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Clarence Raymond “Ray” Case, 62, was found bludgeoned to death inside Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn at 1646 W. Locust Avenue in Davenport, Iowa on Thursday, February 16, 1961.
Case — a World War I veteran — owned and operated the local tavern with his 56-year-old wife, Edith.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Clarence Case’s homicide was one of approximately 150 cases listed as those the DCI cold case investigators hoped to solve using latest DNA forensic technology.
Shortly after we added Mr. Case’s unsolved murder to the Iowa Cold Cases website, Case’s daughter, Betty Case Gibbs, contacted us and provided further information — including photos, newspaper articles and her father’s certificate of death — with hopes her father’s murder could still be solved.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011 and forced the unit to close, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate these cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
Betty Case Gibbs remains hopeful her father’s case will be one of them.
Customer William Claussen discovered Case’s body at 10:30 a.m. after stopping by the bar to visit with Case. He told police he found the back door unlocked, and that when he entered the tavern he found Case sprawled on the floor in a pool of blood.
Scott County Medical Examiner T. J. Crowley said cause of death was due “to three skull fractures which could have been caused by any instrument with a sharp edge.”
It appeared Case had been struck from behind while sitting at a table near the bar’s rear entrance.
The cash register, which had not been closed out from the previous night, displayed a 10-cent sale on the tape. Case normally deposited the day’s sales into the business’s safe, with $50 set aside to use for the next day’s opening. Davenport Police found the safe unlocked and containing only loose change.
Davenport Police Captain Elmer Peterson assigned detectives John Ackerman, Elmer Clauusen and Forrest Ashcraft to work around the clock in search of evidence and reports of unusual activity. They discovered blood in a phone booth and latent fingerprints, as well as a toilet seat ripped away from the bowl. The seat had broken into a U-shape and appeared to match the blows to Case’s head.
During a neighborhood canvass, officials found a blood-stained pop bottle a few blocks away near a school, and a waitress from a doughnut store told investigators that at approximately 5:45 a.m. she’d heard banging noises coming from the tavern.
A vehicle with big fins was reportedly seen the previous evening in the bar’s back parking lot.
A blood-stained piece of clothing found at the scene was sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation for analysis.
According to a Muscatine Journal article dated Tuesday, March 28, 1961, Case had a Muscatine woman as an acquaintance, but Davenport police said there was no connection between the woman and two telephone calls received by Case shortly before his death.
The article said investigators had checked into the minutest details in search of clues to Case’s murderer and also checked out all known persons connected with the victim, but that officials were still looking for the last customer known to have been in the tavern about 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 16.
All individuals who’d been in the bar that night were photographed and fingerprinted, including family members and janitor Norman Paulsen. Ten people also took lie detector tests administered by University of Iowa criminology professor Richard Holcomb, but all were cleared.
The day prior to the murder, Case had taken his daughter, Betty Case Gibbs (who provided information to Iowa Cold Cases) and Betty’s two-year-old son, Donny, with him to visit his brother Frank in Point Byron, Ill., while Edith Gibbs remained in Davenport to work at the bar. Case, his daughter and grandson returned to Davenport in late afternoon, and at approximately 9:15 p.m. Betty drove her mother home.
The Cases resided at 2615 Arlington Avenue, about 10 minutes away from the Travel Inn.
Betty stated that when she returned her father’s vehicle to the parking lot behind the inn, she entered the business through the back door to return the keys to a hook and saw about five customers still inside. At 9:45 p.m. she left the tavern and walked the three blocks to her Davie street home.
When Edith awoke early the next morning and discovered her husband had not come home the night before, she telephoned the bar repeatedly but got no answer. Edith did not drive, and phoned Betty to voice her concerns.
Edith told her daughter she had a quick errand to run and would then take the bus to the tavern. Betty began making calls to the bar, and learned of her father’s death after a police officer who answered the phone told her “Your father is dead” after she’d asked to speak to him.
Betty and her family moved to Arizona that same year, but would later return to their Davie street Davenport home.
Many months passed before Edith returned to work at the tavern. She passed away in 1987.
Clarence Raymond Case was born September 19, 1898 in Port Byron, Illinois, to Emma Williams and Ambrose Case.
He married Edith Heston in 1929 and the couple had two daughters, Edna Case Lowry Williams and Betty Ann Case Gibbs.
Prior to opening the bar with Edith, Case had spent 27 years working as a welder for Zimmerman Steel Company in Bettendorf and also worked at the French and Hecht Company in Davenport. His part-time job tending bar at Don’s Tavern in Davenport fueled his interest in opening “Ray and Edith’s Travel Inn.”
Clarence Case was survived by brothers Frank and Clyde Case and several grandchildren. Preceding him in death was four brothers — Harry, Albert, Leroy, and William.
Memorial services were held at the McGinnis Chapel in Bettendorf, with burial at Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery.
If you have any information about Clarence Case’s unsolved murder please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, or contact the Davenport Police Department at (563) 326-7979.
Betty A. Case Gibbs also submitted the following unattributed newspaper clippings to be used for her father’s case summary page on the Iowa Cold Cases website: