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On November 11, 1966, hunter Richard Thorne found a man’s skeletal remains in a brushy area under the Rock Island Railroad viaduct across the Chariton River one and three quarters of a mile south of Chariton, Iowa, in Lucas County.
Papers and a wallet adjacent to the remains identified him as Fred Sanders, a U.S. Army veteran who served during World War II with the 745th American Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion.
A Chariton Herald-Patriot article dated Dec. 1, 1966, said papers found in a billfold indicated Sanders had been released from the Oregon penitentiary in March following a conviction for non-support.
Sanders, the article stated, was divorced and the father of six children.
On Sanders’ cemetery gravestone, family members list his date of death as October 1, 1966.
Investigators initially speculated Sanders had taken a fall while riding the rails. His only detectable injury, however, was a fractured wrist.
Though the Herald-Patriot article attributes cause of death as exposure, when the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Fred Sanders’ death 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.
Fred Sanders was born in Lawrence, Kansas, on December 10, 1922, to Clara Jane Hothan and Clyde Barton Sanders.
He married Norma Cathryn Schoonover in 1942, and the couple had six children.
He served in the United States Army during World War II as a Technician Fifth Grade with the 745th American Anti-Aircraft Artillery Gun Battalion’s Continental Air Command.
The Rev. Eldon Jandebeur, pastor of the First Christian Church, officiated memorial services on Dec. 1, 1966, with the Miley Chapel in charge of burial arrangements.
Fred Sanders was laid to rest in the Chariton Cemetery in Lucas County, Iowa.
In addition to his children, Sheriff Wayne Swanson said Sanders also had two sisters, a brother and his mother surviving.