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James Charles Huff, Jr., a farm hand who worked at the Lindsey Edgar “Ed” and Jean Huelsenbeck farm about two miles southeast of Urbana, was taken to St. Lukes Hospital in Cedar Rapids on January 1, 1977 for severe injuries he’d sustained to the head.
He was later transported to University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, Iowa, where he died a few days later on January 5.
The Palo Ambulance Service responded to the call, and upon arrival found Huff unconscious and bleeding from a severe head wound. The 26-year-old’s body also had sustained several bruises all throughout his body.
Huff, who’d begun working at the Huelsenbeck farm on his 26th birthday, had worked for the couple for just over one month. An Ohio native, Huff had moved to Iowa to be closer to his father.
The Huelsenbeck’s farm, located at 3319 56th Street Trail in Center Point, Iowa, lay in a hilly area between Benton and Linn counties.
In a Waterloo Courier article published January 6, 1977, Benton County Sheriff Kenneth Popenhagen stated that the Huelsenbeck’s son, Michael Huelsenbeck, 17, said he found Huff unconscious in the barn.
According to the Courier’s story:
Popenhagen said it appeared Huff’s injuries had been inflicted over the course of several days.
Popenhagen also stated that an autopsy was never able to confirm the actual cause of death.
Though Huff’s multiple “inflicted” injuries may have prevented pinpointing his actual cause of death, the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation — in its early stages of transitioning to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) — had reason to believe foul play factored into Huff’s manner of death and assigned it case file number 77-00102.
When the Iowa DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, James Huff’s homicide 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 forensic 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 Charles Huff, Jr. was born in Canton, Ohio on November 24, 1950, to Edna and James Charles Huff, Sr.
He was buried in Cedar Memorial Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
If you have any information about James Huff’s unsolved homicide, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Benton County Sheriff’s Office at (319) 472-2337.