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On Monday evening, August 29, 1960, Dorothy Coon was found dead in a ditch alongside a county road in Lucas County, Iowa, about 12 miles north of Chariton. Her body — clad in a dark green dress and white shoes — was discovered by a farmer mowing weeds. Her purse was found one mile away.
The gravel road was a shortcut to Coon’s parents’ farm east of Chariton, and in the vicinity of Albia, Iowa.
In a Mason City Globe Gazette article dated August 30, 1960, Lucas County Sheriff Wayne Swanson said Mrs. Coon had been dead two or three days.
Coons, a department store business office clerk and divorced mother of two teenaged children, Nancy, 19, and Dennis 17, had disappeared on Friday night, August 26.
Heavy rains over the weekend may have washed away or covered up footprints, tire tracks or other clues involving in her slaying, Swanson said in a Cedar Rapids Gazette story published August 31, 1960.
Officials conducted a careful search of weeds and bushes along a mile of roadside ditches near where Coon’s body was found, but the search failed to provide any significant clues to her murder.
Preliminary reports showed no wounds on Coon’s body, but authorities noted there were bruises on the throat area and fractured neck bones indicating she may have been strangled.
Coon and her ex-husband, Richard Coon, had divorced 10 years earlier after Richard left Dorothy Coon for a widow living across the street from the Coons. Richard Coon — the manager of a glove manufacturing company in financial straits — would not pay child support or alimony, but continued to occasionally meet up with his ex-wife in Des Moines.
Richard eventually married the widow, and he and his new wife relocated to Albia the year before Dorothy Coon’s murder.
Richard Coon was questioned in his ex-wife’s murder, but said he was home that evening with his new wife and her son. Polygraph test results were inconclusive.
The Coon’s children were living with Dorothy at the time of her murder but were asleep when she left the house late on Friday night.
“There is no question that this is a murder,” Tillman Thompson, chief of the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, said in the Aug. 31 Gazette article. Thompson declined to comment on possible motives.
Though Coon’s body was discovered in Lucas County, her name was included in a July 10, 2009 list of Des Moines unsolved homicides sent to Iowa Cold Cases by the Des Moines Police Department.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Dorothy Coon’s murder was also one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
The DCI remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.
Dorothy R. (Chamberlain) Coon was born in 1921, the daughter of Charles William and Leota Blanche Chamberlain. In addition to her parents and two children, she was survived by a brother, Billy V. Chamberlain.
She was preceded in death by a sister, Mary Eloise Chamberlain.
Dorothy Coon was buried in Gosport Cemetery in Gosport, Marion County.
Anyone with information about Dorothy Coon’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email email@example.com, or contact the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at (515) 283-4864.