darleen-fitchett-color-800-px
Courtesy photo Ellen (Boyd) Montoya
Darleen May (Boyd) Fitchett

Darleen Fitchett

Homicide

Darleen May (Boyd) Fitchett
AGE AT REPORT: 28
DOB: March 29, 1931
608 East Pleasant View Drive
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 60-1563
Missing/Date of Death: January 19, 1960
Legally Declared Dead

 

Case Summary by Jody Ewing

Darleen May Fitchett (first name oftentimes spelled Darlene), a 28-year-old mother of three young children, was stabbed to death in her 608 East Pleasant View Drive home in Des Moines on Tuesday night, January 19, 1960.

darleen-fitchett-houseCourtesy photo Google
The 608 E. Pleasant View Drive home where Darleen Fitchett was killed.

Right around midnight, her husband, Alanson “Lance” Malcolm Fitchett Jr., told his two oldest children — 8-year-old daughter Kathryn and 6-year-old son Lanny — that their mother “had left” and told them to get up because they were going to Adel, Iowa, to get one of Fitchett’s twin sisters to bring back to Des Moines to care for them. Darleen and Lance’s third child, daughter Darleen Janette (called “Janette”), was only 18 months old at the time.

The bedding and curtains from the room where Mrs. Fitchett had been sleeping had disappeared along with her body.

Darleen’s body, initially hid in the Pleasant View Drive home’s basement, was later moved to another location before being encased in concrete.

The day after Darleen’s murder, Lance Fitchett traded in his dark green paneled truck and came home with a new van, acting as if nothing was wrong and expecting his children to be excited about it. He continued to insist their mother had just “left.”

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines mapDes Moines in Polk County

Lance Fitchett never reported his wife as missing, and Des Moines police only learned of her disappearance in February after friends and neighbors became concerned. Lance Fitchett told police he’d last seen his wife on February 8, 1960 and that she’d gone to California with another man.

The Des Moines Police Department currently lists Darleen’s case as an unsolved homicide, dated February 8, 1960.

Prior to Darleen’s murder, her husband was engaged in an extramarital affair with Colleen Seiberling of 717 Franklin Street in Des Moines. After Darleen’s murder, Lance moved Ms. Seiberling and her two children into the Pleasant View Drive home where his wife had been slain.

In June 1960, he and Seiberling, along with her children, were just about to move to California when Darleen’s mother, Frances Boyd of Dexter, Iowa, arrived and demanded to know what had happened to her daughter. Lance’s sister Madeline told Mrs. Boyd that Darleen had “left.”

When Mrs. Boyd talked to her grandchildren, Kathryn told her about the events that unfolded in the home in mid-January. Mrs. Boyd took her grandchildren to the hardware store where Lance worked, and the children waited in the car while Mrs. Boyd and Lance Fitchett spoke in front of the car.

Lance Fitchett gave written permission for his children to be taken to Dexter to be raised by their maternal grandparents, Bob and Frances Boyd.

Fitchett basement home excavated

On Oct. 1, 2013, WHO-TV Channel 13 in Des Moines reported that police were investigating Fitchett’s former Pleasant View Drive home after receiving a tip about a link to Fitchett’s homicide.

darleen-fitchetts-house-whotv-police-dig-up-basement-2014:06:16 Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
Des Moines police began excavating the basement of this 608 East Pleasant View Drive home on Monday, June 16, 2014, in search of Darleen Fitchett’s remains.

Investigators told WHO-TV they received a credible tip regarding Fitchett’s body.

Based on the tip, investigators used ground radar to examine the home’s basement floor. The data gathered from the radar would be tested to determine if any anomalies existed. The results would also help police decide whether to excavate the site.

Neighbors told Channel 13 they hoped police would find something that would give the family closure.

“Her sister from Montana called me after seeing my house was for sale,” neighbor Marla Hill told WHO-TV. “She said her sister had disappeared in that house and she thought her husband had killed her and buried her in the basement.”

Des Moines police have not said who tipped them off.

The Excavation

On Monday, June 16, 2014, Des Moines police began excavating the basement of Fitchett’s former south side home in hopes of finding her buried remains.

Police said ground radar scans of the basement floor appeared to show a hole was possibly dug under the concrete.

darleen-fitchett-basement-body-may-be-buried-whotvCourtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines
The basement where Darleen Fitchett’s remains were initially believed to be buried.

“Somebody had disturbed the soil at some point. Maybe dug a hole and the hole measured about five-foot-by-two foot, which was pretty odd,” Det. Danny White, who’s currently handling the case, said in a WHO-TV report that aired June 16.

Despite Lance Fitchett’s claim that his wife had gone to California with another man, she’d left behind all her belongings.

“We wouldn’t necessarily go this far on just a hunch,” White said of the excavation. “We have facts to back it up.”

According to a KCCI.com report that aired June 16, 2014, the couple’s daughter recently came forward and told officers her father murdered her mother five decades ago.

“Something went terribly wrong,” White said in the KCCI story. “She could hear her mother crying, and then couldn’t hear her mother anymore. It’s really a tragic story.”

On Monday afternoon, June 16, 2014, police said they’d not yet found anything after digging about three feet into the basement floor.

KCCI-TV Channel 8 Reports on the Excavation, Air Date June 16, 2014

A cadaver dog was called in to help in the search, “to see if they can pick up on anything that maybe will indicate for us to keep digging deeper or, if they don’t find anything, maybe she’s not there,” said White.

Neighbors said they’d heard more than five decades ago what might have happened to the mother of three.

darleen-and-lance-fitchett-wedding-kcciCourtesy KCCI News Channel 8
Darleen Fitchett’s husband, Lance, a person of interest in her disappearance, died in March 2005.

“That there was a body in the basement, covered up with cement,” neighbor Don Chesnut told WHO-TV.

“So we picked up this case as a cold case and started doing some research into it, and started talking to the family members again,” Det. White said in the Channel 13 interview. “They kind of gave us a little more insight into maybe what could have happened on the night of their mother’s disappearance.”

Police said a possible suspect — Fitchett’s husband — has since died, but there is still a sense of urgency in this case. Fitchett’s older sister said she wants to be able to lay her sister to rest during her lifetime.

The couple who currently reside in the East Pleasant View Drive home moved in about a year ago and cooperated with police.

detective-danny-white-darlene-fitchett-whotvCourtesy photo WHO-TV
Des Moines Police Detective Danny White said police will continue searching for clues to help solve Darleen Fitchett’s cold case.

Police crews broke up an area about 10 square feet in space, but discovered nothing. They also drilled holes in the concrete in other sections of the basement — giving the cadaver dogs another chance — but came up empty.

Police will cover the cost of the excavation and the repair and cleanup, Sgt. Steve Woody said in a Des Moines Register article dated June 17, 2014.

Authorities told the media the basement was their strongest lead, but since they didn’t find Fitchett, would follow up on other leads and keep looking for clues.

“We want to find her for her family,” Det. White said.

It is unknown when officials will begin excavating the site where Darleen Fitchett’s remains were later allegedly buried.

About Darleen Fitchett

Darleen May (Boyd) Fitchett was born March 29, 1931 in North Dakota to Robert W. and Frances H. (Ronish) Boyd.

She married Alanson “Lance” Malcolm Fitchett Jr., and the couple had three children: daughter Kathryn Eileen, son Alanson “Lanny” Robert, and daughter Darleen Janette.

In addition to her husband and three children, Darleen was survived by her parents and three siblings: brother Robert John “Bob” Boyd, and sisters Ellen and Kathleen.

Darleen’s brother Bob died Dec. 1, 2014.

Information Needed

If you have information concerning Darleen Fitchett’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.

Sources:

 

57 Responses to Darleen Fitchett

  1. Bradlee Damm says:

    I would get a court order from higher up to look and if she is there sue the heck out of DMPD how tramatic for this little girl living life not knowing if he going to kill you next!!!! And the family being blew off unable to have proper resting for her!!! DMPD should pay for this if this is the case!

    • Janette Stutsman says:

      Bradlee Damm, Thank you for stopping by Mother’s site. No one should blame the DMPD for Mother’s murder. The blame rests with Father. Don’t worry about that little girl-she grew up to be a missionary in Africa and Jordan, a wife, a mother of five very accomplished children, and a prominent political leader in her state. Someday, if Mother’s remains are stumbled upon, We will welcome her back and give her a decent burial. Until then, we praise the tenacious work of Jody Ewing. Without her care Mother would be forgotten. Remember friend Bradlee Damm, my husband and son are law enforcement. Lanny’s only son is law enforcement, and one of Kathy’s sons is law enforcement. @ the time of Mother’s murder the DMPD followed correct protocol according to law. Thank you for caring about Mother!

  2. Bradlee Damm, the daughter did come forward right after the murder. She told her teachers at school. She told her friends. She told family members and other adults. She told anyone who would listen, even though he’d threatened to kill her and her brother if they ever said anything. Darleen’s family knew all along Lance was responsible, but he had friends at the DMPD at the time and convinced them she’d run off with another man. The night Lance killed his wife and partially cleaned things up, he took the kids (right after midnight) and drove over to Adel to pick up one of his twin sisters so she could come back to Des Moines with him to watch the children during the day. When she arrived, the bloody mop was still sitting in bloody water in the bathroom, and she told him he “needed to do something about that” and he said he would. Even Lance’s own family knew he’d killed Darleen.

  3. Bradlee Damm says:

    When did the daughter come forward? If she waited until they both died she should be in trouble..

  4. This woman needs a proper burial.

  5. Does anyone know if the investigators will check the apartment building staircase? I’ve read that this poor woman may be encased in cement on this property. Rest in peace.

    • Janette Stutsman says:

      Paisley Flower, The Des Moines Police Department are the only folks that can answer your questions concerning this cold case. Thanks for stopping by.

    • This is the home where Darleen’s body is allegedly encased in the front concrete steps. (Lance allegedly dug the backside out from the basement, then put here in the area he’d chipped away and then resealed the steps from the back side (also from the basement). This is the home where Darleen’s body is “allegedly” encased in the front steps. It’s 717 Franklin Avenue in Des Moines.

    • Is there a possibility that le will do something ? Is ground penetrating radar an option?

    • Paisley, if it was an option with the Pleasant View Drive home, I don’t know why it would be a problem here.

  6. Janette, I hope your adult life has been better than your childhood, and that this case can be solved.

    • Darleen Janette Stutsman says:

      Sarah Rushton, Who, among all of us, has had the perfect childhood? We never went hungry, we had the opportunity to be educated and we grew up to be as productive as possible without murdering anyone. I guess I call that “better.” You are honestly so sweet to care! My real concern is for my older siblings, witnesses to their own Mother’s murder, who will not participate further in this investigation.

  7. Lynn Elaine says:

    So if she named the location, was anything ever investigated about it?

    • Darleen Janette Stutsman says:

      Lynn Elaine, Colleen’s daughter was a little girl when she “Believes” she witnessed Mother’s body entombed in the steps of the apartment building where she lived with her Mother. My father owned and managed these apartments and apparently kept his mistress here. For the Des Moines police department to be expected, again, to follow a blind lead is unreasonable. It costs a great deal of money to mount an investigation this invasive. And what if Mother’s body is not there? Mother is dead. Her grave is immaterial-my family is gratified that her death story has been given life by Jody. Finding her body will not undo her murder. Bless your heart for caring!

      • Vickie Lachberg says:

        This is colleen’s daughter!!! I’ve never witnessed your mother being entombed at the apartment. I would appreciate it if you would not talk about me and this case ever again. .

        • Janette Stutsman says:

          Vickie Lachberg, It is truely interesting that you have stumbled upon Mother’s cold case. Be assured that I would not contribute anything to this case that is not of record.

    • Lynn, police excavated the basement of Darleen’s Pleasant View Drive home first b/c they knew she’d been in “that” basement first before possibly being taken to the other location. I’m not sure why they haven’t excavated the second property yet.

  8. Why is no one being charged???bring home their mother so they may have some closure.

  9. Janette Stutsman says:

    thewhistler77, you are spot on in your assessment of a society that failed to give credence to the difficult choices minorities and women faced @ that particular time in our history.

    Concerning Mother’s murder: I was only 18 months old when this event occurred, and I have no memory of Mother. My attitude is less about understanding and forgiveness and more about being disassociated from the event and the victim. I would like to see Mother’s remains have a decent burial but I am not counting on this happening in my lifetime. I suspect that in some future event Mother’s remains will be stumbled upon, and a gifted writer like Jody or yourself will educate our People concerning her murder.

    Your interest in these victims that no longer have a voice to share their stories is commendable, and again, I thank you!

  10. janette Stutsman says:

    Hello, thewhistler77, There was a rather primitive investigation done by the Des Moines police department @ the insistence of my Grandparents and Mother’s good friend and confidant Roberta Long Boelter. Because my husband is law enforcement he was able, 22 years ago, to to receive all the investigation report material that was stored on microfilm @ the Des Moines P.D. No one should blame the Des Moines P.D. @ this particular time, law enforcement had no academy, no follow-up training and were just untrained people doing their best to enforce traffic laws-My husband said that domestic violence was common and no arrests were required @ this point in history. I do thank you for your interest in Mother’s case.

    • Thank you for your reply. You seem to have an understanding and/or forgiving nature which is to your credit. I do not know if I would be so if my loved one was murdered.

      One thing this shows is that we have come a long way in the quest for everyone, regardless of gender, color, economic status and sexual orientation, to receive equal treatment by and under the law. It astounds me as one who is fascinated by and a researcher of old and cold cases and mysteries how second class women were even in the 1970’s. Rapes were not investigated seriously enough and sometimes not at all. Many women, especially poor and black, didn’t even report them as they had little faith in getting any justice at all. Domestic abuse and violence same thing. I still think this is why so obvious a case as your mother’s and others like her never got solved: they were not important enough.

      Sad.

  11. Janette Stutsman. says:

    Darleen’s two older children are Kathy and Lanny. Ellen is Mother’s younger sibling.

    • My God! How much more did the police need? Even without a body the circumstances surrounding this scream guilty of murder. A five year old could add this up and tell who did it and why. I cannot believe this man was never arrested.

  12. S. says:

    Was Colleen Seiberling ever questioned? Is she still alive? Hopefully Darleen’s family discovers more information.

    • Janette Stutsman says:

      Colleen is dead. Her daughter was interviewed by phone. Colleen’s daughter believes she witnessed the burial of Darleen Fitchett late @ night in the steps of the apartment house owned by Lance Fitchett and occupied by her Mother.

  13. I apologize for the narrative confusion. I’ve learned so much more about this case through communications with the victim’s family members, and also have received copies of police reports, FBI reports, and other documentation. I’m currently working on a rewrite for Darleen’s case summary page, but just received a lot of the info in the past 2 days and didn’t want to put off acknowledging that today would have been Darleen’s birthday. Police “are” aware of the actual burial location, but said they had to start at the Pleasant View St. home first because that is where the murder occurred. I will be checking with them the first of this week to find out if/when they have plans to excavate the site where Darleen’s body was actually encased in concrete.

  14. So sad that husband got away, thank goodness the children were cared for by the grandparents.

    • janette Stutsman says:

      The children were raised by the same dysfunctional people that the murder victim was raised by. Our Gram barely survived the domestic violence she endured, and set the stage for her daughter’s murder. Why our Father didn’t murder we three with Mother is a mystery. Wouldn’t it make more sense that Mother left Father with her 3 children? The conclusion of my law enforcement husband and son points to the real hate that Father had for Mother.

  15. Holly Rice says:

    Maybe they should try waterboarding his flewsie! What a sad story.

  16. Mary Davis says:

    I find it strange that the article said she was stabbed. How do they know this if the body was never found?

    • janette Stutsman says:

      Do not think it strange- if you would read my sister’s statement your blood would run cold. She was awake, and somehow locked in her bedroom when Mother’s murder occurred. She and her brother Lanny were startled awake by Mother’s screams and her fight to survive. No gun shots were heard, and when Father finally allowed Kathy out of her bedroom to use the bathroom she walked through congealed blood in the hallway to get there. Strangling of a victim does not produce a blood trail.

  17. Jack Toomey says:

    Agree. The narrative is confusing. Also, what were the police doing for 50 years? It sounds like everything pointed to the husband from day one.

  18. Jodi Frye says:

    How does anyone know it was later moved and encased i cement?? If this is known, why did they dig up the basement? Story doesnt add up!

  19. I have discovered considerably more info about this case in the past couple of weeks. The reason the ground radar detected anomalies beneath the basement’s concrete floor is because her body was temporarily hidden/buried down there before her husband had the opportunity to move it and bury it at another location. The body is encased in concrete and police have been provided the address of where Darlene’s buried, so I think it’s only a matter of time before her remains are recovered and her sisters and children can properly lay her to rest.

  20. Shelly Lucas says:

    The article says they dug up the basement and found nothing. The article also says they were told she ran off to California and in 1960 a Darlene Fitchett was reported deceased to ssi, but they have yet to confirm if it’s her.

    • Janette Stutsman says:

      Hi, Shelly-Mother was not reported missing for weeks- until our Gram and Grandad came to our house in Des Moines and Father explained that Mother had “run off with her boyfriend to California.” My Grandparents urged Father to go to the Des Moines Police Department and file a missing person report. In fact Gram and Grandad were with Father when he did just that. The ssi link is after we three were given to Gram and Grandad by Father and Gram was trying to get some type of financial assistance to raise us (Father contributed nothing, he and Colleen left for California) She was denied assistance because there was no body- no proof that Mother was dead.

  21. Rick Ledesma says:

    Was the basement ever searched?

  22. I pray they find out. And the thruth comes out.

  23. john doe says:

    They didn’t find anything in the basement.

  24. Thaddaeus Bappe says:

    I was looking at the Google streets of this address. It was hard to find with the missing East in the address. There used to be what looks like a children’s playhouse in the lawn which has since been removed and it looks like it had a foundation of some sort. When was the play house built, how long had that been there and who built it? I can’t find Detective Whites email on the internet so couldn’t send him this information. I have a missing Aunt in Iowa since 1976. I know these things can bring up a lot of bad feelings. I’m sorry for everyone’s loss. Ellen, I would like you’re email if possible or message me via Face book.

    My Aunts case: https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/alice-van-alstine/

  25. Darleen J Stutsman says:

    Please send me e-mail updates concerning this case.

    • Their are no updates concerning this case.The law moves slow and carefully in cold cases. We are very lucky that this new detective is so interested. Now we wait for all of the details found in the ground radar from the people in Iowa City and then for the clearance to dig in the basement at 608 pleasant view drive. I have been dealing with this for over a year and it just takes patience.GOD IS STILL IN CONTROL IN THIS SITUATION>.

  26. I didn`t find out anything new today but I will let you know as soon as I hear from the lead detective.I feel assured that we will get closure to my beautiful sister, mother, and grandmothers murder soon.

  27. Darleen Janette Fitchett Stutsman says:

    Hi, Adam- sorry I mistook you for your Father.
    Janette

  28. Darleen Janette Fitchett Stutsman says:

    To A. Fitchett:Hi Lan, Yes the police investigation with radar in the basement revealed that something aside from concrete is below the basement floor. Please contact Aunt Ellen in Butte, Montana. She can and will give you all the information you need concerning Mother’s death as she is in constant contact with the cold case investigator.

  29. A. Fitchett says:

    Was there anything found in the basement after this last police search?

  30. Darleen Janette Fitchett Stutsman says:

    Darlene Fitchett is my mother. I was 18 months old when she disapeared.She was not adopted. I and my older siblings were raised by Mother’s Mom and Dad Bob and Frances Boyd in Dexter, Iowa.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Darleen, thank you so much for contacting us about your mother’s case, and for clarifying the adoption question. I will be sending you a separate message via email. All the very best, Jody at ICC

  31. Jody Ewing says:

    Theresa, I’m not sure whether or not Darlene was adopted. This case was one included in the list sent to me by the Des Moines PD, though I’ve been able to find very little information about Darlene’s homicide. All best, Jody

  32. Theresa says:

    Was she adopted?

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