Elgin Strait

Elgin Hobert Strait
(Courtesy Ancestry.com)

Elgin Hobert Strait

Homicide

Elgin H. Strait
80 YOA
1302 S. Hampshire Ave.
Mason City, Iowa
Cerro Gordo County
Case # 77-00254
March 18, 1977

Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On March 18, 1977, Elgin Hobert Strait, an 80-year-old widower who lived alone, was found shot to death in the basement of his Mason City, Iowa, South Hampshire Avenue home. He’d been killed by a single gunshot wound to the back of the head.

Map of Cerro Gordo County in Iowa
Cerro Gordo County in Iowa
Mason City in Cerro Gordo County Mason City in Cerro Gordo County

A June 18, 2000 article published in the Mason City Globe-Gazette stated that, according to police records, Strait’s son, Earl Strait, discovered his father’s body several days after the death.

Strait allegedly had been carrying $1,000 in a money belt the day of his murder, but none of the money was ever found or recovered.

The Globe-Gazette said Strait’s murder was the first case where the police department, having exhausted all other investigative techniques, consulted a psychic investigator.

“We couldn’t find the murder weapon,” former Police Chief Wes Greenan is quoted as saying in the article. “The psychic told us to go east of the 19-something mile marker on the interstate until we found kids playing around a windmill. She said the murder weapon would be close to that.”

Wrote the Globe-Gazette’s Zach Jensen in the June 2000 story:

The police took the psychic’s advice and went to the 190-mile marker on Interstate 35. To the east, they found some children playing near a windmill lawn ornament, and just as the officers’ hopes were getting high, they realized that also near that windmill was the North Iowa Landfill.

While some believe Strait was killed in a botched burglary, possibilities of another motive do exist. Strait had a record dating back more than 20 years before his homicide.

According to another Globe-Gazette article dated March 3, 1963, Strait’s troubles began in 1956 after being arrested on charges of molesting several children. He pled guilty to charges of lascivious acts with a child and paid a $500 fine, but his troubles didn’t end there.

Elgin Strait murder scene Courtesy photo Mason City Globe-Gazette
The Elgin Strait murder scene at 1302 S. Hampshire Ave. in Mason City.

Iowa had just established the state’s “Criminal Sexual Psychopath Law” in April 1955 — a new law following the 1954 murder of 8-year-old Jimmy Bremmers of Sioux City that lumped together homosexuals, child molesters, and murderers — and proceedings began to commit Strait to the state’s new Mental Health Institute for the Insane and Inebriates.

Strait’s Waterloo psychiatrist maintained Strait didn’t fit the legal definition of a criminal sexual psychopath, but Strait managed to be arrested again in 1963 after a Mason City woman charged him with rape.

While Strait did spend time behind bars, an official motive for his unsolved murder has never been determined.

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Elgin Strait’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.

Elgin Hobart Strait

Elgin Strait in his younger years. (Courtesy The Globe-Gazette)

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 the resolution of 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 Elgin Strait

Elgin Hobert Strait, one of 15 siblings, was born October 15, 1896 in Adams County, Iowa, to Peter Addison Strait and Josie Mary McCord Strait.

He married Flossie J. Ridnour in Corning, Iowa on May 5, 1917.

His children included Geneva, Otho, Colleen, Ruth and Earl.

Elgin Strait headstone

Elgin Strait is buried at Elmwood Cemetery in Mason City.
(Courtesy alexwiltsie, billiongraves.com)

Elgin Strait was laid to rest at Elmwood Cemetery in Mason City.

* Conflicting reports have been provided regarding Elgin Strait’s date of death. The Iowa DCI’s (former) Cold Case Unit listed Strait’s date of death as March 18, 1977. Other reports state that Strait’s son discovered his father’s body on March 17, 1977.

Information Needed

If you have any information regarding Elgin Strait’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us, or contact the Mason City Police Department at 641-421-3636.

Sources:

 

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8 Responses to Elgin Strait

  1. Mark Alcorn says:

    Was Lillian Eileen Demaris who disappeared in 1952 related to Ruth Strait DeMaris the daughter of Elgin Hobart Strait an obvious sex offender? Could his murder and Lilllian Eileen Demaris’ disappearance related?

  2. S.K. says:

    I found this article while searching for family tree info – very interesting yet disturbing. (Cyrus Strait was a relative of mine)

  3. S.K. says:

    I don’t know of a connection but haven’t researched back in their family. I just saw this post about her parents when running a quick search. http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?t=116912 I guess Lillian’s husband could have been related to Ruth’s husband in some way, especially since they are all from the same general vicinity. Sorry I couldn’t help!

  4. Why does this happen so often in our state?

  5. Sarah Stuelke, unfortunately, I think it happens in a lot of states. Homes get broken into and people are killed all the time for less than $50.

  6. Kris Starks says:

    It appears from this photo that he or someone else may have slept in the basement? Not that unusual, as it was probably cooler down there. If that is where his body was found, I’m guessing someone may have known that is where he slept? Also sounds like he was a sexual predator and quite possibly someone took care of him…jmho.

  7. interested says:

    Why does it say his body was found by his son Earl but there is no Earl listed as being one of the 4 children.

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