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Mrs. Helen Morrow was found lying on a bed in a first floor room of her fire-ravaged two-story home in Eldon, IA, on August 12, 1980. An autopsy report showed she died of smoke inhalation.
Herman Pierce, 48, also of Eldon, was charged Tuesday, Aug. 26, 1980, with first-degree murder in Morrow’s death, but a grand jury refused to return any indictments against him.
Eldon Police Chief Larry Reisch said Pierce, who reportedly worked for Mrs. Morrow, was accused of deliberately setting the fire, and was held in the Wapello County jail under a $100,000 bond. The murder charge was filed following an investigation by the state fire marshal’s office.
Pierce had been questioned by authorities and held in jail on an intoxication charge the night of the fire, Reisch said in an Oelwein Daily Register article dated Aug. 27, 1980.
Witnesses told authorities they saw Pierce leaving Mrs. Morrow’s home moments before flames were detected.
Though county prosecutors filed murder charges against Pierce, they decided to convene a grand jury to hear evidence in the case.
Pierce testified for more than four hours before the grand jury, according to his defense attorney, Tom Waller.
On Friday, October 3, 1980, a four-man, three-woman Wapello County Grand Jury failed to return any indictment against Pierce.
Helen Marie (Thompson) Birchmier Morrow was born Sept. 23, 1924 to Perry D. and Zelda (Ware) Thompson.
She married Robert Birchmier, who was killed during World War II without ever getting the chance to meet the couple’s son, Jerry Robert Birchmier.
Helen was buried in Batavia Cemetery in Batavia, Jefferson County, Iowa.
Anyone with any information concerning Helen Morrow’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Eldon Police Department at 641-652-7510.