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Dennis Dean Strable, 59, was shot and killed at approximately 4:33 a.m. Sunday, July 24, 2016, while riding his bicycle near 45th Street and Kingman Boulevard in Des Moines while on his way to visit a friend.
Des Moines Police Department patrol officers responded to the area to investigate a report of gunshots being fired, where they found the male victim deceased at the scene.
Strable’s friend, Wayne Rodgers, was just a six-minute bike ride away, and Rodgers began to worry when his friend, whom he called “Uncle Dennis,” didn’t show up, Rodgers said in a Des Moines Register article dated July 25, 2016.
Hours later, Rodgers learned his friend had become the city’s seventh homicide victim that year.
According to the Register, Rodgers met Strable 20 years ago while serving time in the Anamosa State Penitentiary. Strable had been in and out of prison in Iowa since 1980 on charges of drug possession, driving while intoxicated and burglary. He was most recently released on parole in June, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Rodgers suffers from mental health problems that keep him up at night, and he told the Register Strable had taken him under his wing, checking up on Rodgers’ health and often coming over to talk with him or watch movies at odd hours.
“He’s always been there for people,” Rodgers said. “He had a heart of gold.”
Rodgers said he and his friends are seeking closure in the case.
“That dude would give you his last dollar in his pocket if he knew it would help you,” he said. “They didn’t have a right to do that to the man. He didn’t even have much to take from or rob from, so I don’t get it.”
In a news release Wednesday, July 27, 2016, Des Moines police said the investigation so far led them to believe that residents of the quiet residential neighborhood about three blocks north of Roosevelt High School were not in danger from a random shooter.
Register reporter Kim Norvell said in the July 25 story:
Strable’s death is the third in a string of unsolved violent crimes in the neighborhood surrounding Roosevelt High School. Six blocks away, 44-year-old Scott Allan Perez Sr. was found shot to death in the middle of the intersection of 40th Place and Crocker Street. The May 26 shooting is still unsolved.
Perez was the father of Scalicity Angel Boyd, 22, who was killed in November when her boyfriend, Troy Mure Jr., crashed the speeding car they were traveling in. Mure was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to 15 years in prison on July 6.
About a month after Perez’ death, neighbors reported a drive-by shooting that left five .40-caliber bullet shells in front of a home in the 800 block of 41st Street. It’s just two blocks south of where Perez’s body was found.
Crime statistics for the western neighborhood were not immediately available Monday, but Sgt. Paul Parizek, spokesperson for the Des Moines Police Department, said recent events have “certainly been unusual.”
“We don’t see significant crimes of this nature up there very often at all,” he said.
Des Moines Police Department detectives are continuing to follow investigative leads in this case. Detectives are asking that anyone who saw Mr. Strable in the days preceding his death, or those who knew him, to please contact them at 515-283-4811.
In September 2016, Des Moines Police Sgt. Paul Parizek said they may be on the verge of breaking the case thanks to a tipster. A concerned citizen called Crime Stoppers Monday, August 29, with some very useful information, and police wanted to continue the conversation but had no way to contact the tipster. The tipster and police connected after WHO-TV Channel 13 aired a 4 o’clock story September 2 asking the anonymous tipster to get back in touch with investigators.
On September 4, Channel 13 reported that, thanks to the tipster, police may be closer to breaking the case. (Video below.)
“It could be a huge break in the case,” Sgt. Parizek said of Strable’s unsolved murder. “The thing about these cases is that we know that as we’re putting these puzzles together, we might come up a piece short. We know there’s somebody out there that has that piece that will help us complete the picture and get the bad guy in jail and bring the families some closure.”
Though one neighborhood resident said he couldn’t imagine seeing a crime and not calling it in, Parizek said that’s not always the case.
“It is this culture of nobody wants to be a snitch. They fear the retaliation,” Parizek said.
Because of that culture of fear, two other recent homicides also remain unsolved, he said: the May 26 killing of 44-year-old Scott Allan Perez in the 4000 block of Crocker Avenue and the June 22 killing of 41-year-old Victor Robinson Jr. in the parking lot of 3720 Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.
“The Victor Robinson homicide is particularly frustrating for us because we’ve got probably more than 20 eyewitnesses, but they just won’t cooperate,” Parizek told WHO-TV reporter Michael DaSilva.
Dennis “Freebird” Dean Strable was born Aug. 5, 1956, in Des Moines, the son of George D. and Elizabeth Ilene (Graspy) Strable. He died on Sunday, July 24, 2016.
Dennis was a free spirit and loved spending time with his family and friends. He was a tattoo artist by trade, and was very passionate about his work. His memory will be cherished by all of those blessed to have known him.
Dennis is survived by his mother, Ilene Strable; his siblings, Larry Graspy, Donna (Jim) Kent and George (Sheri) Strable; his daughter; many nieces and nephews; other loving relatives and many special friends.
In addition to his father, he was preceded in death by his sisters, Diana Wise and Dorothy Wessel.
Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 31, 2016, at Hamilton’s Altoona Funeral Home, 105 4th Street SW, with cremation following.
The family greeted friends from 12 to 2 p.m. Sunday, also at the funeral home.
Police are still piecing together Strable’s whereabouts before the shooting. They ask anyone with information on Strable or Perez to contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4811 or Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at 515-223-1400, or go to polkcountycrimestoppers.org.
Additionally, tips can be anonymously submitted to Crime Stoppers of Central Iowa at 515-223-1400, or through their website at www.crimestoppersofcentraliowa.com.