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On Thursday, August 14, 1975, James M. “Beetle” Bailey, Jr., of Mentor, Ohio, and two friends were riding their motorcycles westbound on Interstate 80 on their way to the Hell’s Angels Motorcycle Club Annual Run in Yankton, South Dakota, when Bailey was shot near a Colfax, Iowa overpass.
Bailey, 32, was riding with friends “Paul Philemon” (pseudonym), 27, and Richard Vesey, 31, when he was shot at the I-80 Colfax ramp in Jasper County. All three men belonged to Cleveland’s “Dirty 30” Hell’s Angels chapter, where Bailey served as treasurer. Bailey allegedly had a number of receipts with him, which he’d planned to present to chapter officers.
According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), as the three men approached the Highway 117 overpass two and one-half miles west of Colfax, Vesey and other witnesses reported hearing and seeing flashes from a number of shots fired from along the overpass’s northeast side, where the killers had lain in wait.
After being hit, Bailey fell from his motorcycle, and both he and his bike rolled into the northside ditch on I-80.
One of the shots fired hit Richard Vesey in the arm. “Philemon” was murdered in Ohio after attending Bailey’s funeral.
According to Jasper County Medical Examiner Dr. Fred Carpenter, Jr., Bailey died from a single gunshot wound to the neck. Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents believed the shot that killed Bailey had been fired directly from the embankment area beneath the overpass.
When the Iowa DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, James Bailey’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s 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.
James M. Bailey was born September 25, 1942.
He served with the Navy during the Vietnam War, and was buried at the Municipal Cemetery in Mentor, Ohio.
The side of his gravestone bears the signatory gold emblem for the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club.
If you have any information about James Bailey’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office at 641-792-5912.