Donald J. Murphy (Courtesy Knoxville Alumni Association)

Donald J. Murphy (Courtesy Knoxville Alumni Association)

Donald John Murphy


Donald John Murphy
39 YOA
Went Missing from Knoxville, Iowa
Marion County
Date Reported Missing: July 20, 1984
Body Found in Polk County, Nov. 1984


Marion County in IowaMarion County in Iowa
Knoxville in Marion CountyKnoxville in Marion County

On Friday, July 20, 1984, Donald Murphy was reported missing from a Knoxville hospital. In November 1984 hunters found his skeletal remains in northern Polk County just a few days prior to what would have been Murphy’s 40th birthday.

Donald John Murphy was born November 9, 1944, at Knoxville, the son of James Francis and Catherine Bingaman Murphy. He spent most of his life in the Knoxville area. He graduated from Knoxville High School in the class of 1963 and later entered the Coast Guard.

Polk CountyPolk County

He was preceded in death by his father and an infant brother and sister. He was survived by his mother Catherine of Knoxville; his brothers, James Murphy of Woods, Wisc., Gene Murphy of Lovington, N.M., and Gerald Michael Murphy of rural Knoxville; and his sisters, Mary Margaret Eddleman of Knoxville and Mrs. Clair Lois Rankin of Hobbs, N.M.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held on Murphy’s birthday, Nov. 9, 1984, with Rev. Philip Ryan officiating.

Donald Murphy gravestoneCourtesy photo Karen Ahn,
Donald Murphy was buried in St. Mary Cemetery in Weller, IA.

Pallbearers were Bruno Avon, Jim Brees, Bob Momyer, Michael Beard, John Anderson and Charles Galeazzi.

Interment was in St. Mary Cemetery at Weller, Iowa.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Donald Murphy’s unsolved murder please contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 286-3814 or email

  • Personal correspondence with victim’s family member
  • Knoxville Alumni Association
  • Donald J Murphy – Knoxville, Iowa. Death Records
  • Donald John Murphy (1944 – 1984) – Find A Grave Memorial
  • “United States Social Security Death Index,” database, FamilySearch, : 20 May 2014), Donald J Murphy, 20 Jul 1984; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
  • In other Iowa news,” Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, Nov. 7, 1984
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22 Responses to Donald Murphy

  1. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Anonymous. I wonder if the details were ever shared with the VA Office of Inspector General, They OIG conducts audits of the various operations to check fro fruad, waste and abuse. They also have criminal investigators, who are special agents. So, this would be something that they should have been involved with.

    I worked with a number of their people in my time in the VA many years ago. Off course, it might take many hours to check old records to see when Arnold, was in the VA.

    Also, checking the system for veterans with the date of birth of 1948, might take some time.Also, seeing if any6 veteran was getting a disability to a flamethrower accident, might take some time.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Holli Ann, I talked to Sherry earlier today. A lot of stuff to wade through, and complicated family situation. Also, her brother disappeared two days after he was admitted to the Knoxville VA Medical Center in June 1991, and found dead in Polk County. However, his cause of death is Undetermined. However, his sternum was fractured, which may have been caused by blunt force.

    The autopsy, mentions him being unaccounted for about two weeks. Also, who did her brother get to this area, since he had no car. Also, he was wearing boots when he was found, but Sherry said he was wearing tennis shoes when admitted. Also, her brother was not from the area. However, his mother had sent him a bus ticket to travel to California. There was a emergency hold on him, to keep him in the hospital.

    I know more details on his situation. But, I would like to protect his family. It seems odd that two non-related patients disappear from the same hospital, and found dead in the same county, which is not close to Knoxville. Also, one death is a homicide and the other is Undetermined, and case report and investigative records are locked up.

    Also, Donald Murphy, was born in Knoxville area, and not from Polk County. So, was he fleeing something at the hospital or in the area. Supposedly, his late mother may have worked at the VA. I would like to talk with one of his siblings, to see what they know or suspect.

  3. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Starfire and Sherry, please provide more details on your brothers case. There could be a connection, at least they disappeared from the same hospital.

  4. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Starfire, please let me know the exact details of your brother’s story. Sherry, also I would like the know the same details involving your brother. Also, if both of theses guys were missing from the VA Medical Center, did the police at the VA ever write up a report. I seriously doubt if they would have a copy in their file systems.

    This includes information on branch of service, if they were admitted for medical or other reasons. The more information the better. The fact that several patients who disappeared from a VAMC, in the same year and were murdered, makes me

    I used to work at two VA Medical Center here in the Chicago area, as a police officer and detective. So I was involved in a number of missing person’s investigations. Also I would hope that the local police were notified by the VA.

    It would appear that their might be a connection to these cases, at least from the connection to the VA Medical Center. Also, I can be reached at 708-466-4624, my phone takes messages, even text.

  5. Sherry bortzer says:

    My brother came up missing from Knoxville VA hospital June 14 1991 and his body was found in augs 1991 his murder was never solved it to was found in poke county he was 30 years old

  6. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    As usual, I am looking for more details on his case. What was the cause of death, if it is considered a homicide. He was supposedly murdered in 1984, over 30 years ago.

    Maybe someone could be held responsible if authorities released more details.

    There is an 11 year old girl missing in Iowa. All we know is her name and date she supposedly went missing. I would expect a lot more than just that. Is someone being protected? If the authorities don’t have the details then they need to fill in the blanks.

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      The closest VA Medical Center is in Des Moines, Iowa. There is a VA Community Bases Outpatient Clinic in Knoxville. However, any admissions from the clinic would normally be sent to the VA Medical Center in Des Moines.

      So he may have been referred to a civilian hospital, and eloped from there. Eloped is the term used for patients that leave medical facilities against medical advice, better known as going AMA.

      So we need to determine what hospital he was in and why. Also, if he had a service connected disability from his time in the Coast Guard. Just for general information Coast Guard Personnel served in Vietnam,any many other conflicts.

      I served with the Coast Guard Reserve during Desert Shield/Storm, in the Persian Gulf. I also served on a U.S. Navy attack submarine during the Cold War, and Vietnam era.

      • Patrick Kerrigan says:

        I did some more research and found that there was a VA Medical Center in Knoxville. However, it merged with the Des Moines VA Medical Center in 1997. So the Knoxville VA Medical Center is an Out Patient Clinic or CBOC.

  7. Thanks for sharing, Penny!

  8. I’m not sure how someone could find this to be funny

    • S/he may have clicked on the wrong icon, and not realized that clicking it again will undo it.

    • Sarah Rushton I can empathize. A few days ago my sister posted family reunion photos, and I thought I’d clicked the very happy face like shown above, and instead it posted an “Angry” emoticon. I simply got lucky by clicking it again and then clicking another one.

  9. Prayers sent to the family. I pray someone comes forward.

  10. I wonder what kind of hospital it was? Such an unusual story. I hope justice is found for Donald soon.

  11. Sarah says:

    Any idea what was he in the hospital for? I’m assuming they don’t know cause of death? Is it really classified as a homicide or is it unknown?

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