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On April 28, 2008 at approximately 9:50 p.m., Chuck Deatsch, 52, was shot and killed at his residence in rural Mystic, Iowa. Authorities said the bullet that hit and killed Deatsch came from a single shot outside his home that came in through the home’s front window.
Chuck and his wife, Liz, who’d just celebrated their 30th anniversary three weeks earlier, farmed their 700 acres together and were actively involved throughout the community. The day of his murder, they’d taken down a fence that separated the farm ground they’d owned for years from the land where their home stood. They’d owned the house for almost a year, but had lived there less than a month.
After settling in for the night — Chuck working on the computer in one room and Liz reading a book in the living room — Liz heard their dogs, Joe and Annie, barking to come in. She went to the front door and called for them in the light of the porch; Annie came in, but Joe did not. When Liz returned to the living room, Joe was at the back door… something out of the ordinary.
Still, she let the dog in and sat back down to continue reading when she heard the sound of a gunshot. She jumped up and went to the kitchen to look outside, then turned around expecting to see Chuck coming down the hall to question the noise.
When moments passed and he did not come, Liz made her way to the den where she found her husband lying on the floor. One look told her he was already gone, but Liz checked for a pulse anyway. Finding none, she frantically called 911.
After reporting the crime to the dispatcher, the reality of what had just happened washed over her. Scared for her safety, she crouched out of sight between the washer and the dryer just outside the den. When the phone rang and a dispatcher told her to unlock the front door, Liz said she would when she saw the flashing lights of law enforcement vehicles.
Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson said it appeared to be a random act.
Early during the investigation, Anderson posted a $10,000 reward for information leading the arrest of the person(s) responsible for Deatsch’s death. Additional funds were allocated a short time later, and Grinnell Mutual Reinsurance Company also offered up to a $10,000 reward, bringing the then-total reward to $31,000.
In early April 2009, citing “Someone knows who is responsible for and knows the reason behind Chuck Deatsch’s death,” Anderson announced the reward was being increased to $40,000.
It has thus far gone unclaimed.
On the two-year anniversary of her father’s unsolved murder, one of Deatsch’s two daughters, Sarah Richardson of New York, submitted comments to the Daily Iowegian on behalf of Deatsch’s family.
“For my family, there is a part of us that will never believe that he’s really gone,” Richardson said in the April 28, 2010 article. “There is a part of us that will never fully heal.”
Richardson described her parents as “best friends,” and a “confidant” to her and her sister (Katie).
“This sort of thing was supposed to happen in New York, not in Centerville and not to my family,” she wrote.
Richardson ended her letter with the one question a community continues to ask…WHY?
The death of Chuck Deatsch has been and continues to be investigated by the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Officials have followed up on several leads, conducted neighborhood canvasses and interviewed numerous individuals throughout the investigation.
Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch, Jr., was born December 13, 1955, at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, South Dakota, the son of Elmer C. Deatsch and Donna Fae (Utsler) Deatsch. He was raised in Iowa where his family had a farming operation near Iowa City.
He graduated from Clear Creek High School, and later attended the University of Iowa. He married Elizabeth S. Therkildsen on April 8, 1978 at St. Peters Catholic Church in Cosgrove, Iowa.
Chuck was a farmer. He was an avid Iowa Hawkeye and St. Louis Cardinal’s fan. He enjoyed running, golfing, camping, biking, and spending time with his family and friends. He was a member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Centerville, Knights of Columbus, and the Appanoose County Soil Commission. Chuck was also chairman of the Fox River Watershed, and on the board of directors for Appanoose Davis Mutual Insurance Company.
Chuck’s survivors included his wife Liz; two daughters, Sarah (Christopher) Richardson of New York, NY, and Kate Deatsch of Iowa City, IA; his mother, Donna Deatsch of Iowa City, IA; two brothers, Bill (Shelley) Deatsch of North Liberty, IA, and Dan (Cassie) Deatsch of Des Moines, IA; and one sister, Terri Fanning of Iowa City, IA.
He was preceded in death by his father, Elmer Charles Deatsch; and four siblings, John, Daren, Thomas, and Paul Deatsch, all in infancy.
A Mass of Resurrection was held at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 3, 2008, at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Centerville, Iowa, with Fr. Joe Miller, C.PP.S. officiating. A visitation was held 8 – 2 p.m. Friday at the Thomas Lange Funeral Home. The family was present Friday from 4 – 7 p.m. at the St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Centerville, with a Scripture Service held at 7 p.m. The casket remained closed for visitation.
Chuck was buried at 1 p.m. on Sunday at the St. Peter’s Cemetery in Cosgrove near Iowa City.
Following his death, Chuck’s family established the Chuck Deatsch Memorial Scholarship Fund.
On May 18, 2009, the scholarship was presented to Centerville High School senior Hilary Morris during Senior Awards night held at the Simon Estes Auditorium.
On May 30, 2009, seven local runners took part in Des Moines’ annual “Dam to Dam” 20-kilometer (12.4 mile) run from Saylorville Dam to the downtown river-walk area; it was the second year in a row the participants ran on behalf of Chuck Deatsch. The runners wore black wristbands in Chuck’s memory.
Anyone with information about Chuck Deatsch’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 437-7100, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, call Crime Stoppers at (641) 856-3134, or mail details and information to P.O. Box 474, Centerville, Iowa, 52544. You may also contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email email@example.com.