The Washta Access is shown (Courtesy Iowa DNR)

The Washta Access in northwest Ida County (Courtesy Iowa DNR)

Dung Kim Truong

Homicide

Dung Kim Truong
37 YOA female
Case # 97-12883
Residence: Omaha, Neb.
Last Seen Alive: September 22, 1997, leaving Ameristar Riverboat Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa
Body Found: November 27, 1997, at Washta Access in Washta, Iowa in
Ida County
Estimated Date of Death: September 22, 1997

 

Case information provided by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (with special thanks to Jack Jackson for additional details and clarifications)

 
On Monday, Sept. 22, 1997, Dung Kim Truong, a 37-year-old female Vietnamese legal alien authorized to work in the United States, left the Omaha home she shared with her boyfriend and went to the recently opened Ameristar riverboat casino across the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Shortly before 6:30 p.m. that evening (it is yet unknown how Truong got to the casino and whether she was employed by them) Truong used a phone at the casino to call her boyfriend and tell him she had a ride home. She then passed the phone to the man giving her a ride so Truong’s boyfriend could provide him with directions to the couple’s Omaha residence.

Casino security cameras captured Truong and an Asian man exiting the riverboat at approximately 6:30 p.m., but Truong never made it back to Omaha. When she failed to arrive home, she was reported to local authorities as missing.

Just over two months later on Thanksgiving Day evening, Nov. 27, 1997, a hunter discovered decomposed remains on public land near the Washta Access south of Washta, Iowa, in Ida County. Authorities believed the remains were that of a woman over age 30 and hoped to identify the victim through dental records.

Ida County in Iowa

Ida County in Iowa

The Washta Access, a 52-acre Ida County park with the Little Sioux River traversing through it, is located three miles south of Washta on Highway 31 in Ida County. Open year-round, the park features a concrete boat ramp with easy access to the Inkapaduta Canoe Trail on the river. The park also features river and stream fishing, native prairie and native timber.

By Dec. 2, 1997, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) had identified the remains as Dung Kim Truong.

Woodbury County in Iowa

Woodbury County in Iowa

Though officials did not publicly release the cause of death, newspapers across Iowa reported that an unidentified Asian male was being sought for questioning in Truong’s death. The DCI stated that the Asian male was not considered a suspect at the time but they believed he may have important information about the case.

Investigators with the DCI also believed the man sought for questioning may have been from the Sioux City, Iowa, area. Sioux City is located 94 miles north of Council Bluffs along Interstate 29 in Woodbury County.

When the Iowa DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Truong’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 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.

About Dung Kim Truong

Dung Kim Truong was born in Saigon, Vietnam, on November 14, 1959. She is believed to have immigrated to the United States in 1989.

The US Social Security Death Index lists her date of death as September 22, 1997.

Information Needed

Anyone with any information about Dung Kim Truong’s unsolved homicide is urged to call the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or send an email to dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us.

Sources:

 

2 Responses to Dung Kim Truong

  1. Jack Jackson says:

    After reading the above summary for this case, which has now been unsolved for over two decades, I was struck by the fact that no one had ever commented on it. I did some research on this woman’s case and found some things that might be of interest to individuals who stop by this page.

    To begin, I found a couple of typographical errors in the “about Dung Kim Truong” section of the summary write-up. Dung Kim Truong was actually female, and she was born in Saigon, Vietnam, as reported in the SSDI. While “California” does appear in her record in the index, as far as I can tell, that was actually her state of residence at the time she was issued a social security number. There is a note in her record stating that in 1989, her name was recorded as “Dung Kim Truong” in a social security filing of some sort which is not specified in the index. It is possible that this unspecified filing was her original social security application, and that 1989 was about the time she immigrated to the United States. If so, her port of entry in the United States would likely have also been somewhere in the state of California. However, it is equally possible that it was just some other routine filing, and that she had immigrated at some point prior to that year. At the time of her death in 1997, Truong was a classified as a legal alien with the authorization to work in the United States.

    Using information from newspaper articles published at the time her remains were discovered and then when they were subsequently identified, I was able to find some details about Truong’s case that clarify some of the details about how everything unfolded.

    The articles state that at the time Truong went missing, she had been living in Omaha, Nebraska. The wording seems to imply that, more specifically, she was living with her boyfriend there. At some point on September 22, 1997, Truong went to the recently-opened Ameristar riverboat casino, which was technically considered as having been located in Council Bluffs, Iowa as that was the location of the on-shore portion of the Ameristar property (e.g., the hotel). For those not familiar with the area, Council Bluffs is located on the other side of the Missouri River from Omaha, and is often considered a suburb of that city. Thus, to board the riverboat, she would have had to have first travelled across the bridge over the Missouri River into Council Bluffs. The articles do not provide any insight into why she had gone to the casino – whether she gambled often, whether she went because of the novelty of this new attraction, or perhaps for a completely different reason (e.g., perhaps she was employed there).

    The articles also do not clarify how she got to the casino or for how long she was there. However she got there though, she ended up accepting a ride home from an Asian male who to the best of my knowledge was never successfully identified. She called her boyfriend, who was evidently at home in Omaha at the time, from a phone at the casino, to let him know that the man was giving her a ride. Then, she passed the phone to the man so her boyfriend could provide him with driving directions to their residence (remembering of course that smart phones with GPS that tell you when and where to turn were unheard of in those days). After they got off the phone, casino security cameras captured Truong and the man exiting the riverboat at approximately 6:30 PM. After she failed to arrive at the residence that evening, Truong was reported missing, presumably by her boyfriend.

    Later that year, in the evening of Thanksgiving Day, a hunter discovered human remains on public land near Washta, Iowa, over 100 miles from the casino where Truong was last seen. At the time of the discovery, authorities stated that remains were that of a woman over the age of 30 who had been deceased for approximately four months, and that they hoped to identify her through dental records.

    By December 02, the remains were identified as that of Dung Kim Truong, and newspapers across Iowa detailed the story provided above. The cause of death was undetermined at that point, and the articles closed by stating that the unidentified Asian male that Truong was last seen with was being sought by investigators, though he was not considered a suspect in the case at the time. They expressed that he may have important information about the case. At the end of an article published by the Des Moines Register, it was reported that investigators with the Iowa DCI believed that the man may have been from the Sioux City Area. Although I have no idea for certain why they believed this, a few reasons might include that not only was Sioux City the closest major city to the area where the remains were discovered, it is also located directly north of Council Bluffs on I-29, and statistically-speaking, it has a higher non-white population than many of the surrounding communities in the area.

    Unfortunately, I was not able to locate any further information on Dung Kim Truong or her case, despite an exhaustive search of all electronic resources available to me. I was unable to locate any information regarding topics such as her cause of death, her place of burial, an obituary, her family, her boyfriend mentioned in the newspaper articles, her occupation, her personality, her interests, or her life goals. I personally think that part of the reason for the lack of any substantive information might be that she was a recent immigrant who had lived in the United States for less than 10 years at the time of her death. She was unmarried, probably had no children, spoke English as a second language, and may not have had any family in the country. It’s not clear how long she had been living in Omaha, and it is possible she knew very few people there. Sadly, if those conjectures are factual, they might partially explain why her case has gone unsolved: in the case of a woman with few ties to the community who was the victim of a crime committed by a stranger, it’s possible that there wasn’t much information to go on.

    In any case, I hope that this information helps anyone who might want to know more about Dung Kim Truong, and that someday, justice will be served on her behalf.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Jack, I wonder if this case was ever reported in the Asian community’s in the area. I wonder if there is any Vietnamese communities in the general area of where she disappeared and found murdered.

    Also, it wonder if there were any similar cases to hers anywhere in Iowa, or surrounding states. The other thing is wondering if this case was ever entered into the FBI’s VICAP system.

    The other thing, is the question is whether she worked at the casino, or just went to hang out would seem to be easy to answer. The alleged boyfriend should have been able to provide that information. I would think authorities could have released that information to the public.

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts