Davenport Iowa

Davenport in Scott County

Scott County in Iowa

Scott County in Iowa

Cody W. James
Gary Lee Harker

Double Homicide



Cody W. James, 30
Gary Lee Harker, 30
Davenport, IA
Scott County
Went Missing December 25, 1979
Bodies Found April 24, 1980


Case summary by Jody Ewing

Cody James and Gary Harker met at Moline High School in Illinois, and remained great friends long after graduation. Even their birthdays were just one month apart. Not surprisingly, they were together on Christmas Day, 1979, painting in James’ woodcarving shop in Moline. Later in the day they stopped painting and hopped into James’ 1965 black Chevrolet pickup truck; they had an air compressor to deliver in Rock Island, Ill., and afterwards were to pick up the $500 payment for it in Davenport, Iowa.

The two knew they had enemies and wanted to be prepared — they’d gone so far as to give a roll of film to another friend with explicit instructions:

“If anything happens to us, develop this film.”

Harker lived in Rock Island, Ill., with his wife Marie, and she, too, had reason to worry about the risky business in which her husband and his friend had become involved; she was into her third trimester expecting their new baby.

James and Harker delivered the compressor in Rock Island and headed toward Davenport that night, but never arrived to pick up the $500 payment.

Neither were ever seen alive again.

On February 22, 1980, the black pickup truck that sat parked in the 600 block of Iowa Street in Davenport — its bed full of grass, branches, other debris and snow — was tagged as an abandoned vehicle. On March 3, police had it towed to Road and Wrecker Service’s yard in Davenport, where it would be held for the 40-day minimum stipulated by city ordinance before being put up for auction.

A certified letter with towing details was sent to the truck’s registered owner, Cody James at 1019 25th St. in Moline, Ill. The letter was returned, unanswered.

Spring soon arrived, as did Gary and Marie Harker’s baby — a daughter.

On March 29, Cody’s 31st birthday came and went without a celebration.

Salvageable Parts

On Thursday, April 24, 1980 — five days before Gary’s 31st birthday — James Spurling, Jr., 25, and his brother, Richard, 19, both of Muscatine, spotted the black pickup at the Davenport police auction. They had another truck in need of repairs, and thought the black Chevrolet would be perfect for salvageable parts. Around noon and $140 later, the pickup belonged to them. When the auction ended they drove the truck out to their father’s Muscatine County farm.

A few hours later the elder brother noticed a foul odor coming from the truck, and drove it out to a field where he could empty the grass and branches from the pickup truck’s bed. He went to grab a shovel to begin shoveling out the debris, when all the sudden he noticed a boot. He tried to pull it out, but it wouldn’t move. That’s when he saw a leg — a bug crawling across it — and realized a decomposing body lay beneath the refuse.

Courtesy the Burlington Hawkeye, April 25, 1980

Courtesy the Burlington Hawk Eye, April 25, 1980

Spurling, who said he initially thought the smell came from “a dead animal or something,” went back home to phone police. Once there, and not quite certain what he’d seen, he decided to have another look before placing the call. He then discovered the second set of boots and the other body, and immediately phoned police.

Davenport police said the bodies had probably been in the truck about 60 days, though the U.S. Social Security Death Index lists Cody James’ death as “Dec. 1979,” and Gary Harker’s death as “Jan. 1980.”

Officials determined both James and Harker had been struck in the head with a wedge normally used for tree cutting. No foreign objects were found inside the bodies.

Police Chief Kenneth Conlon confirmed the truck had been sold at the PD’s auction, but said the police department wasn’t responsible for cleaning abandoned vehicles towed to the pound.

By late May, police said they were looking for three people in the double slaying they believed was drug-related. The drugs, they stated, may have been amphetamines. They did not, however, identify any suspects.

Marie Harker said at the time she knew her husband “set up drug deals for other people,” but that “Gary knew I didn’t want him to be dealing.”

The new mother denied allegations by neighbors who complained that her husband dealt drugs out of his woodcarving shop at 1147 16th Ave. in Rock Island.

Witnesses said the truck bed had been cleaned out the morning the two men disappeared.

Christmas Photos — 25 Years Later

As the 25th anniversary of James’ and Harker’s death approached, a friend — one who’d been entrusted with a certain roll of film — opened up his nightstand. He pulled out the photos. The time had come. He knew what he had to do.

On December 17, 2004, Davenport police announced they were renewing the investigation into the double homicide after a friend of the victims handed over photographs from a roll of film given to him by the victims before they died.

“He turned over photos of suspects we believe are involved in the killing,” Detective Greg Keller said in Quad-City Times article published December 18, 2004.

Keller, who’d started looking at the case after a February tip to Davenport police, said when he read the case he found a multi-jurisdictional investigation in 1980 that could be reignited due to computer databases that made it easier for police to follow leads and connect evidence.

Courtesy The Gazette, Dec. 26, 2004

Courtesy The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, Dec. 26, 2004

A renewed multi-state hunt for the killers began.

Keller said a drug supplier was involved in the killings, and that when he’d first opened the file — the first time the case had been reviewed since 1996 — he found “there were things that weren’t done that needed to be done.”

Many of the people the victims hung around with were involved in drugs and would not go to police in 1979-80, Keller told the Times, but 25 years later were more willing to answer investigators’ questions and provide evidence. The ones talking now, he said, were the same ones who listened to James and Harker talk about concerns for their safety a quarter-century ago.

“People talking to us are speaking freely and not fearing retaliation,” Keller said.

The soil and shrubbery found in the truck was tested to determine whether it matched similar materials from a suspected murder site, though police would not disclose the location.

Detective Sgt. Greg Glandon, one of two Davenport officers who’d towed the truck in 1980, told the Times he remained optimistic about the direction of the renewed investigation. It already had turned up hair and blood samples on old evidence for possible DNA analysis, he said.

In May 2004, an evidence technician used a chemical process just being developed at the time of the slayings to find a fingerprint on evidence discovered in the truck with the bodies.

“It’s a combination of all of it,” Glandon said in the Dec. 18 Times story. “A lot of times with older cases you don’t have a direction to go.”

Detectives interviewed people in at least five states but looked to question more. Keller said they felt people were still out there who knew what happened.

“People [who have knowledge about the case] may think we already know and we don’t,” Keller said. “That may be the thing that we need.”

On December 23, 2004, Keller announced that photos on the roll of film were believed to have been taken in Bolinas, Calif., a coastal village about 30 miles north of San Francisco.

In reporter Todd Ruger’s Quad-City Times story published the following day, Keller said police suspected that two men shown in the snapshots could have lived in the Bolinas area and might have information about the drug-related killings.

Keller stopped short of describing the two men as “suspects,” but said they could lead police to the killers. Investigators, he said, had learned that both James and Harker traveled frequently to Bolinas to obtain supplies of drugs.

Davenport police contacted the Marin County Sheriff’s Department in Calif., which identified one man after the photos were passed around among retired law enforcement personnel, Keller said. The photos also were published in a Marin County newspaper in hopes the other men would be recognized by locals.

“It’s a last-ditch effort to get these people identified,” Keller told the Times, adding that more investigative work was taking place locally and that the publication of the photos was a last-ditch effort “for out there.”

Information Needed

If you have any information about this unsolved double homicide, please contact the Davenport Police Department at (563) 326-7979 or Detective Keller at (563) 326-6189.



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9 Responses to Cody James and Gary Harker

  1. sweet teresa says:

    now where are the photos of indivuals of perhaps suspects, I would like to see them, and share them if someone knows them they can get in touch with the police, I hope they find the person or persons who did this

  2. Beth Donnelly says:


    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      I would have assume that the two would have been reported missing. That would have included the vehicle information. So, it should have been checked the identify the owner.

  3. Jodi Frye says:

    Sold at a police aution! Wow! How was it not searched when it was found! Terrible!

  4. Mike Davis says:

    Peace for their families.

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