Denease LathamDenease Latham

Denease Monson Latham

Suspicious Death

Denease Monson Latham
24 YOA
Residence: What Cheer in Keokuk County, Iowa
Found: In creek bed beneath bridge
Half mile north of Rose Hill, Iowa
Mahaska County
October 5, 1986


Rose Hill in Mahaska County

Rose Hill in Mahaska County

On Sunday, Oct. 5, 1986 — just 15 days before her 25th birthday — Denease (Monson) Latham of What Cheer, Iowa, suffered blunt force trauma injuries to her head before coming to rest face-down in two feet of water beneath a bridge about a half mile north of Rose Hill in Mahaska County.

One of Latham’s young sons remembers the fight between his mother and father the last night he ever saw his mom alive. She’d taken off on her bicycle, he said, and his father, Robin Latham, later went after her.

What Cheer in Keokuk County

What Cheer in Keokuk County

His mother was found a few miles from their home, and the three young boys were told she’d run her bicycle into a guard rail on the bridge.

“But there was no blood on the guard rail, and the chain was missing off her bike,” Lorrie Murphy told Iowa Cold Cases (ICC) during a July 16, 2015 phone call.

Murphy’s daughter is now married to one of Denease Latham’s sons.

Few details about Latham’s mysterious death were available online at the time — the coroner had quickly ruled cause of death as drowning — but Murphy said neither the family nor Oskaloosa Sheriff Paul DeGeest were convinced foul play wasn’t involved.

Murphy said DeGeest had wanted to bring charges against the mortician at the funeral home, but that other officials blocked his efforts.

DeGeest, the first investigator on scene, went on to serve as Mahaska County Sheriff and spent three decades trying to bring closure to Latham’s family.

Foul play suspected from the beginning

“The mortician allegedly washed the body and destroyed all the victim’s clothing before county officials or investigators could see the body,” Murphy told ICC’s Jody Ewing during the July 2015 phone call.

Latham’s son, Josh, told ICC in September 2016 that the mortician removed his mother’s body from the crime scene and was supposed to transport the body to the state coroner’s office for examination.

“Before transporting her he took her to his funeral home and cleaned her, destroyed her clothes, and embalmed her before transporting her,” Josh said.

Denease Monson Latham familyCourtesy photo Latham family
In this undated family photo, Denease Monson, top right, is shown with her parents, five sisters and brother.

Murphy cited the years Latham’s husband spent in and out of Iowa prisons on drug charges, and told ICC that Robin Latham continued to deal drugs in an east-central Nebraska city.

Iowa Court Online proved Murphy’s allegations to be true.

Murphy also said that the day her [then-future] son-in-law turned 6 years old, his dad gave him a box of rocks for his birthday and told him that’s all he deserved.

It got worse.

That same son vividly recalled his 16th birthday a decade after his mother’s suspicious murder. He awoke, he said, with a handgun held to his head while his father ordered him out of the house.

Josh Latham credited DeGeest for working so hard over the years to try to close the three-decades-old crime.

“He knows more than anyone,” he said, and “has helped me as much as he can…”

DeGeest still hasn’t given up.

Rose Hill cold case not forgotten

In an Oskaloosa Herald story dated Feb. 19, 2018, DeGeest recalled what transpired early that Sunday morning in 1986.

“A lady out walking came across a body lying in a pool of water under a small bridge around 8 a.m.,” he told Oskaloosa Herald staff writer Shelly Ragen.

DeGeest said he saw the bicycle on the bridge and the female lying face down in the water below, as did then-Sheriff Joe Beal, who also came out to the scene.

DeGeest said they took a lot of photos, and, from first impressions, both believed it was a terrible accident.

Law enforcement reports showed that Latham spent part of the previous evening, Saturday, Oct. 4, at the West End Tavern in Rose Hill. She then went with her husband and a few others to an “after party” at the tavern owner’s home, the Oskaloosa Herald reported.

Reports in the case file also reflect a verbal argument between the Lathams at the party, leading Denease Latham to leave the house.

She allegedly wasn’t seen again until the next morning when a woman out for a morning walk came across the bicycle in the middle of the bridge and then noticed a body lying face down in the creek below.

The Feb. 19, 2018 story serves as a stark reminder that Denease Latham’s case has not been forgotten.

Wrote Ragen:

DeGeest has since retired but still feels the impact of what he called the “suspicious circumstances” involved.

“This case has haunted me. I have been able unlike many law enforcement to ‘not take things home with me at night.’ But this case… I would like to see it solved,” said DeGeest.

Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem said he is taking a look at the case too.

“We are actively looking into the case among others,” he said.

Whether it was an accident or something else, there are still people looking for answers.

Local law enforcement, retired and active, and especially the family are looking to resolve this case.

“The family really needs closure,” said Van Renterghem. He said there are currently no suspects but there are possible persons of interest.

~ The Oskaloosa Herald, Feb. 19, 2018

The Oskaloosa Herald said they will continue to explore this story.

About Denease Monson Latham

Denease Monson was born October 20, 1961 to Wendell Leon and Verla Rae (Rose) Monson. Denease died under mysterious circumstances on October 5, 1986.

denease-lathan-gravestone-findagraveCourtesy photo Doris Christensen /
Denease is buried at Confidence Cemetery in Wayne County, Iowa.

Survivors included her husband, Robin Latham; three sons, Jeremy, Joshua and Jason Latham; her parents; five sisters, Debra Rae Monson Maddox, Donna Lee Monson Booth, Diana Lynn Monson Grover, Dalena Monson Wareing, Deana Marie Monson Burnett; a brother, Darin Leon Monson; and many other loving family members.

Denease was laid to rest in the Confidence Cemetery in Confidence, Iowa, in Wayne County.

Denease’s father passed away in August 2002 and her mother died in March 2006 — neither having ever seen justice served in their daughter’s death.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Denease Latham’s death please contact Mahaska County Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem at (641) 673-4322.



30 Responses to Denease Latham

  1. Ryan says:

    It looks like Robin Clark Latham is currently incarcerated in Iowa because of a probation violation in March of 2020.

    It’s a shame that things were handled so improperly during the investigation and by the mortician. Maybe I missed it, but what was the official cause of death? The blunt force trauma to the head or did she drown in the water?

  2. Phil says:

    I am very sorry First and foremost to The Children and loved ones of Denease Latham. I am also sorry for my use of wording but to be honest :Why isn’t this Mother of 3 had justice yet? it is so very obvious that not only was she murdered but her death is a cover up. Why wasn’t the mortician ever questioned and convicted with the husband? The evidence is so overwhelming. Just plainly sad…

  3. Donna Booth says:

    I Donna L. (Monson) Booth married. Traveled to the funeral with our father & young brother, Darin.L. Monson. Denease was also in a Women’s Crisis Center 2 weeks before her death due to extensive injuries by Robin. Her funeral had to be closed casket due to the injuries new & old. Seeing the extensive abuse on her young body was crushing. Robin Latham is known to have been verbally & physically abusive on an ongoing basis, dating back to their life in Blackfoot, Idaho in the mid 1970’s. She returned to Idaho with her 3 young innocent boys in 1985, seeking relief from Robin’s abuse. Family & friends saw the lengths Robin went to abuse her. Her death was tramatic for everyone that knew her, dieing 2 weeks before her 25th birthday.
    Please, if you have any information that could help solve this case, contact the Unsolved Case Department in Iowa.
    Thank you, Denease’s Families & Friends.

    • Shelly says:

      Mrs. Booth, would you consider a telephone conversation sometime. I’ve been researching Denease’s case for the past five months and could really use some help and perspective about her. Thank you. You can reach me at the Oskaloosa Herald 641-672-2581 ext. 424. My hope and goal is to put her story out there that somebody might come forward or evidence comes to light. Thanks again. -Shelly, Herald staff writer

  4. Shelly says:

    My condolences to the family and I hope that this case finally receives justice very soon. I work for the local paper and am interested in finding out more information as well as other perspectives (on or off the record) on this particular case to help keep it in the spotlight. Please contact me at sragen@oskyherald. Thank you.

    • Lorrie Murphy says:

      Shelly, Thanks so much for your interest in this case, I’ve passed your email address on to my son in-law Josh ( Denease’s son ) he has a lot of information for you. ~~~ Lorrie ~~~

      • Shelly says:

        Thank you Lorrie. I greatly appreciate your help!

      • Shelly says:

        Hi Lorrie,

        I am having difficulty getting very many people to talk even off the record. Would you be willing to talk with me about the case, even if it’s your perspective. It would be super helpful. Also anyone else that might talk with me, like I mentioned before, on or off the record. Thanks so much! My email is

        • Lorrie Murphy says:

          Shelly, All I know is what I told told Jody in this article on Iowa Cold Cases, sorry I don’t have anymore information, I would really like to know who this ” beever cleever ” is that commented on the towards the top.
          ~~~ Lorrie ~~~

  5. Her cousin says:

    I am Denease’s cousin. She lived with us for a bit when she was in Jr. High. We were told that it was her husband that committed this crime. I always assumed that he was in jail. I’m sorry if this hurts anyone’s feelings, in saying that. I’m just surprised.

    • Joshua Latham says:

      Hello….You said you were my mom’s cousin….That’s nice to know people that knew her when she was younger…..Well during her child hood….He never went to prison or was even charged for the crime that was committed so many years ago….Jody and some other very nice people have been doing all they can to help get some closure after all these years…

    • jason latham says:

      If your moms cousin might I ask which one cause it’d be nice to know. I’ve been to meet the family I’m sure I didn’t meet everyone of you but ya never know so I was just curious.

  6. Jason latham says:

    this was my mom….

    • Lorrie Murphy says:

      Hopefully someone will have the courage to speak up about this murder so this family will get justice, do any of you boys have a picture of your mom you could send to Iowa Cold Cases ? RIP Denease.

    • Josh Latham says:

      Yea Jake it’s mom…. Lorrie Murphy and a woman named Jody at Iowa cold cases wants justice as much as we always have…

      • Jody Ewing says:

        Josh, I’m so sorry for your loss. I have a long overdue phone call to return to Sheriff Paul DeGeest, which I will make tomorrow (Wednesday). I hope to provide some updated information after that.

        I echo Lorrie’s thoughts about hoping for a photo to put here on your mom’s page.

        I see I once had a longer case summary here but removed part of it (had to do with the coroner, the washing of body, and your mom’s clothes), because I needed more specific details in the case. I’d missed a call from DeGeest to discuss those things, and with the sheer number of emails and calls each day I just didn’t get him called back. I will now. He is a good man and will be very helpful in the case.

        I’m sorry you and your brothers lost your mom at such an early age. It’s coming up on the 30th anniversary of her death and you all deserve answers. I’ll do my very best to find out what really happened with this case.

        Best to all of you, Jody at ICC

        • Josh Latham says:

          Joby….Thank you for all the help. We hope one day all this will be solved so my brother’s and I can have the answers and closure. Degeest has helped me as much as he can even to the extent of letting me see the file. Except crime scene photos which is understandable. He was the original officer in my mom’s case he knows more then anyone. As far as the corner….it was the mortician at the funeral home that had so many errors… He removed her from the crime scene and was to transport her to the state corners office for exam.
          Before he transported her he took her to his funeral home and cleaned her, destroyed her clothes, and embalmed her before transporting her… Degeest wanted to bring him up on charges but was not allowed to do so..
          My brother’s wife told me she has a CD with photos of our mom and she said I can take it and choose from the photos to send you one. I will do so as soon as possible. Once again thank you for all your effort in helping us get our closure of such a tragic loss.

        • Shari Comstock says:

          I know how Jason is still so tormented by this and I hope they will find out what happened to their mother, these boys need to know!

  7. Lorrie says:

    I just realized there was no mention of the husband on the headstone.

    • beever cleever says:

      Why is everyone dancing around thename and obvious perpetrator of this crime…

      • beever cleever says:

        Who said Robin Latham???

        • Josh Latham says:

          If you don’t mind my asking how do you know his name??? Do you know anything about this case??? We were wonwho you are….

        • Debbie McClarnon says:

          You said Robin Latham. Come out from behind your stage name and enlighten these people on what you know. You obviously have some reason to believe what your stating. You don’t have to tell us.Tell the proper authorities. If he really committed this crime then share what you know. It could be the one piece of information that closes this case. If he didn’t do it then the family needs to know just as well. I don’t know if it will do any good. I heard a conversation a few years ago between Robb Shwabb(not sure on the spelling) and Miles Latham and offered to go under hypnosis to retrieve the entire conversation because there might be useful information obtained from it and I have never even got a response back from anyone. Not even a thank you so I don’t know if they are trying to solve this case or not.

        • jason latham says:

          I’m confused who are you never clever. I guess I am missing parts of this whole conversation please enlighten me.

      • Mandy says:

        I am Josh Latham’s wife and I am begging anyone who has any information to come forward if you think it will help or not. You can contact Jody at Iowa Cold Case and remain anonymous but this family needs closure as today is the 30 yr anniversary of their mother’s death. Thank You to everyone for not giving up on this. I feel very strongly that this case will be solved soon if people do the right thing.

      • Lorrie Murphy says:

        If you know anything about this step up and make the call please.

  8. Lorrie says:

    Thank you Jody for adding this story to your long list of cold cases.

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