed outside…to prevent him from escaping. Did they ever determine cause of death? I’m wondering if he was already deceased inside the home when the fire was started? Osceola is a small town, if I am correct. I’d be willing to bet someone there knows something. It’s sad how people can get scared and won’t talk. Never give up hope though, Ottumwa had a murder mystery solved after over 30 years.

  48. :( that is terrible:( very sorry :( thoughts and prayers

  49. A.j. Gaddy says:

    It’s okay Brenda, Thank you!! I am doing as much as I can right now…looking into charities to help with a reward and whatever else I can do to help it along. One day…and I sure look forward to that day!! :)

  50. I had no idea. I am so sorry that you lost your brother. more people need to talk about this tragic murder, get the word out there, maybe it would help stir some peoples memories and God willing, find the the sons of a bitches who killed your Brother.

  51. A.j. Gaddy says:

    Thank you all for your kind words and thoughts, our family prays for closure everyday and one day we will find out who took my brothers life. Thank you all so much!!

  52. Anna says:

    I am heartbroken to hear of this! I heard a while ago that something had happened to Cecil, but I could never find out if it was true or not. I’d heard rumors he died in a fire but since we had no mutual friends I had no way of knowing. Cecil was one of the greatest people I ever had the privilege of meeting. We spent a couple months together in Leon, IA when we were teenagers. He lived in the same hall as I did and we got to be pretty good friends. I was so sad to leave him when I had graduated the program there… I still have a letter I believe and a drawing he gave me, as well as a photograph of him showing off his guns. He is such a great person. I’ve never forgotten him or his comforting smile and I never will. This is a very sad evening for me, I am so sorry to all of his family and friends. I hope you find the truth and closure someday.

  53. I pray that they find the creeps who did this to this young soul. My prayers go out to his family.

  54. Jodi Frye says:

    wow an accident? Thats horrible! The family is saying he wouldn’t leave his chair. That’s no accident. I hope they find the person who did this.

  55. May his soul rest in Gods Hands

  56. Amy, I apologize for the delay in getting back to you. I’m assuming your family member’s case is/was from Iowa? If it’s still an open case and not yet listed on our website, just send along whatever information you have (photos are a bonus), and we’ll get them added right away. The “Contact” form (last link in our website’s menu bar) will bring up a form asking for some of the standard info, which enables us to further research the case. Jody

  57. Amy Lafave says:

    I have a family member that was murdered and it was also a cold case how do you go about someone reopening it or even honoring that member of my family on your site ?

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