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In the early morning hours on Friday, October 18, 1974, Douglas A. Nielsen was shot and killed during a house party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Earl Garrison in Humboldt, Iowa. Nielsen, 17, was shot in the kidney area of the lower back with a .22-caliber firearm.
Nielsen’s body was found at approximately 1 a.m. in the Garrison’s basement game room, where investigators said they also seized several other weapons.
The Garrisons were vacationing in Wyoming at the time, and the party — attended by some 30 high school and post-high school youths from the Humboldt area — was hosted by the Garrison’s son, Larry Eugene Garrison, 22. Larry Garrison, married and the father of two children, lived in rural Livermore. His father was a Humboldt auto dealer.
Humboldt County Attorney Richard A. Williams said authorities had interviewed about 30 young persons who attended the party, and that state Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) investigators were trying to determine how Nielsen was shot.
BCI Deputy Director Tom Hopewell said three BCI agents and a lab crew joined county and local Humboldt officials to investigate the death, which the BCI treated early on as a possible homicide.
After a month-long investigation by Iowa BCI and city and county authorities, a grand jury was empanelled November 25, 1974, to hear evidence in the case.
In December 1974, the Humboldt County grand jury indicted Larry Eugene Garrison, 22, of rural Livermore, on an open charge of murder in connection with Nielsen’s death. Garrison was arraigned before Humboldt County District Court Judge Jack Hill and released after posting ten percent of the $20,000 bond.
On February 19, 1975, County Attorney Williams asked that the murder charge against Garrison be dismissed because of insufficient evidence and because two polygraph examinations showed Garrison “had not committed the crime and had no knowledge of what might have occurred” at his parents’ home where he’d thrown the party and where Nielsen had been killed.
Judge Newt Draheim of Clarion granted Williams’ motion and dismissed the murder charge against Garrison.
On March 10, 1975, the Humboldt County grand jury began an investigation of what it called “gross inequities” in the administration of justice in the county. County Attorney Richard Williams, 33, was one of the two officials being investigated.
In a press statement, the grand jury stated, “We are aware of the many arrests made by our sheriff’s office and our police department and applaud them,” and then went on to say, “We are appalled at the apparent easy route to dismissal of the charges in almost every case. We believe that many of the dismissals are questionable and we want to know why.”
Williams acknowledged in his own press release that one of the matters he knew the grand jury planned to investigate included “the infamous” dismissal of Larry Garrison’s case in the Douglas Nielsen murder.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Nielsen’s murder was 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.
Douglas Alan Nielsen was born in Humboldt, Iowa, on June 13, 1957, to Jennings W. and Dorothy Mae (Hansen) Nielsen, and lived in Humboldt all his life. He was a member of the senior class at Humboldt Community High School and served as class secretary. He was survived by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jennings W. Nielsen, one brother, Jon; two sisters, Mrs. Larry (Mary Jane) Tinken and Mrs. Tony (Kathy) Herold; and a grandfather, Arthur Hanson of Humboldt.
Funeral services were held the Monday after the murder in Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church with the Pastor Paul Otto and Pastor G. D. A. Engelhardt officiating. Burial was at Union Cemetery.
Honorary casket bearers were Tom Reimers, Larry Smith, Wally Garrison, Bruce Hundertmark, Rodney Harklau, Tim Tinken, Steve Gregory and Rocky Greene. Active casket bearers were Lance Tinken, Dennis Beebe, Dennis Smith, Dan Beebe, Larry Kirchoff and Jim Nielsen.