Donna Sue Davis

Donna Sue Davis (Courtesy photo Sioux City Police Department)

Donna Sue Davis



Donna Sue Davis
21 months of age
715 Isabella Street
Sioux City, IA
Woodbury County
July 10, 1955


Case Summary by Jody Ewing

Donna Sue Davis hadn’t yet reached her second birthday. The 21-month-old 21-pound blue-eyed girl with the mass of dark blond curly hair was the youngest of James (“Don”) and Mary Davis’s three children, and her three prized possessions included her teddy bear, a rubber doll and a red purse.

Eleven-year-old Mary Claire, the eldest of the siblings, had friends who resided in the same west side neighborhood in Sioux City, IA, and they often could be seen pushing strollers and buggies around the block with Donna Sue and the other girls’ young siblings in tow. Timothy, 7, also had ample playmates within safe walking distance from the family’s 715 Isabella Street home.

Everyone knew and loved Donna Sue, though seldom used her name. To them, she was simply “The Darling of the Neighborhood.”

In July 1955, life is still good along West 14th and 15th street and the intersecting Rebecca and Isabella streets, and half the summer still remains for riding bicycles and playing Army and swimming and girlfriend sleepovers, and even entertaining baby sisters and brothers while mothers work in gardens and hang fresh sheets to flap and dry in the wind.

But summer in this working class neighborhood — and life as all its residents know it — is about to change forever. The shift begins to emerge the night of July 9, when sirens awaken a city that will not know peaceful slumber for many years to come.

Rain has fallen since 9 p.m., and near 12 a.m. flood sirens puncture the midnight hours. While rain falls in torrents, a fire breaks out at a lumber company but fire trucks can’t navigate the water laden streets. Utility employees work throughout the night to restore electricity to Sioux City residents.

Dawn is about to break.

Sunday, July 10, 1955

Rain ends by early morning, and as water starts to recede city crews move forward with clean-up efforts.

The Donna Sue Davis home in 1955Courtesy photo Sioux City Journal
Donna Sue Davis and her family lived in the bottom apartment at this 715 Isabella Street duplex in Sioux City, Iowa.

The day’s temperatures soar into the 90s, bringing with them humidity’s heavy blanket. Though room air conditioners have grown in popularity since World War II’s end, costs are still prohibitive for many western Iowa families, whose usual reprieve amounts to nothing more than a cool bath and, hopefully, a nightly breeze through an open window. The Davis family has learned to weather the heat.

Sunday night, Mary Davis gives Donna Sue a bath, dresses her in pink pajamas, and about 9:30 p.m. tucks her into her crib for bed in the first-floor bedroom of the two-story duplex where the family has resided for many years. Donna Sue’s crib sits against the wall at the foot of the Davis’ bed, right next to a cedar chest positioned directly below the bedroom window.

“Three to get ready, and four to go . . . to bed,” Mary tells Donna Sue as she kisses her goodnight. The child is all set with her teddy bear, rubber doll and red purse within arm’s reach. With temperatures still in the 80s, the bedroom window is left open to capture any breeze.

In the kitchen, Mary sits down to read the day’s Sioux City Journal as her husband — a clerk for the Chicago and Northwestern Railway — watches television in the living room. In the next room, Mary Claire and Timothy are already fast asleep.

In the upstairs duplex, Mr. M.A. McLeod goes outside to sit on his upper porch balcony while his wife putters around in the couple’s bedroom.

On the corner just south of the Isabella Street duplex, George Berger sits in his back yard at 1301 Villa Avenue. His back yard faces the Davis home’s south side, and he often enjoys watching the Davis children and their neighborhood friends play together in the large lot between the two homes.

9:35 p.m.

Something catches Mr. Berger’s eye. A man has just crossed through a hedge near the front of the Davis house and, walking quite erect, is heading west along the south side of the Davis’s home. Berger strains to see what the man is doing, but can’t see very well in the darkness and his vision also is obstructed by his own vehicle, which he parked in the driveway earlier that day.

Route the kidnapper took to Donna Sue's windowCourtesy photo by Newman, Sioux City Journal Staff Photographer
Donna Sue’s kidnapper walked erectly west along the south side of the Davis home and a few minutes later headed toward Villa Avenue, walking in a crouched position with a bundle in his arms.

A few minutes later he sees the man retrace his steps toward the street and head in a northerly direction. The man, however, now walks in a crouched, stooped position.

Mr. and Mrs. Laif Fjeldos, who live around the corner two houses away at 1310 West 14th Street, hear their dog Rex barking at the back door. Their back lot borders the Davis’s back lot, separated by mulberry and hackberry trees.

Mrs. Fjeldos gets up to let Rex inside and switches on her back yard light. Skulking along the alleyway, she sees a man who appears to be carrying some type of bundle. She immediately calls for her husband.

Mr. Fjeldos grabs a flashlight and shines it toward the man, who is now stooped over and hiding behind a bush. Mr. Fjeldos isn’t about to let this one get away, either; just two weeks before, Rex’s ferocious barking had alerted him to a young man tampering with the Fjeldos’ car, and Rex had held the man at bay while Fjeldos called police. Before police took the man into custody, Fjeldos had voiced a strong complaint about the “poor lighting” in the neighborhood.

This time, however, Fjeldos suspects the stranger might be carrying meat to poison Rex or other neighborhood dogs. He hands his wife the flashlight with instructions to keep it shining on the stranger while once again he calls police.

9:37 p.m.

Sioux City police answer a call from a Mr. Laif Fjeldos, who tells them he has “a suspicious man cornered” and needs assistance. Before police can arrive, the man flees north through the alley and Fjeldos gives chase. Fjeldos chases the man across W. 14th Street and into the next alley, which leads north toward W. 15th. The man — described as about 31 years old with a slight build and wearing a white T-shirt and khaki trousers — runs awkwardly, still stooped over with the bundle. He appears to have something wrapped inside a blanket.

The man suddenly ducks between two bushes in the back yard of the home at 1417 Isabella Street. It is but one block from the Davis home, despite the jump from the 700-block to 1400-block addresses. Fjeldos approaches slowly, but by the time he reaches the bushes realizes the man has simply vanished.

Approximately 9:40 p.m.

DSD-cribCourtesy photo by Newman, Sioux City Journal Staff Photographer
Donna Sue Davis, not yet 2 years old, was kidnapped from this Sioux City bedroom July 10, 1955. Police speculated the furniture’s arrangement forced the abductor to physically enter the room to steal the child, and that he exited the home via the same window.

Mr. Davis gets up to go to bed and check on Donna Sue. He doesn’t see her in her crib and thinks she’s hiding beneath the covers, but she isn’t there.

“Where’s Donna?” he hollers to his wife, and then sees that the bedroom screen has been removed. He immediately telephones police, unaware they’re already on their way to the neighborhood in response to Mr. Fjeldos’ call about the prowler.

Laif Fjeldos stands outside his home waiting for police to arrive and telling the gathering crowd of neighbors what he’s seen and how he chased the man up the alley toward 15th Street before losing him.

Suddenly, they hear Mary Davis screaming from inside her home. “My baby is gone! My baby is gone!” she wails, and then they hear sounds of crying as she pleads “Help … help … help.”

Running out the Leads

As more and more area residents gather outside to discover what the commotion is all about, Sioux City Police officers arrive on scene.

Mr. Berger tells police about the stranger he saw moving stealthily along the Davis home’s south side just a little while earlier.

Mr. and Mrs. McLeod from the upstairs Isabella street duplex state they didn’t see or hear anything unusual.

Several neighbors report having seen the man, but say they found it difficult to judge his height because he’d walked bent over while carrying something.

Friends gather at the Davis home as the search for Donna Sue beginsCourtesy AP Wirephoto and The Sioux City Journal
The Davis home quickly became headquarters for search parties organized by neighbors after Donna Sue’s abduction.

More than 25 neighbors go out searching in the vacant fields and houses in the vicinity. Mr. Davis, extremely distraught over his daughter’s disappearance, jumps into his car and begins to search the area on his own, but the surrounding roads are still muddy from the rains and he drives his car into a ditch and gets stuck. Friends come to his rescue to help him pull it out.

Relatives begin gathering at the Davis home to provide comfort and support. The Davises tell police there’s been no family trouble and they know of no one with a motive for wanting to kidnap Donna Sue.

10:05 p.m.

Sioux City resident Sid Goldberg drives through the nearby town of Elk Point, South Dakota, and near a motel sees a man in a white T-shirt and khaki trousers standing on the road beside a black Chevrolet 2-door sedan with Nebraska license plates. The man in the T-shirt and khakis holds a baby in his arms, but Goldberg — unaware of what has transpired back in Sioux City — thinks nothing of it.

10:30 p.m.

Mrs. Everett Hauswirth, who lives on the “Old Back Road” in South Sioux City, Nebraska, is startled by sounds of a vehicle either stopping outside on the gravel road or pulling into her driveway. A moment later she hears the car quickly accelerate and speed away.

Approximately 11 p.m.

Sid Goldberg is back on the road and listening to his radio. He hears the report about Donna Sue’s abduction and immediately stops to telephone Sioux City police. The Sioux City police notify Elk Point, S.D. police, who quickly converge at the same hotel Goldberg passed almost 90 minutes earlier. The Chevrolet sedan is gone, but Goldberg says he remembers the license plate number.

Sioux City police radio a detailed description of the man and child to law enforcement networks in Iowa, S.D. and Neb., and to taxicab companies whose cabs are equipped with two-way radios.

Police take Donna Sue’s bedroom screen and several other items to police headquarters to check for possible fingerprints.

Police follow up on the license plate number in hopes of discovering the owner and getting a lead, but nothing pans out. The Nebraska Motor Vehicle Bureau won’t be open until the following morning.

Sioux City Police Chief James O’Keefe is roused from bed to take charge of the search for Donna Sue and her kidnapper.

Capt. John Rispalje and detectives John Banys and Paul Brown are held over for extra duty in the investigation, as are several patrolmen.

Throughout the night, Sioux City police swarm over the city’s west side in search of any type of clue.

Monday, July 11, 1955

Early Monday morning at the Davis home, Capt. Rispalje explains that the FBI cannot be called in on the case until proof exists the abductor took Donna Sue across a state line or contacted the Davises asking for money or other consideration in exchange for Donna Sue’s return.

More detectives descend upon the neighborhood, talking with residents about the previous day’s and evening’s activities. They conduct a house to house check.

Three FBI officers from the Omaha Field Office arrive at the Davis home, stating they are there to familiarize themselves with the neighborhood. They unofficially associate themselves with the case in what they call a “consultatory capacity.”

A farmer reports to the Woodbury County Sheriff’s office that he heard a baby crying in a parked car on a road about three and one-half miles east of Highway 75, halfway between the nearby towns of Sergeant Bluff and Salix, Iowa. He says the car had Nebraska plates, and deputies go to investigate.

Just across the river in South Sioux City, Neb., Mrs. Ernest Oehlerking, 33, is in a festive mood. Today, one of her six daughters turns 11 years old, and she is getting ready to bake a cake while the girls are in town at a Girl Scouts camp. The birthday gifts are already wrapped.

As afternoon approaches, Chief O’Keefe appeals to all householders to check carefully for the possible presence of baby garments or a child’s clothing that might be a clue to the kidnapping.

Police officers report to an anxious public that a man with a bundle had been seen north of an alley near 14th and Nebraska streets. They say the man entered a garage in the vicinity, stayed a few minutes and then left the building.

They speculate the child may have been wrapped in a blanket the abductor carried with him elsewhere in the city, but state nothing has been taken from Donna Sue’s bedroom. Her teddy bear, rubber doll and red purse were all found inside her crib after she vanished.

The search party grows to include Air National Guardsmen, extra police and dozens more volunteers. The search extends from West Seventh Street to West 18th Street and along Perry Creek, and from West Eighth and Bluff Street West to Ross Street.

They find nothing.

3:45 p.m.

Across the river in Nebraska, Ernest Oehlerking drives his tractor toward South Sioux City where he intends to buy oats. His nephew, 14-year-old Ronnie Oehlerking of Denver, rides behind the tractor in a wagon along with Ernie Reed and Harlan Haas — two locals who help out on the Oehlerking farm.

One-eighth of a mile north of his farmhouse and midway to Mrs. Everett Hauswirth’s home, Ernest Oehlerking notices something in a ditch. He goes to investigate and discovers the bottom half of a baby’s pink pajamas as well as a pair of rubber pants — the kind normally worn over a baby’s diaper.

He immediately turns around for home where he calls the police and tells his wife what he’s discovered.

Mrs. Ernest Oehlerking leaves right away for town to pick up her daughters from Girl Scout Camp. On her way home – based on what she later calls ‘women’s intuition’ – she stops at the home of her sister-in-law, Mrs. William Oehlerking (47 years old). The women set out in two cars to search for Donna Sue, both driving south on the Old Back Road. Mrs. William Oehlerking’s 13-year-old daughter chooses to ride with her aunt and six cousins (ranging in age from 18 mos. to 13 years), while Mrs. William Oehlerking drives alone.

It is a blistering 96 degrees outside.

4:15 p.m.

The Oehlerking vehicles pass the Ernest Oehlerking farm and continue down the gravelled Old Back Road that leads from South Sioux City to Dakota City. A half-mile past the Oehlerking farm the girls suddenly scream, crying out that they’ve seen Donna Sue’s body. Mrs. Ernest Oehlerking comes to a stop and backs up.

Mrs. William Oehlerking, 47 (left) and Mrs. Ernest Oehlerling, 33, rightPhoto by Murphy, Sioux City Journal Staff Photographer
Two South Sioux City sisters-in-law, Mrs. William Oehlerking, 47 (left) and Mrs. Ernest Oehlerking, 33 (right), are pictured standing near the cornfield — with corn about waist high — where the two women and their children discovered the body of Donna Sue Davis Monday afternoon, July 11, 1955. Ernest Oehlerking farmed the 40-acre cornfield, and earlier had discovered Donna Sue’s night clothes in a nearby ditch.

Donna Sue Davis lies 15 feet west of the Old Back Road in the first row of a 40-acre cornfield. Her pink pajama top is wound around her neck. The corn is about waist high and there is little shade to cover her small body.

Donna Sue’s arms lie above her head. She could be sleeping if not for the blood and bruises and markings around her eyes.

Mrs. Ernest Oehlerking takes the girls home with her to call police while her sister-in-law stays with Donna Sue’s body. Mrs. William Oehlerking finds an old paper sack nearby, tears it up and covers the body.

4:45 p.m.

Police arrive at the site. In South Sioux City, Chief of Police F.E. (Pete) Baumer notifies SCPD Identification Bureau Superintendent Harold Casey and the clothing is taken to the parents for identification.

Police hold three persons for questioning in the case.

South Sioux City and Sioux City police investigate the cornfield area where Donna Sue was found. Broken cornstalks indicate her body likely was thrown from a car.

Later that day, Dr. Thomas L. Coriden (Woodbury County coroner) and Dr. A.C. Starry, Sioux City pathologist, perform the autopsy. They conclude Donna Sue has been dead between 10-12 hours.

The child’s battered body has been raped, sodomized, and her left jaw broken. Numerous bruises populate her body, along with cigarette or cigarette lighter burns on her buttocks.

The coroners list cause of death as “massive brain hemorrhage resulting from a severe blow to the head” — also known as blunt force trauma to the head.

Sioux City police, S. Sioux City police and FBI agents investigate the area in the cornfield where Donna Sue's body was found.Photo by Murphy, Sioux City Journal Staff Photographer
Sioux City police, S. Sioux City police and FBI agents investigate the area in the cornfield where Donna Sue’s body was found. A broken cornstalk indicated her body had been thrown from a vehicle.

When the autopsy is finished, Donna Sue is transported to Sioux City’s Manning-O’Toole funeral home.

Dr. Coriden says blood types are are undergoing chemical studies in efforts to assist with the investigation.

Police discount reports they are seeking a 1941 model car. Dakota County Sheriff Tony Goodsell says he had directed the search for the vehicle after a hit-and-run accident in Dakota City about an hour after Donna Sue’s disappearance Sunday night. Evidence indicates there is no connection with the case, and police say they are investigating other leads.

Early evening

Sioux City Journal reporter Bob Gunsolley is covering a city council meeting when news arrives that Donna Sue’s body has been found. Sioux City Mayor George Young begins to go “berserk” – ranting and screaming and cursing.

In South Sioux City, the Oehlerking families begin receiving phone calls from relatives in Beemer, Neb.; they’ve already heard the news on TV.

Tuesday, July 12, 1955

10:05 a.m. (approx.) State police in Pierre, S.D., receive a report that a truck driver has seen a man answering the description of the slayer a little after 10 a.m. on U.S. Highway 12 east and south of Selby, S.D. The trucker says the man was hitchhiking on the highway, which runs north and south through Selby.

Noon – Walworth County Sheriff Theodore Delbert says a thorough search in all directions from Selby failed to uncover any trace of a hitchhiker or man answering the killer’s description.

Police Identification Bureau experts check a collection of fingerprints found on a cedar chest under the window in the room where Donna Sue slept. Officials will check the prints against Donna Sue’s family members and nearby relatives.

Afternoon – Federal officers file a “John Doe Warrant” for the slayer, giving officers throughout the country the authorization to arrest and hold anyone suspected of the slaying.

The Sioux City Journal demands Sioux City be made “the most feared town in America for the sex deviate.”

The FBI pursues the case under the Lindbergh Act; the suspect, when caught, will be tried in federal district court in Sioux City and be eligible for the death penalty.

Six FBI agents — under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Joseph Thornton of Omaha’s FBI field office — take over the search for the slayer under terms of the Lindbergh kidnapping law.

Police and federal agents run down countless tips on the slayer’s whereabouts.

Dr. Coriden says chemical studies on blood types are in progress.

Sioux City police begin a citywide roundup of what they call ‘known sex perverts.’

The police, the Sioux City Journal and other information centers take calls from incensed residents all day long as an ugly mood surges throughout the community.

Wednesday, July 13, 1955

9:00 a.m. – Donna Sue’s funeral is held at Sioux City’s St. Boniface Catholic Church. A crowd of 350-400 people pass by the small white flower-covered casket. In the eulogy, Rev. Philip Koehler says Donna Sue has died in a defense of purity, and compared her killing to those of small Jewish boys in biblical times. She is now “to many hearts, St. Donna,” he says, and the mourners “might well pray to her rather than for her in order they might all be childlike.”

A FBI agent and several local detectives attend the funeral and mingle among the mourners on the chance the killer may have returned out of morbid curiosity.

Donna Sue Davis' family members gather for her burialCourtesy photo Sioux City Journal
Mr. and Mrs. James D. Davis and their two children, Mary Claire, 11, and Timothy, 7, stand near 21-month-old Donna Sue’s casket at Calvary Cemetery. At right are an uncle, John McCarville, and the maternal grandmother, Mrs. Mary McCarville.

Following the funeral, 40 cars accompany the body to Calvary Cemetery, where four young boys – David Madsen, Steven Stafford, Gary Manning and Thomas Walsted (ages 12 to 14) – carry the casket to its resting place on a green hilltop.

Iowa Governor Leo A. Hoegh holds a press conference and suggests Donna Sue’s killer “must have been insane.” He recommends more be done to prevent mental disease.

In Washington, D.C., FBI director J. Edgar Hoover learns about Donna Sue’s murder and its sadistic nature.

“Get him!” Hoover demands.


Thirty-one-year-old farm hand Otto E. Wennekamp visits a car dealership to trade in his vehicle and leaves with the new car to go get the money. When he doesn’t return, the dealer notices a number of cigarette burns in the old car’s dashboard. He telephones police.

South Sioux City Sheriff John Elliott of Pender, Neb., receives a tip on Wennekamp’s whereabouts from a farmer whose identify is not ascertained. Elliott finds the suspect on the Otto Bengin farm. FBI investigators and Sioux City police arrive and immediately begin questioning Wennekamp.

Wennekamp is apprehended and taken into custody near Thurston, Neb. Elliott, FBI and Sioux City law enforcement question Wennekamp for about an hour at the S. Sioux City police department but his alibi checks out; he’s held over only for auto theft.

2:30 p.m.

Sioux City detectives announce that Wennekamp has been released and exonerated of any connection with Donna Sue’s death.

That same day in Joplin, Missouri, 42-year-old drifter Audrey Earl Brandt tells police he killed Donna Sue Davis. He later recants, saying it was all a hoax. Police determine he’d been traveling in Missouri with a carnival the night of Donna Sue’s abduction and he’s eliminated as a suspect.

Omaha’s FBI regional office sends nearly 30 special agents to Sioux City to help police direct the investigation. The agents are paired with Sioux City police officers and work out of Sioux City’s federal building.

U.S. District Attorney Francis E. Van Alstine and Woodbury County Attorney Donald O’Brien make a plea to the public to let the law take its course in the event there’s an arrest. They emphasize they’re doing everything possible to apprehend Donna Sue’s slayer, and that if the person is caught, that they are “duty bound to see that he receives a fair trial.”

Sioux City Chief of Detectives Harry Gibbons — a former boxer — begins writing in what eventually will become a cache of spiral notebooks, all cross-indexed with every interview, every suspect and every detail related to Donna Sue’s murder.

Thursday, July 14, 1955

In their headline “Sex Offender Law is Unused,” the Des Moines Register reports Des Moines police are taking first steps to certify a pedophile as a sexual psychopath. The Register’s editors place the article on page 3, next to a picture of the Davis family grieving in front of Donna Sue’s casket.

The Journal-Tribune Co. offers a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Donna Sue Davis’s killer.

A demand for watchdogs for protection increases in Sioux City. Mrs. M. W. Baldwin, director of the Humane Society, says people want dogs who will be kind to children and cross to strangers. Shepherd breeds are in the greatest demand, with a heavy demand for German shepherds, or “police dogs.”

Friday, July 15, 1955

Governor Leo Hoegh calls for special meeting of the Board of Control and superintendents from the state’s four mental hospitals. They schedule the meeting for the following Friday.

Friday, July 22, 1955

The Davis family breaks its silence to thank the public for their support. The Davises have received some 500 cards and letters from all across the U.S.

The Sioux City Journal reports its reward fund has grown in one week from $1,344 to $2,387. A Sioux City TV station promises $500 and Gov. Hoegh offers $500 on behalf of the State of Iowa. It is the first time the state has ever offered a reward in a criminal case.

At the meeting, Gov. Hoegh announces the state is establishing a special ward for criminal sexual psychopaths at the state mental hospital in Mount Pleasant.

Saturday, December 10, 1955

Virgil Vance WilsonCourtesy photo Sioux City Journal
Virgil Vance Wilson, a 32-year-old butcher from Onawa, Iowa, told Reno, Nevada, police he raped and strangled Donna Sue Davis and threw her body out of the car. He later recanted his confession.

Police in Reno, NV, arrest Virgil Vance Wilson on charges of intoxication and disorderly conduct. Wilson, a 32-year-old butcher from Onawa, Iowa, asks to speak to a detective, and tells Capt. Reno Ferretto that sometime in July, he stole a car and raped and killed Donna Sue Davis.

Wilson tells Ferretto he stole the car in Sioux City (36 miles north of Onawa), and drove onto a side road where he raped and then strangled the child. He said he then threw her body out of the car and abandoned the vehicle. Reno police telephone Sioux City police.

Sunday, December 11, 1955

FBI agents question Virgil Vance Wilson. Wilson contradicts his earlier story and repudiates his confession, denying any connection whatsoever with Donna Sue’s slaying.

Tuesday, December 20, 1955

Sioux City Police Chief James O’Keefe announces that Wilson has been eliminated as a suspect. He says Wilson had been in Des Moines in the company of friends as late as 7 p.m. the night of Donna Sue’s murder and couldn’t have arrived in Sioux City with enough time to commit the crime.

Friday, June 8, 1956

A man is taken to Des Moines for a lie detector test in connection with Donna Sue’s murder; he is held for further questioning because of discrepancies in his story.

Woodbury County Attorney Donald O’Brien and Chief of Detectives Harry Gibbons address the lie detector tests, saying one suspect has been ruled out and that another should be questioned and investigated further.

Wednesday, November 13, 1957

The Sioux City Journal closes the book on its reward fund for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Donna Sue Davis’s killer. They return individual contributions to the donors.

Wednesday, January 29, 1958

The Sioux City Journal reports that the Davis case is being reopened and is the subject of a closed inquest being conducted at the Woodbury County courthouse.

Woodbury County Attorney Donald O’Brien says the three-man jury is tentatively scheduled to meet again Saturday.

Dr. Coriden says the inquest is closed to “protect witnesses.” He says eight or 10 persons have taken lie detector tests.

Friday, January 16, 1970

Chief of Detectives Harry J. Gibbons — who has filled many notebooks and obsessed for nearly 15 years over Donna Sue’s unsolved murder — dies. It is rumored he spent his final days in a mental health facility, cutting out paper dolls.

About Donna Sue Davis
donna-sue-davis-gravestoneCourtesy photo T.R. Patterson,
Donna Sue Davis is buried as Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City.

Donna Sue Davis was born September 19, 1953, the daughter of James “Don” Davis and Mary Beatrice (McCarville) Davis.

She died July 10, 1955, at the age of 1 year, 9 months, and 22 days.

In addition to her parents, survivors included a sister, Mary Claire, 11; a brother, Timothy, 7; the maternal grandmother, Mrs. Mary McCarville of Sioux City, and the paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. R.E. Davis of Sioux City.

Memorial services were held at 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 13, 1955 at St. Boniface Catholic Church with the Rev. Philip Koehler officiating. Between 350-400 people attended the service.

Donna Sue was laid to rest at Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City.

The above information is from dozens of Sioux City Journal archives, The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, the Sioux City Police Department, and other sources.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Donna Sue Davis’ unsolved murder please contact the Sioux City Police Department at (712) 279-6390.


Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


140 Responses to Donna Sue Davis

  1. Melanie Wood says:

    Maybe I missed it. But it was stated a man remembered a license plate #. But I don’t see anything stated what became of it. This crime is so disgusting. Just awful. Killers ramp up. So I believe the perpetrator fantasized about children. Then went on to molesting. Then progressed finally to this awful murder I would bet the perpetrator had a history of sex crimes against children. And like 1 too many. Let out of prison early. It is STILL going on. I’m sure everyone reading this knows. IT HAS TO STOP!!! NOW!!!! The public hets it. Why are the parole boards. The ones in charge NOT getting it?!!!!It has been stated by psychologists, Psychiatrists, They CANNOT BE REFORMED!!! They ate allowing more victims!!! Have them live on YOUR block then. I bet things would change then.

    • Barbara says:

      I was wondering the same thing. They said the place who could help with wasn’t open until Monday. Weird that nothing else seems to be said about after that. Another strange thing, the man found in Nevada gave too many eerie right on details for someone who was supposedly in Des Moines during the kidnapping. They also don’t discuss anything that was done with the ones who failed the lie detectors test. So many things seemed to be missed or just moved away from.

      • Patrick Kerrigan says:

        At the time, the DMV offices probably did not have a way to access the records until, the next working day. It most likely take an order from the governor or head of the DMV, to get several staff members to dig through paper records. Iowa license plates have the county name where the vehicle is registered to. Don’t know if they did back then.

        Also, lie detector results are not admissible in court. Plus, who administered the test. Was he most likely certified to a standard as they would be today.

        Also, being strapped to one of those devices might have created a stressful situation for the person being interviewed allegedly. Plus, how many people have been convicted on false confessions.

        In Lynbrook, New York in 1986 or so. Three men were convicted in the disappearance, rape and murder of Teresa Fusco, ,(16), in November 1984.

        The lead detective basically rewrote the youngest suspect’s confession at least seven times. The suspect was a high school dropout, drug abuser and may have been still high.

        In 2003, he and the two others were cleared by DNA. The lead detective ignored and never mentioned about a car was stolen the night she disappeared and later found with a pair of jeans she was wearing in his reports. Also, he got wiretaps on the three claiming her blood was found in a van owned by one of the suspects. However, the crime lab people did not find any blood in the vehicle.

        His actions cost Nassau County millions. On top of it, the rope used to strangle her and the jeans, were never tested, in a crime lab. Also, they were conveniently lost or misplaced.

        With computers, radios, NCIC and other databases we can find information in minutes versus manually searching through paper records.

    • Carrie says:

      Neighbor Berger seems a little off considering they had farmland in the area she was found. Look up obit. for George E. Berger-Arizona Republic Archive. Let me know anyone

  2. Steve C. says:

    Tow words and one name… Genetic Genealogy and Cee Cee Moore.
    Case solved and closed.

  3. Linda Rivers says:

    Reading questions about how the father of Patricia Scott could have even been aware of Donna Sue while he was in town for only a week. My grandparents lived a couple of blocks from where this all happened and my dad and all of his siblings grew up in the neighborhood. Very strong Catholic community at St. Bonifice. Wouldn’t doubt that he could have attended church with the family while in town, possibly to find a small child, and saw her there. It would not have taken much to locate the family and scope out the house.

  4. Dakota Kenney says:

    Basing information off of previous comments, a sibling of one of the people mentioned has a history of lascivious acts on children. Using old newspaper articles, I found at least 5 charges brought against him. Obviously just inferring here, but that behavior was learned somewhere.

  5. LakeLife says:

    The fingerprints they have need to be run through Codis.
    They need to exhume her body & get DNA OR test that DNA they do have.
    Something needs to be done.
    This is sick & it needs to be solved.
    So disturbing.
    My heart breaks for all involved as well as that many police officers who investigated this case.
    Praying this gets solved & that the offender gets caught!

  6. M. Peters says:

    Ok so I just started doing some research on this case from old newspaper articles so hopefully some of you who have been researching this longer can help.( I will also point out I am in no way trying to blame the crime on the family or neighbors.) I have soooo many questions? I went back to reports from the day Donna Sue went missing before her body was found and initial reports state Mr. Davis didn’t see his daughter missing until 10pm. So it is unclear to me how the timeline changed from 10pm to 9:40, unless initial reports were wrong or further interviews with Mr. Davis and the family gave a different time frame. Next is that if the suspicious man seen was carrying Donna Sue then why wouldn’t she have awoken during the ordeal, unless she was incapacitated in some way. A man carrying her right after falling asleep when he is being described as hunched over, hiding in spots, running, jumped a fence, a barking dog, and nearby neighbors yelling at him, it doesn’t make sense how she would have slept through all of that. If she was incapacitated then it would be clear it was not a crime of opportunity. But planned. Someone who knew that window was going to be open, what time she went to bed, and where she slept. Next is the interaction with Mr. and Mrs. Fjeldos and the suspicious man. I cannot wrap my head around why Mr. Fjeldos would leave his wife alone outside with a suspicious man while he phoned police. I asked my husband the same question and he told me he would immediately send me inside to safety. Am I reading too much into this? Not sure but it is something that stood out to me right away. I still have more questions but I will stop there for now and hopefully get some clarification.

  7. MEGAN says:

    While doing some research I found an old newspaper article that stated sioux city pd got some good fingerprints off the chest, crib, and window. Did those turn out to be fingerprints of the immediate family. I never see anything discussed about them?

  8. Teddy Ryley says:

    I don’t suppose they kept the blood samples. DNA doesn’t lie. Wasn’t much of thing back then but if they still have the clothing in evidence they should be able to pull dna. Just a thought.

  9. Teresa says:

    I posted this post a year ago. Bring that I have watched many crime and investigation show, the way this child was found, was personal. Did they ever look at the immediate family members? I just hope and pray they can give this little girl justice and that she may rest in peace 🙏😔

    • Cosmic says:

      In what way do you consider the way that she was found to be personal? And what would suggest the involvement of family in this?

  10. Tenley says:

    Hi Patrick, (previous commenter) thanks for the reply and the background information. Yes, I believe the daughter as well. Her comment sounded very credible, and your added information further backs that up. I looked her up on Facebook shortly after she left that comment, but it looked like she hadn’t been active in a few years and I was hesitant to reach out regardless.

    I really want more information on this guy. Too bad Jody isn’t responding either. At least we have more information than before.

    • Patrick says:

      The question I would like to ask the daughter is this. What tie might Barnes have had to the Davis family. I know he was living in Chicago, but was apparently in Sioux City the week of the crime. Where would he have stayed. According to the 1955 Directory, there was another Barnes who lived about 5 blocks from the crime scene. Even if he was staying there, he would’ve had to have had a connection to the Davis family. The timeline on the crime is just too short (less than 10 minutes). He would’ve had to have known what time she was put to bed, and had to almost be already by the window at that time. I’m not yet ready to name Barnes as the killer, but coming back to Sioux City and living in the same exact home? It sounds like the criminal returning to the scene of the crime.

      • Tenley says:

        Well she wrote in her comment that her father was visiting his brother and driving his brother’s car during the time he was in town. Apparently his brother was away serving in the military. And as far as how he knew what room Donna Sue would be in? I would not doubt that he was a Peeping Tom, and was well aware she had a crib in that room.

        • Patrick says:

          I know the Barnes 5 blocks from the scene was not a brother. I have read the obit for Charles. Thought he might have been staying there, and borrowed the car of the brother who was away in the Navy. I don’t think this guy was a Peeping Tom. Those kind of people rarely act out. Not sure how much research you have done, but you most certainly have interest. Let me know if you would like to discuss in depth some time. My interest in the case came as a result of growing up about 4 blocks away, and my mom bringing it up from time to time. I have many different theories. A classic “who dun it”, and I would love to see the case solved.

          • Patrick Kerrigan says:

            I agree with the comments in the last couple of days. We have been dealing with the comments from Mr. Barnes daughter about his involvement in the kidnapping and murder if the baby. He is from Sioux City, and was visiting family when the baby was taken. He supposedly was using a car belonging to his brother in the Navy. However, we have no information on his brothers car. We also don’t have any registration information on the vehicle mentioned in the known details.

            So, all we have to go on is the information provided by his daughter. However, there are some situations where the offender, will return to the scene, or visit the place where the victim is buried. Some of them have even kept an article of clothing from the victim, to keep the memory of the crime.

            Many years ago, I was involved in the use of video surveillance for law enforcement. The scenario was to video tape a fictional burial of the victim, with the chance that the offender would show up. We actually travelled to a Catholic Cemetery in the Westrrn suburbs of Chicago. The area for are mock burial was where members if the Capone family were buried. The other interesting part, was that several of his competitors are also buried in the same cemetery.

            So, we have more unanswered questions. But, purchasing the home points is suspicious enough to warrant more research to fill in the blanks. But how do we or investigators determine that the car that supposedly belonged to his brother matches the description of the possible vehicle used. Also, why target this baby. He comes home to visit, and supposedly decides to kidnap some baby. How does he know the baby even exists and where she was sleeping. Also, what do we know about his time in Chicago. Where did they live, work, or even why he or the family move from Sioux City. He could have connections to some unsolved cases in the Chicago area.

            • Patrick says:

              Barnes was a foreman with the Schwann Bike company in Chicago. If Barnes was in fact questioned by the FBI, and was given a polygraph 3 times as his daughter has stated, then he surely had some connection to the Davis family. The question remains, what was the connection? Something lead them to question him in Chicago. The one thing that completely puzzles me right now is that Jody Ewing has not entered this conversation. This is her Web Site, and she has spent many hours pursuing answers. I personally don’t think Jody believes it was Barnes who did the crime, although she believes she knows who did. My only question for Jody Ewing right now would be to ask if she has interviewed Barne’s daughter.

              • Tenley says:

                Ok, you have obviously done significant research on this case. I too am wondering why Jody isn’t involved anymore. I think it’s Barnes. I read his obituary too. It’s the only information I could find on him. Granted, I only think it’s him based on his daughter’s comment and his link to Sioux City.

                I think he can be a Peeping Tom AND a pedophile. Maybe he saw the child out with the family and followed them home, then waited to find out where Donna Sue slept? He doesn’t have to have a prior link to the family.

                Of course it could be someone else. I too would like to have a conversation with the daughter.

                • Patrick says:

                  Tenley ….. I hope you continue your interest in this case, and continue to pursue answers. I don’t want to speak for Jody, but I believe her involvement waned once she figured she had it solved. I will continue to investigate until I have an answer that I am comfortable with. Might be next week, next year, or maybe never. In my mind, the case is still unsolved, so I’ll keep digging. Best of luck to you!🍀

                  • Jody Ewing says:

                    Patrick, I really enjoyed speaking with you today on the phone! After our conversation, I’m sure you’ll agree that my interest in the Donna Sue Davis case has never waned. Quite the opposite, in fact. :-)

                    And I apologize for not actively participating in this conversation over the past several days; things are moving quickly on some other cases and I’ve needed to stay focused.

              • AC says:

                Barnes was a close relative and was a very sick man. His obit leaves out a long history of him.

                • Tenley says:

                  AC, please continue with your comment that Barnes was a very sick man. I’m very interested in learning more. Thank you.

                  • Aac says:

                    I am his granddaughter.

                  • aac says:

                    I’d be happy to connect off this forum. I lived with him until his death. I would do anything to help solve this if it was Charles. Also keep in mind, there have been three generations of Charles Barnes that have passed. My grandfather died in 1994.

                  • aac says:

                    Apologies, four generations. I forget one that passed before my birth.

                    • Tenley says:

                      AAC, thanks for replying. So what are your thoughts on him perpetrating this crime? The rest of your family? What did/do they think?

                    • aac says:

                      Pat is the only one who will speak up on any of the abuse he caused. I think there is great potential he did this. My understanding is he was connected to the house. Idk if he owned it with Jerry or exactly how the two had access. If I remember correctly he lived at this time on the other side of town in Morningside. So there is no connection between him living on w. 6th st. That did not happen until they purchased it in the 80s. No one in the family wants to lay a finger on being involved in something like this. I’m sure there is no surviving DNA after all these years but I wish there was.

                    • aac says:

                      I never understood why Charles moved the family so much. Again, I don’t know a ton of history, but I know they bounced around in Sioux City, Chicago, and California all the time. It never made sense. He took in all of the kids from his wife’s sister as fosters. There were too many children to logically uproot them all of the time. Pat is your best lead, she may get worked up, but she’s the only one with guts to say anything of the atrocities of this family. I don’t think Charles would have done anything alone, I think Jerry would have been involved too, but that is just my opinion.

                    • Tenley says:

                      aac, Sorry that I’m just now seeing your reply. Ok…so Barnes is your Grandfather. Wow that’s interesting. Yes, it’s my belief that he did it.

                      I would like to get my hands on the police files. Thanks so much for always being so responsive here.

  11. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    in regards to the last comment on this case. It could be a number of reasons why they have not done anything. We talk about forensics, however how we preserve evidence compared to the early 1950’s, could be a factor. Is there any useable material for DNA testing, maybe not.

    We have the statement from Mr. Barnes daughter, which too me sounds very good, and makes think he most likely did it. However, investigators need to check and see if they can match what she said with the known details. This means checking records to verify that he was from Sioux City. So is their records to back up her claims. Is their DMV records to show that the vehicle he was supposedly registered to a family member. I don’t what the requirements are in regards to records in Ioea. Is there property records that show him buying the building.

    So all this has to be put together and then presented to a prosecutor. He or she has to review them and decide yes this meet the standards that they would require to prosecute the case in court if the kidnapping took place recently and not over 60 some years ago.

    In regards to records, the federal government has records that are stored in the National Archives. They have regional document centers.

    • Patrick says:

      I have verified through Sioux City directories from the early ‘60’s that Charles Barnes did in fact reside at the 715 Isabella address. This seems very suspect to me, and gives credibility to his daughters story. I have researched this horrific case for years, but have no concrete evidence. I would love to sit down and talk with his daughter. Also, I have reached out to Jody Ewing several times via email, but have yet to received a reply. I still believe someone out there knows for certain who did this.

      • Patrick Kerrigan says:

        Patrick, I would to hear her story also. The problem is that law enforcement and definitely a prosecutor should be doing the interview. However, it appears that a number of law enforcement agencies don’t to spend the time or money to deal a case this old. Some of them may have replaced or lost the original case file, and may not even have the evidence.

        In Chicago, there is the case of the Grimes sisters who disappeared after leaving a Southside movie theater in the 1950,’s. A number if years ago, a retired investigator held a talk in a park near where they lived. A woman came forward that was with them the night they disappeared. She never said anything to anyone about it. Her mother would have killed her. So he referred her to Chicago Police Cold Case detectives. We heard nothing since.

        However, we had a wealthy older woman, connected to the Brach Candy company. She disappeared after visiting the Mayo Clinic. A number of years later an informant for an ATF agent called him and gave him a tip that lead to an arrest in the disappearance and murder of three boys The Peterson and Schuesller. That led to an arrest and conviction over 40 years later.

        In McLennan County, Texas, they established a Cold Caae Unit, they recently announced that a deceased man, was responsible fir6the kidnapping and murder of a teenager walking home from a party. The victim’s mother came up with motto “Answering the Unanswered Questions”. Some agencies have used the new forensic tools and investigative resources to finally close they cold cases.

        Here in Chicago they have not spent the resources to determine who killed a number of women of color, who were found deceased. Most of the victims appear to have been working the street to support a drug habit. They were waiting on DNA to identify a suspect. But, there are other things they could be doing.

        The FBI has a program called VICAP. It’s a computerized program to analyze unsolved violent crimes. However, its optional to agencies to enter their cases. It will look at certain information and see that an unsolved violent crime committed in Las Vegas, might be connected to a similar violent crime in Miami, Florida. However, I have heard it’s a very hard program to use especially entering data.

        In Canada, the RCMP has a similar program. However, every law enforcement agency is required to enter their cases. So, there is a lot of issues in solving some of these cold cases. Many of them financial and others are political. We have the example of media reporting on missing people, especially for white people, but less attention to persons of color. I don’t understand that at all. Yet, the major media will rant about racism, and ignore this serious issue of their racism, and alerting their viewers.

      • Jody Ewing says:


        You stated in your message above that you had “researched this horrific case for years,” and alleged you’d “reached out to [me] several times via email” but had yet to receive a reply. I don’t know where you sent these alleged emails about Donna Sue Davis, but I can say with 100% certainty you did not send them to me.

        I have kept every single email I’ve sent or received concerning any Iowa cold case since 2004, and, aside from the recent comments you’ve publicly made here on Donna Sue’s case summary page (and one public comment left on this page on Feb. 25, 2015), you have never contacted me personally about her case. Your last email to me was dated Jan. 13, 2020, and concerned the death of a young woman found murdered in Downers Grove, Illinois, in the 1970s. Prior to that, you’d sent an email Jan. 6, 2020, re the death of the man who raped and strangled 11-year-old Julie Fuller in Fort Worth, TX. No references were made to Donna Sue in either of those emails.

        If you have copies of the emails you say you sent to me (I’m assuming you save yours, too), I would ask that you please resend to me because, for whatever reason, I did not receive them.

        As far as you having researched this case for years, may I ask: Have you spoken with Capt. Lisa Claeys at the Sioux City Police Dept.? Or the chief of police, Rex Mueller? Have you spoken with former police chief Joe Frisbie? Any of the other past/present investigators with the SCPD’s investigative division? Anyone who has done so would know why they can’t just release the name of the (now deceased) primary suspect (nor can I). It would be entirely different if they were able to clear/close the case by exceptional means. Were that to happen, the SCPD would then be able to publicly identify the perpetrator.

        I’m aware of your experience working as a detective for the Veteran’s Administration where you investigated incidents of patients’ missing personal property or government property (and sometimes when a patient would leave the facility and be reported as missing), and you’ve also told readers multiple times (through comments on other victims’ pages) that you served with the Coast Guard Reserve during Desert Shield/Storm in the Persian Gulf and on a US Navy attack submarine during the Cold War and Vietnam era, and for that, I sincerely thank you for your service. I also think you would have made a helluva good homicide detective had you chosen that route.

        There will always be more questions than answers in any murder case (solved or unsolved), but right now, I’m hoping you can find those emails you said you sent and forward them to me with the header info intact that would verify the times and dates sent. You do have my correct email address b/c I did receive those two from January (on the out-of-state cases) and had responded Jan. 12. All best, Jody @ ICC

        • Patrick says:

          Hi Jody …. There is no intent on my part to get off on the wrong foot here. I think you have me confused with someone else for some of the post. The only emails I have ever sent to you were concerning the Davis case. There were no others. Perhaps you have me mixed up with Mr. Kerrigan, whose first name is also Patrick. I did not serve in the Coast Guard, but rather the Marine Corps back in the early ‘70’s. I did send 2 or 3 emails regarding the Davis case, and if I can find them I will resend. If I remember correctly, I was only asking if I could sit down with you some time to discuss the case. I tried recently to get in touch with Lisa, but she is out on an extended leave. She was the only officer I wanted to speak with as I knew she had followed the case so closely. I apologize if there was a misunderstanding, and I would look forward to meeting you if you would choose to do so. I live in Dakota Dunes, SD, so not that far away from you. I realize at the present time, no one really wants to meet anyone due to the virus. I for one really appreciate what you do, as well as your website. My most sincere regards …. Patrick Enright

          • Jody Ewing says:

            Yes, I did indeed mix up the comments between you and the other Patrick. The career and military background I provided was for Patrick Kerrigan. At any rate, there are no hard feelings whatsoever and I fully support and encourage the ongoing conversation here! Many thanks to all of you!

        • Patrick Kerrigan says:

          I have not sent a bunch of emails on this case. I have been commenting on what the other Patrick and others have made in regards to this case. My comments are more in line if suggesting possible reasons why they may not be able to act on the information provided by Mr. Barnes daughter.

          I would be interested in the time frame that Mr. Barnes and family lived in Chicago. Also, where they lived. We had a couple of cases of young boys, the Peterson and Schuesler that were found murdered in a Cook County Forest Preserve. Over 40 years later an arrest was made, and the alleged offender was convicted. However, we also the Grimes sisters from December 28, 1956, who disappeared after seeing a Elvis movie. They were found dead, in a ditch along a road in suburban DuPage County.

          I would think that investigators would love to be able to close this case. However, can they independently verify the information provided by Mr. Barnes daughter. This is important, when they decide to provide it to a prosecutor. Are their any DMV records stored somewhere that would show that his brother had a car, that matches the vehicle described.

          Also for the other Patrick. I also served in the U.S. Navy, Navy Reserve, Army Reserve, prior to the Coast Guard Reserve. I want thank him for his service in the U.S.M.C.

          • Patrick says:

            I think it’s all good now Patrick. Jody just got confused seeing 2 Patrick’s posting, and thinking it was one, and we both got lumped together. No big deal. Thank you for your service as well.👍

            • Patrick Kerrigan says:

              That’s the problem, we look alike and use the 1st name. Also, some commentors sort of seem to think that it is Jody’s job is to take some of are comments, assumptions on these cases and go to the investigative agency and pass along what we think is the bad guy or gal.

              One of the things about Mr. Barnes, that threw me for a loop, was a genealogy website indicated that he had two brothers, both now deceased. Well, I found an obituary for his mother in the Sioux City newspaper. It mentions she was survived by five sons and one daughter. The two known brothers Jerry and Darrell Barnes, were born in 1941 and 1943 respectively making them too young to have been in the Navy, when Donna was abducted and murdered.

              What, I would like to know is where he lived in Chicago. However, he was back in Sioux City, by the time his mother died in February 1983. I was looking at a couple of other unsolved disappearances and murders in Chicago, in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I found that the Schwinn Factory was located on the 1700 block of North Kildare. This is on the near northwest side of the city. Also, when did they move to Chicago.

              The other question is what supposedly led to him to start molesting children. I don’t know if it is learned behavior.

              • Patrick says:

                I’m not a psychiatrist, but as far as everything I’ve read over time, pedophiles just are what they are. Some of the other questions regarding Barnes could most likely be answered by his daughter. You should be able to access Chicago directories through the Chicago library system. I believe the family moved back to Sioux City around 1962.

                • Patrick Kerrigan says:

                  Patrick, the libraries are closed down. I am used to digging through various databases in my south suburban community. They have some interesting databases to play with. My only problem is they got rid of some I used. But, they had no way to track if they were being used, or advertising that they had these various databases. I stumbled upon a link to a Chicago Genealogy Group, from there was a link to various stories on the Chicago Mob, during Capone’s time. One article was about a coroner’s panel investigating the Valentines Day Massacre. It went to show that a couple of wealthy businessmen spent money to bring in a Dr. Goddard, to review the crime scene. He determined that two Thompson machines guns, one with a straight 20 round magazine and a 50 round drum magazine were used. This Dr. Goddard is sort of considered the Father of Ballistics. He established a crime lab and conducted training in Chicago. One of his attendees came from the FBI and he pushed J Edgar Hoover to establish their crime lab.

                  • Dakota Kenney says:

                    Hello, I am not sure if any of you still frequent this website, but I have recently been researching this case using the information from this forum/website. After scouring old newspapers, directories, etc. I do have a handful of people, but nowhere near enough information. Concerning Mr. Barnes: He indeed did live at the residence in the early 60’s. He was not however, the owner. I went through the old deed records of the property, and the Davis family purchased the duplex in 1951. After the 1955 incident, newspapers show the were attempting to sell immediately, but were not able to close until 1961, which it was then sold to Mr. Davenport (real estate mogul from the area) who I am assuming rented to Mr. Barnes. So, immediately after the Davis family sold the property, Mr. Barnes moves in. There is an add attempting to sell a Pontiac 2 door Sedan, with this address listed as the location, during the time he was living there. There is more I have but I want to see who is still out there researching.

                    • Tenley says:

                      I am still reading here! If you are still around, please comment your information, I am interested!

                    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

                      The evidence so far is circumstantial. However, we would need more physical evidence. Prosecutors today have to deal with the CSI affect. So jurors would be looking for DNA, and fingerprints, etc, at least.

                      I think that he moved into the residence where the victim lived kind of shows an extreme example of returning to the scene of the crime. Plus if there are DMV records showing that his brother had a car that matched the description of the vehicle used, and if the license plates matched.

                      Plus the family is from the area. I don’t know if any photographs were taken of the remains and where she was found were taken. I would like to have the material reviewed by criminal profiles to give investigators a profile of the offender.

                      The other thing that bothers me in regards to cold cases, is that we victims that have an undetermined cause of death. These cases should be reviewed by well respected pathologists who determine a cause of death from the original autopsy or recommend that the remains be exhumed for a physical examination by pathologist and a forensic anthropologist.

        • Tenley says:

          Jody, Could you please state the reason the name cannot be
          released? The wording is a bit off, I understand you will not
          release a name, but perhaps tell us why? Thank you.

  12. Tenley says:

    Ok, so a commenter tells us a suspect, then that suspects daughter comments that yes, she believes her father Charles K. Barnes did indeed do this horrific crime. My question is why hasn’t Jody come back to verify or deny? She knows who it is. The police know who it is, or have a very strong case. Reading the daughters comment, I believe her.

  13. Linda Rivers says:

    Who do you need to talk to in order to have someone else checked for committing this crime? My sister told me about this case this evening and she told me who she thought might have done it and I agree it is a possibility.

  14. Pat McGoff says:

    I lived in Sioux City at the time and was only 7. I remember everyone talking about this as it happened just a short time after a kid in our neighborhood was kidnapped and killed as well. His name was Jimmy Bremmer and he and his sisters went to our grade school. It was a rough time back then and kids were scared. Our parents actually started locking the screen doors at night which never happened before all this. The garage they mention in the article was my grandfather’s.

  15. Lisa says:

    So if Wilson didn’t commit the crime and it wasn’t Ed Edward’s. Who then did kill this baby so brutally? If he has passed away years ago… it should be ok and up for discussion. And I’d also like to know, … is why is this other person a suspect?

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      Lisa, you ask good questions. The problem is taking the known facts and connecting them to someone.

      In this case it appears this was a planned event. Not, something that was random in a sense, because the offender seemed to know where she was.

      This was a time when law enforcement, was not up on serial killers, people into molesting little kids, crime patterns, sharing information across jurisdictions, etc. They did not have the ability to run license plates through NCIC, or state motor vehicle records. We still don’t know if they traced the plates on that one vehicle.

      So, all we have is suspicions of who might have done the dirty deed. We have no proven facts that a prosecutor could use to seek an indictment.

      We need some facts that be proven. There might be a clue on the reports on this case, that was never followed up on. On review of many cold case investigators have come across someone who was mentioned and never interviewed or a piece of evidence that was never tested.

      There is a law enforcement agency that is looking at Ted Bundy in connection to a murder of a young girl. He was supposedly in the area when she was murdered.

      But, don’t stop asking questions, because it might jog someone to look at something they remember from that time period. Who knows they provide a clue to a culprit.

      • Suzan Atkinson-Haverty says:

        This was definitely someone from that area who knew the house and the family and that they had this very young female baby and that she was located in that particular room. This was not random! These demons, hide among us! They are called sociopaths! They do not have a conscience and what he did, does not bother him at all! He does not think or feel like normal people do. That is why he is a sociopath. And there are degrees of sociopaths….and I would say this guy is the worse on the meter because of the horrid description of what he did to this baby girl Donna. This guy if he had been caught, deserved the death penalty for what he did! It is so unjust that this animal was never caught for this rape, and torture murder of this baby girl it make people literally go crazy in their minds to think about it! I can see why that policeman felt so responsible and was losing it in the end of his life about this case! Very sad all the way around!

  16. Lisa says:

    So if that man admitted to what he had done to little Donna Sue … why was he not charged with her murder? Were all of the details released to the public? And even , if it was, within his confession I am sure there was something he claimed in his detailed confession that would’ve been enough to prosecute is sorry ass! That poor baby, so innocent ,sleep in her bed and taken by a pathetic monster and brutally killed. To know she never received justice is heartbreaking! May her small soul RIHP …

  17. Tia says:

    If they knew who did it and he’s dead now, then why can’t you tell us who this person was Iowa Cold Cases?

  18. MIke says:

    I was born in Sioux City and lived the horror of the Davis and Bremers murders. I was attending Irving School at the time. We lived 3-4 blocks from Irving. My father had the most direct route from school to home figured out , and if I deviated from the route, he was out looking for me. Things were never the same after these two events.

  19. Dennis Neil says:

    Sad, very sad, that this vicious killer was never apprehended, tried and executed for this senseless, barbaric murder of such a beautiful, young, innocent child! It appears to me, someone who would commit such a horrific crime would be likely to do so again, i.e., as if this has not already been the case previously? Could be, that this person is a “pedophile serial killer” and very possibly a psychopath, or sociopath, who could continue on this course until captured at some future date. Even so, he will pay for his crime(s) in the next world but, in the interim, the emotional toll and grief invoked on his victims and others is beyond human measure. So far in my life I have had 13 people that I personally knew, most pretty pretty well, at one time or another (though in various capacities) that were murdered. In one scenario, I almost became a victim, myself, but had the good sense to hit the ground when several shots were rapidly fired at me for no apparent reason. I quickly learned what they sounded like zinging through though the tall grass as I stood holding my Hunter Lantern which was turned on since it was dusk. I later surmised that they had to be firing at my light? But why? And with no regard for the human life holding it? I was only 15 years old at the time! Most of these killers of my friends and associates in my situation were arrested and brought to justice, though some have not and likely may never be…at least in this life….and at this late juncture! Thus, you may easily understand why I have such a strong belief in Capital Punishment for those committing such crimes because they need to be held accountable for their actions…!!!

    • Suzan Atkinson-Haverty says:

      Dennis, WOW! Sorry to hear what happened to you when you were young. It is amazing the things that can happen around us daily! It pays to be on your game 24/7! LOL I was raised by a U.S.Marine and he taught me well how to survive out there in this big bad world! I was his oldest daughter, and boy oh boy did he tell me the truth about boys, and how to protect myself. He got that in my head very young, so I was ready, when I could only date at age 16 back in the early 1970’s. I also agree with you on the death penalty! I wish that all of our 50 states had the death penalty and were using it daily. When I was in a Catholic grammar school in MA back in the 1960’s a little girl of 8 years of age was murdered by a 13 yrs. old boy from another school up the road. That freaked me out back then. I knew her, She was there one day, then gone the next, in a white coffin, coming down the aisle in the church because of a sexual predator. That is what made me begin to read true life crime stories when I got into my teens. This very sad case about this baby Donna, is beyond words. This animal was from that area, that town, or surrounding towns. He knew that neighborhood, he knew that family and who they had for kids. He likes female babies. This guy knew exactly where this little baby Donna was located. I believe this was not random at all. I think this killer was a sociopath and he is able to keep calm, cool, and collected always. I think after a short period of time (maybe a year or two), he may have then moved away, and he surely kept on raping and killing in another state. These sick twisted perverts cannot stop! He just moved on!

  20. Janice Baer says:

    Having lived in Sioux City since 1949, I became a neighbor or Mrs. Fjeldos in 1962. In visiting with her about Donna Sue’s abduction/murder, she told me that the intruder they saw kept his back to them, but seemed to be holding something in front of him. She mentioned that he was cleanly dressed like a “professional man”. The horrific details of Donna’s injuries have never left my memory.

  21. Just sickening they never were able to find the piece of trash that did this!!

  22. La=y Little says:

    The name that has came up in the last few years was Barnes. There was three or four brothers. According to the information was one of the Barnes brothers killed Donna Sue Davis. Maybe they could check and see if the last name showed up anywhere.

    • Patricia says:

      I’m the daighted of one of those Barnes brothers. I brought information to the sherrif back in the 80s. I gave info that my dad had told me that was not included in the newspaper articles. They were inyeresint. Dad had 3 polygraph test given to him. All 3 came out as inconclusive. He was taking alot of digferdif medications at the time for health reasons. Since there wasn’t enough proven evidence to indite him at the time he was not arrested. .he died. December of 1994. He talked about the case alot but only when he and I were alone and when I was very young. I would say until I was about 12. Yes he was a sex offender. Mostly little children and they were mostly family members one as young as 2 years old. We lived in Chicago when Donna sue davis was kidnapped and killed but dad was visiting his family in sioux City during that week. He took the grayhound bus to Sioux City but used his brother’s car to drive around in while he visited. My uncle who owned the car was stationed away in the navy at that time. The car did fit the description of the one used in the crime. What is really weidw is that back in I believe it was 1962 my parents bought the house where this all happened and we ended up living there. Also during one day when I was 4 which was in 1955 2 men came to our house said they were working for the FBI and questioned my dad. I remember they asked him if he had been in Sioux City during and around July 10th. He said no. Then they asked my mom and her sister who were in the same room if he had been in Sioux City during that time. They both answered no. They also asked me what my name was how old was I and who that man was. I told them my name was Patty. I was almost 5 and that he was my daddy. There was always alot of denial and covering up about dad’s sexual deviation by my mom and dadsd families on both sides. I’m not sure if dad was the one or not for sure. I can only go with my gut feeling and instincts and of course with my childhood experiences. But why would they question him way in Chicago when the crime happened in Sioux City Iowa? Why would he talk about it so often and only to me when nobody else was around? Why in the world would he buy the house and have us live in it ? Sometimes a criminal will return to the scene of the crime. How was he able to tell me things that weren’t public knowledge or at least in the newspaper?

      • Patricia Scott says:

        Sorry about all the spelling mistakes in my previous comment. My hands are shaking. This is all very emotional for me just to think that I could be a child of such a monster.

        • Suzan Atkinson-Haverty says:

          Patricia, you need to contact the police of that town and tell them who you are, and what you believe, and you are willing to take a dna test. They then should compare those results to anything that is left on that poor baby Donna’s clothing from way back in 1955. Just do it, do what is right, do it now! I think your instincts are right on.

        • Suzan Atkinson-Haverty says:

          Patricia, you really should contact the police of that town and tell them you are willing to do a DNA Test to either rule in or out the Barnes name. Just do it now, do the right thing!

      • Linda Rivers says:

        You may want to see if you can provide a DNA sample and see if they can run the DNA of the girls clothes and get a match.

  23. So sad. Poor baby girl.

  24. Natasha says:

    Brought her a Lilly today, breaks my heart this story…

  25. Judith Pierce says:

    there has got to be some dna evidence which at the time this dna testing was not availble but now is availble has this been currently teasted and matched up with national databases> even tho the killer is probably dead it would maybe show up the killer. Judith Pierce

  26. Annika Smyslov says:

    Today's DNA should sort this out quickfast. Although the killer is probably dead by now. Or maybe he migrated to Rochester, NY and did their 3.

  27. Joel Nordstrom says:

    Poor little girl! People can be so evil!!

  28. Randy Leedom says:

    Does anyone know where Tim Davis is I went to school with him at St. boniface and Heelan hope he will come to the reunion in September 2016

  29. Kelly Coyne says:

    Rest in peace Donna Sue Davis

  30. Who did they think it was #IowaColdCases

  31. Debby Edwards says:

    One of the saddest stories I've ever read.

  32. Kathy Berry says:

    It would be odd that no one had seen this man whether stranger or not, or a friend or family member visiting in the neighborhood because the guy knew exactly who his victim was and where to find her. Someone knows who it is. Maybe their conscience will bring them forward with this article.

  33. Joni Jones Wilde says:

    So sad. I had not heard this story before.

  34. The care people have for one another. Also this case helped shed light on mental health issues and the need of dealing with sex offenders.

  35. I am amazed at this. Look at all the neighbors and strangers who promptly reported anything they saw or heard that seemed suspicious. While in this case Donna Sue didn’t survive and her killer has not been caught, it still put investigators on the right track and helped this baby to be found sooner rather then later. We are a communities eyes and ears and can help solve cases. Also the generosity of others for putting up rewards for tips shows th

  36. Very heartbreaking.

  37. Somebody commented on another page she spoke to the sister and she said they know who did it but can’t prove it.

  38. Randy Leedom says:

    I went to school with Tim Davis I lived right across the street from Saint Boniface

  39. the whole story is like watching a terrible movie, only real, God bless her soul! and those who lived through it.

  40. Sandi Uhl O'Brien says:

    There was also a book written about this case by Miller called "Sex-Crime Panic: A Journey to the Paranoid Heart of the 1950s"

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Sandi, the book written by Neil Miller was actually the horrific story of 20 Siouxland homosexuals who were sentenced to mental institutions following the Aug. 31, 1954 murder of 11-year-old Jimmy Bremmers of Sioux City, and then the subsequent kidnapping/slaying of 21-month-old Donna Sue Davis on July 10, 1955, even though none of these men had anything to do with either homicide. Neil’s book focuses more specifically on Jimmy Bremmers’ case, though Donna Sue Davis is referenced insofar as when the “sex-crime panic” really began.

      In what I consider an ironic twist of fate, I worked as a feature writer at the (Sioux City-based) “Weekender” at the time Neil’s book came out, and I interviewed him as part of our “Author Interview” series. The story ran on March 21, 2002, back when I’d never even thought about writing about Iowa’s unsolved murders. (The Weekender’s articles from back then are no longer archived on the Weekender’s website, but I’d saved a copy and it’s available on my personal website.)

      In his book (and at college readings), Neil spoke about the Sexual Psychopath Law of 1955 (which lumped homosexuals together with pedophiles), and its relevance to today. The law wasn’t repealed until 1977. It is indeed a good read about Sioux City history and how gays were viewed/treated back in the ’50s.

      Ernest Triplett, an itinerant music salesman for Flood Music in Sioux City, was questioned by police in September 1954, and on Oct. 5, 1954, appeared before the Woodbury County Insanity Commission with no legal representation. The next day, doctors injected Triplett with 80 mg of the amphetamine Desoxyn and three grains of the barbiturate Seconal, even though Triplett hadn’t eaten since the previous day. By days end, Triplett confessed to killing Jimmy Bremmers, and was formally charged March 3, 1955. Seventeen years after Triplett’s life sentence, U of Iowa law professor Robert Bartels challenged Triplett’s conviction. On Oct. 17, 1972, Triplett’s conviction was overturned in Jimmy Bremmers’ murder and Triplett was released from prison the following day.

  41. My daughter is close to that age. I can’t even imagine.

  42. What a horrible story. Our world is filled with monsters who look human. Did the Nebraska authorities ever run the license plates ?

  43. This is such a sad and horrible case. Rip little darling.

  44. I brought her roses today, such a truly heartbreaking story…

  45. Natasha says:

    Yesterday I took her two roses, and one for her parents as well. I cried for her. My heart feels so much pain for this whole family for a little baby to have to go out that way feel those feelings and to be a mother to lose a child that way I just can not imagine. I think of her a lot and I just wish and pray she will get justice.

  46. christine says:

    @CRC …I was wishing the same thing…I would like to see Cold Justice review the case. I read somewhere else that the cold case investigators actually were able to get DNA which, if true, is amazing for such an old case & considering how evidence was handled that long ago…an even better reason to get Cold Justice to look at everything. Whoever did this is up there in years but I’d still want to see him caught.

  47. LeechZombie says:

    edwards did it out of revenge

  48. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I wonder if there are any similar incidents anywhere else in the country. Also did the offender know that this baby was there. Also what information if any was gained from the license plate

  49. Tim says:

    I think DNA should be documented at birth of every new born and that EVERY adult should be required BY LAW to submit DNA starting ASAP.. yes people will fight it and say it’s a violation of their privacy and other rights BUT…

    if your innocent…

    1. it is in the best interest of the public.. and for the Rights, Welfare and Protection
    of the innocent public..

    2. Identification of Suspects and Unidentified Victims as well would be automatic..
    no more waiting and hoping for a possible match..

    3. A Deterrent..

    I am a Death Penalty Advocate but I believe that Mandatory DNA Testing Truly
    Would be a Deterrent to Future Criminals Knowing that their DNA is a matter of
    Record and the smallest Touch DNA or Hair or minute Blood or Skin Cell would
    lead to their Arrest.. people would think differently knowing their DNA is on file..

    4. Only the guilty will mind providing Mandatory DNA New Born or Not..

    5. Decent Law Abiding Citizens should have no problem providing DNA

    (providing they are Innocent, Caring and a Non-Treat to todays Society)

    6. It would save lives!! even if just one life it would be worth it..

    7. and then there’s the A.C.L.U..

    Babies are born everyday, why not simply record their DNA and enter into a data base ?

    it would also clear up the baby mix ups in the Hospital for people taking home the wrong baby.. there’s a million good reasons to make DNA mandatory and not a single bad one.

    Also for New Immigrants.. and anyone entering our country for that matter.. all’s it would take is a simple poke.

    Young Kids growing up with the knowledge knowing their DNA is Recorded AND on Record would have a different mind set..

    except for the suicidal.. and in their case they execute justice on themselves.

    • LuluBelle says:

      DNA is taken from every child born in the US since 1966.
      It’s called the PKU/Guthrie card.
      A few drops of blood is taken to screen against a disease, then cards are filed away for X amount of years.
      They are eventually destroyed in some states, kept in others.

      What’s needed is for what’s contained in this record to be kept indefinitely on file.

      • Andrea says:

        The cards are used as a new born screening tool. They were not viewed as dna samples back in the 1950’s. After several federal court cases, it’s illegal for the long term storage without consent. There’s a lot of issues regarding logistics, ethics, fiduciary, legal and questions informed consent that surround the cards.

        While it’s absolutely correct the cards have been used and blood samples taken, they were not taken for the purpose of dna sampling and certainly not for the purpose I believe he’s referring to. I don’t want to give the impression that there’s years of infants dna that can be accessed for the purpose of dna comparison.

  50. Tim says:

    Mr. Laif Fjeldos, who tells them he has “a suspicious man cornered” and needs assistance. Before police can arrive, the man flees north through the alley and Fjeldos gives chase. Fjeldos chases the man across W. 14th Street and into the next alley, which leads north toward W. 15th. The man — described as about 31 years old with a slight build and wearing a white T-shirt and khaki trousers,,,

    Sioux City resident Sid Goldberg drives through the nearby town of Elk Point, South Dakota, and near a motel sees a man in a white T-shirt and khaki trousers standing on the road beside a black Chevrolet 2-door sedan with Nebraska license plates. The man in the T-shirt and khakis holds a baby in his arms, but Goldberg — unaware of what has transpired back in Sioux City — thinks nothing of it…

    Goldberg says he remembers the license plate number… Police follow up on the license plate number in hopes of discovering the owner and getting a lead, but nothing pans out.


    The Nebraska Motor Vehicle Bureau won’t be open until the following morning.

    What happened after the Nebraska Motor Vehicle Bureau opened ?

    What about the Plate number ?

    • Detective Moreau says:

      And how can you reach Elk Point from Sioux City in 25 minutes in 1955? My primarly thoughts about this story focuse on an sick, pedant petty thief who sought the opportunity to steal something but instead stole the baby girl because he was also a sexual deviant.

    • Bree says:

      I’m glad someone is paying attention, my question as well

    • Alua says:

      Thank you! That was never mentioned again and definitely required follow up!

  51. Mary Wendt says:

    I was born and raised in Sioux City. I was 12 when this happened about 4 blocks from where we lived. So SAD. I still often think about what her poor mother and the rest of the family went through–and the ones still alive are probably still going through. The perpetrator was probably caught in a similar crime, but even if he was never caught, God’s wrath will finally consume him.

  52. Beth Cameron says:

    Well Iowa Cold Cases I think you are wrong about a couple of things. Edward Wayne Edwards did commit this crime, Jon Benet’s murder, the Zodiac, the Atlanta child killings and so many more. You are correct that Donna Sue’s killer passed away – Edward Wayne Edwards died in prison on April 7, 2011. You can’t deny the facts as they all fall into place – there is so much more information out there and so many more crimes to be solved and imprisoned innocent people that need justice. The truth will come out.

  53. Beth Cameron, Edward Wayne Edwards was *not* the one who killed little Donna Sue Davis. The reason Edwards is called the “serial killer you never heard of” is because he was so obsessed with being in the media spotlight he confessed to a number of unsolved crimes, including that of Jon Benet Ramsey. People make false confessions for a number of reasons, and can a serial killer be considered a trustworthy source of information? Sioux City police know who killed Donna Sue but the DNA had degraded over the years (before today’s forensics allowed for microscopic replication), and Donna Sue’s killer passed away just a few years ago.

  54. Will Keleher says:

    If you want to read a good book about this case and the kidnapping of Jimmy Bremmers from Sioux city who was kidnapped and murdered in the same time frame the book is called “SEX CRIME PANIC Sioux City”

  55. Kris Starks says:

    What is the name of the book re this cold case? I would be interested in reading it Thank you.

  56. Beth Cameron says:

    This horrid crime was committed by Edward Wayne Edwards. Read the book “It’s me Edward Wayne Edwards The serial killer you never heard of ” available at

  57. Mandie El says:

    Its sad book but a good read. I still think the lil boy n her have the same killer. Bk then we had a lot of cattle sales n trucks coming in n out of here. I do believe that someone driving these trucks had something to do with it.

  58. My grandmas best friends little brother was found decapitated before this and they went on a witch hunt its in that book Mandie El mentioned. Crazy nobody was ever brought to justice for these crimes :(

  59. This one has always made me the most upset, that some animal could do this and not be punished. Rest in peace sweet girl.

  60. What f***ing a**hole could do this to such an innocent child?

  61. Mandie El says:

    Its called sex, crime, panic. Its very sad but will make you question how someone got away with this for so long. My this innocent baby rest in Peace

  62. Mandie El says:

    You should read the book about it

  63. This one always makes me cry. Rest in Peace little one <3

  64. I’m so sorry. My prayers and thoughts with the family and friends.

  65. CRC says:

    Wish that ‘Cold Justice” would review this case.

  66. This is one of the saddest stories I have read.

  67. tammy smith says:

    i just read this i feel so sad, and yet so angry, the man got away with killing this precious gift from GOD. GODS rath on this man will be unspeakable. RIP

  68. Theresa says:

    I am surprised the fingerprints from the trunk haven’t been run through CODIS, as I would believe that a comparison has already been done with Virgil Wilson.

  69. patty collums says:

    that beautiful baby girl, why would a creep like l virgil vance wilson do such a horrible crime. she was just a baby, couldnt defend for herself.i know her parents must to had nightmaires. it must to had about killled them. her snall brother timothy, and her oldest sister mary claire. beautiful names. iam soo sorry, even tho i was born in 1955, baby donna sue would had been a mother, grandmother, but her small life was snuffed out by some sexulal creep. she would had been arounr 54. thanks, god bless, and soo many sorries. patty

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Patty, back on December 20, 1955 (see timeline), Sioux City Police Chief James O’Keefe announced that Virgil Vance Wilson had been eliminated as a suspect in Donna Sue’s murder. For any number of reasons, people will sometimes confess to a crime they didn’t commit. Wilson had been in Des Moines that night and couldn’t have made it to Sioux City to kidnap Donna Sue in the time frame she went missing. I, too, often wonder what her life might be like today had this never happened. All best, Jody

      • triciaann hellums says:

        thank god, virgil vance Wilson was eliminated. she was such a beautiful child, her parents had nightmares, until the day thay died.

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