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Twenty-year-old Craig Allen Petersen of Blue Grass, Iowa, died just over one day after a female teenager died in the company of Petersen’s best friend, Jeffery Curtis Daily, and Petersen’s brother, Kevin Petersen, all of Blue Grass.
Kimberly R. “Kim” Loose, 16, died Friday night, September 26, 1986, in rural Walcott, Iowa, in Scott County after leaving her best friend’s 16th birthday party in Blue Grass with Daily.
Before the weekend ended, Petersen would also be dead, though his body wouldn’t be discovered until the following Wednesday morning when spotted floating in the Mississippi River about 100 yards offshore in Montpelier in Muscatine County.
Both deaths were considered suspicious — and perhaps related, given each victim’s association with Daily and Kevin Petersen — yet in the nearly three decades since two young Blue Grass residents died under mysterious circumstances, conflicting reports of what happened that weekend still leave loved ones wondering if they’ll ever find answers or closure.
It began with a sweet 16 birthday party.
Kim Loose, one of 9 siblings who all lived at home at 304 Salem St. in Blue Grass, often stayed home to help care for younger siblings and her two autistic brothers. On Friday night, September 26, 1986, she looked forward to helping her best friend, Kelli Kress, celebrate her own “Sweet Sixteenth” birthday.
After arriving at Kelli’s home, the friends went briefly to a local bar owned by Kelli’s father. It is unknown whether or not they consumed any alcohol while there, but they did run into 20-year-old Jeff Daily, whom Kim barely knew.
Shortly after the girls returned to Kelli’s home to resume the birthday party, Daily showed up outside the house in a yellow Camaro he’d borrowed from a friend. He then tried talking Kim into leaving with him to attend another party in Walcott, Iowa.
Kim said no. She’d only recently met him, didn’t know anything about him, and wasn’t used to socializing with older boys.
Witness statements give conflicting accounts as to whether or not Daily went inside the Kress home.
Finally, Daily asked Kim if she’d at least ride with him to go pick up Joyce Barton and bring her back to the party. Barton lived on the same block where the Loose family lived. She again said no, but the girls were tired of him pestering them and, after all, Kelli thought it would be nice to include Barton in the birthday celebration. Kim then agreed to ride with him to get Barton.
“Make sure you bring her right back because she’s spending the night here for my birthday party!” Kelli called out as Kim and Daily climbed in the Camaro.
Instead of going to pick up Barton, Daily drove north out of town and headed toward Walcott.
A short time later, Kim found herself at the Walcott Mobile Home Park, entering a trailer house allegedly belonging to Rob Kaufman. There, they joined up with Daily’s best friend Craig and Craig’s older brother, Kevin Petersen, who was home from college for the weekend. Daily and Craig Petersen both resided in the 500 block of N. Moselle Street in Blue Grass. They’d grown up together and been best friends for years.
By 10:10 p.m. Friday night, Loose’s lifeless body, her eyes still open, would lie on the pavement near the Walcott Motor Home Park’s entrance, dead from blunt trauma hemorrhaging in her chest, a severe brain injury and a broken neck.
Her family would be told about only about one of the injuries — that Kim had died from a broken neck.
Officials told Kim’s family her death was a freak accident . . . that the passenger door of a yellow Camaro driven by Daily had fallen open in the Walcott Mobile Home Park’s parking lot around 10:30 p.m. while allegedly traveling over a speed bump at around 10 or 20 miles per hour, and that Kim had fallen out and broken her neck. Just a freak accident, they said.
Kim died sometime around 10:10 p.m. and before anyone bothered to call the Walcott Fire Department.
Numerous documents indicated that Kim — an underage minor — had been at someone’s trailer where she’d been provided alcohol, but nowhere did any documents state who last saw Kim alive.
Several photos taken at “body dump” site in the parking lot showed both Craig and Kevin Petersen present, along with another vehicle and another well-known drag racer who still resides in Walcott. Attempts to revive the 16-year-old at the scene proved unsuccessful, and Mercy Hospital pronounced her DOA.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Office charged Daily, who wasn’t injured, only with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.
What caused Kim Loose’s death? According to the medical examiner:
The morning after Kim’s death, trouble had clearly begun brewing between the Petersen brothers.
Numerous witnesses (names on file, family has shared details with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation), said the two were antagonist and fought and argued all throughout the day. The older brother, Kevin — home from college for the weekend — appeared to instigate many of the quarrels, at times almost pleading with Craig.
Craig stood his ground, shook his head “no” in refusing to do or agree with whatever his older brother wanted. He remained visibly disturbed by something other than his brother tailing him everywhere he went.
By late evening Craig appeared to have had enough. He stormed off, witnesses said, but his brother waited only a short time before speeding off after him in a pickup truck.
Two eyewitnesses, who suspected the brothers’ disagreement was about to come to a serious end, followed Kevin Petersen in separate vehicles so as not to miss out on any exciting action. Kevin had driven to and parked his pickup near the edge of the Interstate 280 bridge south of Davenport, and gone out on the bridge where the brothers quickly resumed their argument.
One witness stated that within minutes, Kevin Petersen turned away from his brother to angrily confront those who’d begun to gather at the bridge’s edge. “He said everything was under control and that [we] needed to leave,” the witness said.
Intimidated by Kevin’s rage, the witnesses drove away while watching in the rear-view mirror as the brothers continued to quarrel on the bridge.
Craig Petersen was never seen alive again.
Family members reported him missing in the early morning hours on Sunday.
Officials told the press Petersen had disappeared sometime Sunday morning while walking across the Interstate 280 bridge.
Muscatine County officials recovered Craig Petersen’s body from the Mississippi just hours before Kim Loose’s funeral began.
John Kelsey of rural Buffalo was bailing out his boat near Blue Bill Ridge two miles west of Montpelier around 9:40 a.m. Wednesday when he spotted a body floating about 100 yards off shore. Kelsey finished bailing out his boat and then went to retrieve the body, the Muscatine Sheriff’s Department reported.
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published Oct. 2, 1986, the body was taken by Buffalo Ambulance to Muscatine General Hospital.
Once positively identified as that of Craig Petersen, officials transported the body to Des Moines for an autopsy.
Dr. Marc Sink, who performed Petersen’s autopsy, noted in his official report that cause of death was “Drowning” and that Petersen’s death had occurred within “Minutes.”
Sink could not definitively specify manner of death, and in “Findings Considered In Determining Cause of Death” (Section 19b), Sink wrote “Undetermined.”
In Section 20a — which asked to specify ACCIDENT, SUICIDE, HOMICIDE, OR UNDETERMINED — Sink noted “Prob. suicide.” He simply didn’t know.
Sink estimated Petersen’s time of death as 3 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 28, 1986. Petersen’s Certificate of Death is signed and dated Oct. 2, 1986.
Craig Petersen was buried at Davenport’s Memorial Park Cemetery just three days after Kim Loose’s graveside service at the same cemetery.
In 2011, Kim Loose’s sister Julie had her own near brush with death — a car fire that left her badly injured but alive — and locals suddenly began messaging her through Facebook. They suggested she ask the sheriff’s office for reports in her sister’s 1986 ‘accidental death,’ and that while she was at it, she may want to see what happened to Craig Petersen the following night.
Julie Loose tracked down several reports and many transcripts of recorded interviews conducted by the Scott County Sheriff’s Office, as well as a CD containing pictures of the night her sister died and of the Saturday autopsy. Nothing matched up with what her family had long believed. Julie hadn’t even known 20-year-old Craig died just one night after her sister. It seemed so odd, seeing Craig alive in photos from the night before his own death, standing with his older brother and best friend as paramedics vainly tried reviving a dead body.
“Craig was still alive Friday evening because he appears in some of the photos, as does his brother, Kevin,” Julie told Iowa Cold Cases. Other photos, she said, showed another vehicle at the scene, along with a well-known drag racer who still resides in Walcott.
Julie Loose reached out to the local Crime Stoppers chapter, providing them with reports she’d gathered on her sister’s and Craig Petersen’s death, along with a number of witness statements from those who’d previously feared getting involved. Some at the mobile home park that night were questioned more than once. More than twice. Several people (including Daily) had gone downtown for questioning that same night, despite the amount of alcohol he or she may consumed.
As word spread that Kim’s injuries had been far more severe than the family first believed — any one of three injuries would have proved fatal — and just as more local residents started placing hesitant calls to the Looses to share what they knew or heard about Kim’s and Craig’s deaths, the Loose family received a call from Scott County Sheriff Dennis Conard, who said [Kim’s] death had been “ruled an accident” and “the case was closed.”
Petersen’s suspicious death came just one day after Kim Loose died of three separate but equal fatal injuries. With only one living witness to Craig’s last moments and with nearly four days passing between the time he went missing and was found, local law enforcement had little evidence to determine if Petersen had jumped (voluntarily or by coercion), fallen, or been pushed from the I-280 bridge into the Mississippi.
The older Petersen brother knew the identities of those who’d followed him out to the bridge, and for over two decades remained silent witnesses about what they’d seen unfold that day and night. They knew one fact for certain: they could place Craig’s brother Kevin Petersen — not Jeff Daily — at the scene of Craig’s death.
Had Craig also been a silent witness? If given the opportunity, would he have shared with detectives how he and his best friend Jeff and brother Kevin had spent Friday night with a young, naïve girl who dreamed of spending her adult days working with children like her two young brothers?
What did Craig Petersen know? Did he commit suicide? Was Kim’s death an unfortunate accident?
The Looses don’t think so, and former Scott County Attorney Bill Davis — reportedly a good friend of the Daily family — did not file criminal charges in either death.
The Iowa Supreme Court revoked Davis’ law license effective April 17, 2008, for failing to comply with an Iowa Supreme Court Commission order to turn over trust account records from his private practice.
Davis served as Scott County Attorney for 29 years and prosecuted many of the county’s most notorious cases.
The Loose family has copies of reports, but nothing from Scott County officials that explains how they arrived at the “accident” conclusion in Kim’s death or why they said the case would be reopened only to close it again.
“[We] don’t know what happened, but know Kim got no justice,” Julie Loose said.
The Loose family has indicated they are open to sharing case file documents and photos with those who wish to look further into Kim’s death, but ask that requests be made through Iowa Cold Cases.
Anyone with other information about the deaths of Kimberly Loose or Craig Petersen is urged to contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010.
Craig Allen Petersen was born May 26, 1966, the son of Terry and Ann (Barnett) Petersen.
He went missing sometime late on Saturday, Sept. 27, and the early morning hours on Sunday, Sept. 28, 1986. A fisherman found his body in the Mississippi River two miles west of Montpelier, Iowa on Wednesday, Oct. 1, 1986.
Joint services for Craig and his grandmother, Cecile Barnett, who died Tuesday, Sept. 30, at Mercy Hospital, were held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, 1986, at Runge Chapel, with burial following in Davenport’s Memorial Park Cemetery.
Visitation was held from 4 to 8 p.m. Friday.
Craig Petersen graduated in 1985 from Davenport West High School and was enrolled at the Phoenix Institute of Technology.
Survivors included his parents, Terry and Ann Petersen, Blue Grass; a sister, Connie Petersen, Bettendorf; a brother, Kevin, Davenport; and his grandfather, Paul Barnett, Davenport.