Chuck Deatsch (Courtesy The Daily Iowegian)

Chuck Deatsch (Courtesy The Daily Iowegian)

Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch Jr.


Chuck Deatsch Jr.
52 YOA
17841 500th Street
Mystic, IA (near Centerville)
Appanoose County
April 28, 2008


Case summary by Jody Ewing


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.

Appanoose County in Iowa
Appanoose County in Iowa
Mystic in Appanoose CountyMystic in Appanoose County

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.

A Shot in the Night

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.

Liz Deatsch with dogs Annie and JoeCourtesy photo Julie Clark/DAILY IOWEGIAN
Liz Deatsch sits outside on her porch with dogs Annie and Joe. She described Chuck as her best friend and soul mate.

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.

“Someone knows who is responsible…”

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.

Chuck Deatsch with daughter Katie and wife LizCourtesy photo Daily Iowegian
Chuck Deatsch with daughter Katie and wife Liz

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.

About Chuck Deatsch, Jr.

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 Deatsch with daughters Katie and SarahCourtesy photo Daily Iowegian
Chuck Deatsch with his two daughters, Katie and Sarah

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-deatsch-gravestoneCourtesy photo HC Hughes,
Chuck Deatsch is buried at the Saint Peters Cemetery in Cosgrove, Iowa, in Johnson County.

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.

Information Needed

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, 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



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15 Responses to Chuck Deatsch

  1. Robert Daniels says:

    I am a cyclist from Fairfield and often ride to small rural towns just to check them out for fun. In about 2015 I visited Mystic and after simply riding up and down the main drag a few times a local gent came roaring up in his pickup and asked me what I was doing, sort of gruffly. It surprised me being greeted with suspicion but after conversing the chat was cordial enough. I kind of understand now….years later after reading this. I’d be suspicious of a stranger in town too. Blessings to Mystic.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Theresa, I agree with your question about the caliber of the weapon. It appears the dogs did not pick up the odor of someone in the area. Also, about the dogs, one comes in the front and the other goes to the back door. I wonder if they normally came in at that time.

    The information on the home is somewhat confusing. They owned the farm for years. Yet, they just purchased the house and only had lived there a month. So where did they live before this house.

    I agree someone might have been upset at him, in regards to his involvement in the soil or water commissions.

  3. What a lovely, caring, and hardworking family. I hope that someone opens up about this.

  4. I pray for Christmas comfort for this family.

  5. Diana Wilson says:

    Please solve this case. So sorry for the family.

  6. Theresa says:

    As Chairman of the Fox River Watershed, could it be possible that Mr. Deatsch said something inflammatory to someone along the watershed?

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Theresa, it’s possible you may be onto something here. I have no proof that Chuck’s death had anything to do with the Fox River Watershed, but it wouldn’t be the first (or second) time an Iowan was killed due to water issues, including anhydrous ammonia and nitrates. Both Adam Lack and his father, Gary Lack were killed over the rights for Iowans to have clean water. (Up in Mitchell County, an illegally drained point source pollution plume has also taken many lives via hormone-feeding cancerous tumors.)

      In Iowa, the DNR’s loyalties are no secret. The Lacks lived about 200 miles directly north (as the crow flies) from where Chuck and Liz lived.

      Incidentally, Adam Lack was killed just 2-1/2 months after Chuck.

  7. Sarah Oelke McGill, I agree that this is such an extremely sad case, and these photos haunt me. The faces radiate with happiness and love, and even though I didn’t know them personally, I can’t imagine what his wife and daughters (and numerous family members and friends) and even dogs Annie and Joe endured following this senseless murder. This is one of the cases I followed in the news and hoped I’d never have to add to our site. Someone in that community knows something, and I hope Chuck’s family isn’t forced to wait another year for answers. The look in the dogs’ eyes just breaks my heart. Where is “Dad?” I see a little gray on the muzzles, but hope they and Liz and the girls have, together, learned to feel safe again. My best wishes go out to all of them. Jody at ICC

  8. This is so sad. I used to babysit for them. Such a nice family.

  9. Joshua Brown says:

    My thing is look at what he was involved in and the people and those who were angry with him or would gain something from his death. It’s always those you wouldn’t think. Also if they had issues with meth heads, hunters etc. Sympathies for the family, hope one day it’s solved.

    • Kris Starks says:

      I completely agree and was just thinking the same thing Joshua. Somebody had a grievance against him. I simply cannot imagine! I think LE needs to dig deep and take a look at this again…I remember when this happened. I was born and raised in Wapello Co.

  10. Theresa says:

    Coyote has been running till quota killed. Check dates coyotes brought in @ $5.00 for pair of ears who’s been shooting.

  11. Theresa says:

    It doesn’t say what kind of a weapon was used, so type of bullet and distance is not available, but I did think maybe it was a hunter who has no idea that his bullet even went into the house.

    • Lori says:

      I checked and April 28th nothing is legal to shoot in Iowa.

      It would be interesting to know how far away the shooter was and if the shot was straight on.

      God bless Chuck’s family and give them justice soon.

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