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On Sunday morning, October 28, 1973, Doris Elaine Konecne, 38 — the secretary for Union County Attorney Robert Rolfe — was found deceased on the kitchen floor of her Creston, Iowa, apartment. Ms. Konecne’s brother, who discovered his sister’s body, immediately contacted authorities.
The Union County Sheriff’s Department and the Creston Police Department conducted a joint jurisdictional investigation because the apartment building straddled the city and county line.
Overturned and broken furniture as well as numerous bruises around Ms. Konecne’s neck indicated she had been strangled after a struggle. Though cause of death was listed as asphyxiation, the tampering of crime scene evidence — along with an autopsy denial and refusal by local elected officials to involve the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) — would eventually lead to a case gone cold for more years than Ms. Konecne was alive.
Union County Deputy Sheriff James Hildebrand and Marion Manley, acting chief of police for the Creston Police Department, were the first to arrive and did a walk-through of the apartment before working the crime scene. With foul play clearly evident, the two began taking evidentiary crime scene photos, which included but were not limited to the following:
Shortly after photographing the full crime scene, County Attorney Robert Rolfe and Union County Sheriff Don Loy arrived on scene and said they’d conduct their own walk-through. Once the two finished and had gone, Hildebrand and Manley reentered the apartment, where they found the crime scene had been tampered with and differed from all the photos they’d just taken.
One stark discrepancy stood out in particular; the two drinking tumblers next to the kitchen sink — indicating Konecne had consumed a drink with a guest — had been moved from the countertop and placed into the kitchen sink’s dishwater.
There also were a number of other modifications.
The non-filter-tip cigarette in the bathroom toilet had vanished. Sheriff Don Loy smoked non-filter Pall Mall cigarettes.
The overturned coffee table with one broken leg had been moved and repositioned to stand in an upright position.
Hildebrand and Manley took a second set of photos to document how the crime scene had been altered.
Neither set of photos — including those showing black and blue finger marks around Elaine Konecne’s throat — would make their way into state officials’ hands or files during the brief investigation.
Hildebrand and Manley asked that an autopsy be conducted, but Sheriff Loy and County Attorney Rolfe denied the request. The sheriff and county attorney also suppressed appeals to seek investigative assistance from the BCI, now known as the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI). They wanted no one else involved — neither the state nor anyone else.
Local allegations swirled of extramarital affairs having long taken place in both the county sheriff’s and the county attorney’s office involving the men’s respective secretaries, with the deceased allegedly having been involved with both men.
The county sheriff and county attorney were quick to debunk and dismiss the declarations. Ms. Konecne, they insisted, had been drinking alone, had become intoxicated and then fallen from a kitchen chair and against the wall, thus shutting off her own airway. So unfortunate. An accident, they said.
Both the deputy sheriff and assistant police chief, however, knew better. In addition to the positioning of the victim’s body, the probability of a whiskey bottle falling from the table and not only not spilling or breaking, but landing “upright” on its base between Konecne’s twisted legs would have been virtually impossible. And although anyone could have broken the table, the victim certainly had not made the choke marks around her neck.
Perhaps most revealing is an eyewitness account to the aftermath by the sheriff’s 15-year-old daughter who, in the pre-dawn hours early Sunday morning — long before Ms. Konecne’s brother discovered his sister’s body — witnessed an explosive argument in her parents’ home (which doubled as the county jail) between her parents and her father’s secretary/mistress, Jule Sturzenegger.
The three fought over what had transpired late Saturday night after Elaine Konece placed a teasing phone call to Loy’s wife Imogene. Furious, Imogene allegedly stormed out of the house and across the street to the courthouse to let her husband know what Ms. Konecne had done. From there, Imogene made her way through the dark to Konecne’s apartment, her husband and Sturzenegger following closely behind.
Several hours had passed before Imogene returned to the Loy residence, and she immediately lay down on the sofa, pretending to be asleep. Her husband and Sturzenegger, however, had followed her back to the house and walked through the door — Don Loy wearing Sturzenegger’s dark wig — just moments after Imogene arrived.
Don Loy allegedly threatened his wife and told her to keep her mouth shut about what had transpired that night or she would regret it. Imogene, still furious and raving mad that her husband had brought his mistress home with him, wasn’t about to give in to either of them, and the three-way argument soon exploded into a physical altercation.
A shaking young teen sat on the staircase just out of sight, peeking through the bannister while the war of words and pushing and shoving continued below. As light began to seep through the windows, County Attorney Rolfe arrived and the discussion allegedly turned to how all of them should handle the whole unfortunate incident.
Immediately following Konecne’s death, the decisions made were swift and not open for debate.
No calls to the Iowa BCI to request investigative assistance into Konecne’s suspicious death were ever made.
No criminal investigation took place.
Cause of death was listed as asphyxiation; the manner of death: accidental.
Doris Elaine Konecne was buried in a turtleneck sweater to hide the choke marks on her neck.
No one was ever charged in her death.
Sheriff Don Loy and his wife Imogene later divorced and Loy married his mistress, Jule Sturzenegger.
Donald Grant Loy died of cancer Oct. 7, 1992. His daughter, now a published author, lives at an undisclosed location and writes under a pseudonym due to threats. She wrote three novels based almost entirely on growing up in the Loy household and Ms. Konecne’s murder; she and her publisher were later forced to pull all three books from the market based on further threats that included a lawsuit.
Robert Rolfe went on to become a magistrate judge in Iowa’s now-defunct Fifth Congressional District.
Imogene Loy (Ransier) remarried and now lives in eastern Iowa.
Jule Loy-Gray also remarried; she kept Loy’s name as part of her new surname.
Doris Elaine Konecne, born November 18, 1934, was buried at Graceland Cemetery in Creston, Iowa.
Detailed eyewitness reports concerning Ms. Konecne’s death were later submitted to state and federal officials, along with a request to disinter the decedent’s body so a proper criminal investigation could be conducted. No decision has yet been made.
In 2015, Iowa Cold Cases partnered with the Iowa Newspaper Association (INA) for “Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s Unsolved Murders,” a year-long weekly project that launched in July and features some of the state’s most horrific cases that still possess an opportunity to be solved. More than 200 daily and weekly Iowa newspapers are participating in this statewide project.
The papers began profiling Elaine’s case in October 2015, and as a result, two Iowa attorneys — each with his own current law practice — agreed to team up to work, pro bono, on Elaine’s unsolved homicide with hopes of seeing justice finally served.
Iowa Cold Cases extends tremendous thanks to the Iowa Newspaper Association, Iowa newspapers, the law firms and attorneys dedicating time to this case, and a number of other individuals who never gave up and have long fought for a proper investigation into this young woman’s senseless murder.
Anyone with information concerning Doris Elaine Konecne’s unsolved murder is encouraged to contact the FBI at (712) 258-1920 or contact Special Agent in Charge Mike Motsinger at the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.