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George James Massouris, a 30-year-old Union Pacific Railroad carman who worked part-time as a taxicab driver, was found dead in a ditch on the old Orchard Road two miles east of Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Sunday morning, Nov. 19, 1950. He’d been shot three times at the base of his skull with a .22 caliber automatic pistol.
Massouris, a married World War II veteran with three children, worked the part-time taxi driver job with Red Top Cab Company at nights to augment his income.
According to the Council Bluffs Nonpareil, the taxi Massouris had been driving the night of his death was found abandoned at 8 a.m. Sunday morning on Tenth Avenue, between Seventh and Eighth streets, by another taxi driver. There were no signs of a struggle.
Charles Hytrek, 44, of Star Route, discovered Massouris’ body while driving down Orchard Road to a crossroads store to get a Sunday paper. A pool of blood in the middle of the road trailed off into a ditch 25 feet away, where Massouris lay bloody but neatly clad in blue jeans, an Army shirt, and a heavy button-down sweater.
Hytrek immediately notified the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers found two empty .22 caliber shells in the taxicab and a third empty .22 caliber shell near the pool of blood.
Coroner H. Stanley Woodring said Massouris — a former boxing Featherweight Champion — had been dead several hours before Hytrek stumbled upon the scene, the Carroll Daily Times Herald reported Monday, Nov. 20.
Massouris learned to box while serving in the Army, and after the war competed in local competitions. In 1947 he’d earned the Featherweight Champion title in the Southwest Iowa Golden Gloves Tournament and advanced to the Midwest Tournament semi-finals that same year.
The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, the Council Bluffs Police Department and the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (now the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation) investigated Massouris’ murder and, from the beginning, believed robbery was the motive.
Massouris’ billfold — containing only $8 or $9 — and his evening fares were missing, though the robber hadn’t bothered to steal Massouris’ wristwatch.
Massouris’ employer, Don Wilson, said Massouris answered a call to the intersection of Scott and Mynster streets shortly after 9 p.m.
Another cab driver, Don Haines, said he was on his way home from work at 11:30 and noticed Massouris’ cab parked on Tenth avenue between Seventh and Eighth streets, the Gazette reported Nov. 20.
Grace Goodno, a dispatcher for the cab company, told officials a call was logged at 7:45 p.m. Saturday requesting a taxi be sent to the First Christian Church, Scott and Mynster Street, at 9 p.m. sharp. Goodno said Massouris pulled into the cab office at 9:08 p.m. and drew the assignment to pick up the mysterious passenger just two blocks away.
It was the last time anyone saw Massouris alive, although Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Capel, who lived near the murder scene, told the Nonpareil they’d seen a taxicab pass their home around 9:30 p.m. Saturday before they’d headed back toward Council Bluffs.
When other Red Top Cab Company drivers found the cab still parked there Sunday morning, they took the cab back to the office. Unaware of Massouris’ murder, taxi company officials put the cab back into service, and several passengers rode in it before news of Massouris’ death was reported an hour later, eliminating any chance of collecting latent fingerprints on the door handles or steering wheel.
On Wednesday, November 22 — just three days after Massouris was found dead — Council Bluffs police announced that a 17-year-old Council Bluffs youth had been arrested in Denver, and that police were interested in questioning the youth about connections he may have had in the Massouris slaying. The youth in Denver had been accused of stealing a car the same night of Massouris’ shooting, but nothing ever came of the lead.
Investigators questioned hundreds of people, but even tipsters with “hot leads” led nowhere.
FBI ballistics experts and the State Bureau of Investigation worked on the three bullets and on the three brass shell casings found in Massouris’ taxi.
“We still are investigating — still questioning,” Council Bluffs Police Chief Earl Miller is quoted as saying in a November 9, 1952, Nonpareil story. “While there’s nothing new about the phrase, it’s still true — murder will out.”
On November 15, 1953, the Council Bluffs Nonpareil reported the Massouris case had entered into its fourth year and that the “Police File Grows On Baffling Murder.” The article cited the “bad break” police had after learning Massouris’ taxi had immediately been put back into service before his body was found and before officials had time to search the vehicle.
George James Massouris was born Oct. 29, 1920, in Britt, Iowa, to James and Margaret (Hinkle) Massouris.
He married Helen Rose Emmons Aug. 19, 1939, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the couple had three children.
On June 26, 1944, George enlisted in the US Army for the duration of World War II.
Massouris learned to box while serving in the Army, and after the war competed in local competitions. In 1947 he earned the Featherweight Champion title in the Southwest Iowa Golden Gloves Tournament and advanced to the Midwest Tournament semi-finals that same year.
George was employed as a carman with the Union Pacific Railroad shops in Omaha, and worked part-time for Red Top Cab Company as a taxi driver.
Funeral services were held Monday, November 20, 1950, and George Massouris was buried in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
George Massouris’ unsolved murder is under the jurisdiction of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office. If you have any information about this case, please call (712) 890-2200.