Janet LaFratte

Janet A. LaFratte


Janet LaFratte
35 YOA
Norwalk, Iowa
Warren County 
DCI Case # 73-00272
June 20, 1973

Janet LaFratte, 35, was reported missing to the Warren County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday, June 20, 1973. LaFratte’s husband, Frank LaFratte, placed the call at 5:30 p.m. and stated his wife was missing from their home.

The couple lived about 25 miles south of Des Moines and northwest of Churchville in rural Norwalk.

Sheriff’s deputies located Mrs. LaFratte’s body in a pond behind the couple’s home at 8 p.m. that same day.

In this family photo, circa 1954 or 1955, Janet LaFratte (second from left) poses with her parents, Jens and Silvia Christensen, one of her three sisters, Mary Ann and her daughters Mary Lou and Donna (Silvia holds Donna), and brother Stanley Christensen.
(Courtesy Kerry Eganhouse, Janet’s niece)

Initially, Warren County Medical Examiner S. F. Yugend ruled LaFratte’s death an “apparent drowning,” and released little information to the public.

An investigation by the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) — now called the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) — and the Warren County’s Sheriff’s Office, however, cited “mysterious circumstances” surrounding LaFratte’s death, and the BCI ruled her death an unsolved homicide.

Janet LaFratte, taken in their living quarters at Motel 6-69 on East Euclid in Des Moines, circa 1960s.
(Courtesy photo Kerry Eganhouse)

When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Janet LaFratte’s murder 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 the resolution of 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.

About Janet LaFratte

Janet Alvilda LaFratte was born in Jewell, Iowa, on March 2, 1938, to Sylvia Lucille Bentson and Jens Christian Christensen.

Janet had three sisters — Mary Anne Martin, Carol Carstens and Marjorie Jean Teig — and one brother, Stanley James Christensen.

Janet LaFratte holds her niece, Kerry Eganhouse, in September 1955. (Courtesy Kerry Eganhouse)

She graduated from Jewell High School and married Franklin D. LaFratte on September 20, 1959. The couple lived in Des Moines and operated Motel 6-69. Janet earned awards for her work from the Iowa Motel Association and in 1966 Frank was named ‘Motel Operator of the Year’ by the group.

In October 1967, the couple adopted a boy they named Pat. In 1969, the LaFrattes sold their motel, and in 1970 adopted a daughter, Chris Ann, and moved to the farm where Janet would live only a few short years.

Janet LaFratte headstone

Courtesy photo “FLH” at findagrave.com

Janet was active in the Martsensdale St. Paul Lutheran Church, where she served as ALCW President. She also belonged to the American Legion Auxiliary Hawkeye Post 550 in Jewell.

Memorial services were held Saturday, June 23, 1973, at the Martensdale St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, with burial at Calvary Cemetery in Churchill.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Janet LaFratte’s unsolved death, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us, or contact the Warren County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 961-1122.

  • Personal Correspondence with Kerry Eganhouse, niece, July 2022
  • Personal Correspondence with Larry Teig, nephew, July 2022
  • Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, December 13, 2009
  • Warren County Sheriff’s Office
  • Findagrave.com
  • Social Security Death Index
  • “Services Held for Janet Christensen LaFratte,” The Jewell Record, June 28, 1973
  • “Police Probe Iowa Drowning,” The Des Moines Register, June 22, 1973
  • “Jewell man died Saturday,” The Ames Daily Tribune, August 10, 1964


Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


14 Responses to Janet LaFratte

  1. Larry Teig says:

    I would like to hear from any of you and give you my thoughts. Janet was my aunt. I had spoken with Frank’s sister, Mary a few years back. She died in 2007 or so. She had lived in Des Moines and had spoken the truth to the 2 children. Frank married a woman named jean who told the two kids a lie that Janet had committed suicide. Glad she had kept in touch with P.J. and Chris.

  2. Larry Teig says:

    My name is Larry Teig. Janet was my aunt. My mom was Marjorie and we were stunned when Janet died. As time passed, we all (cousins) have concluded that Frank, her husband had her murdered. This was confirmed by Franks sister, Mary La Fratte later years. She was a wonderful mother to her two children P.J. and Chris. I believe they both live in Des Moines. Someday, all will be revealed.

  3. Helen Burk Clark says:

    Janet was my aunt, her husband Frank was my mom’s brother. The day Janet died, she had dropped off her children at Grandma’s just up the road. She told grandma that Frank needed her to help him in the field. Later that day she was found drowned in the pond. Interesting that the next day, we were all told by Frank that it was a suicide when in fact that was never the case!!!! Jean the woman he married 6 months later also told Frank’s children that Janet died by suicide. There were facts at the scene that without a doubt ruled out suicide.

    • Larry Teig says:

      Hello Helen, My name is Larry Teig. Janet was my aunt. My mother was her older sister, Marjorie from Jewell, Iowa. I had kept in touch with Frank’s sister Mary who lived in Des Moines. She too believed Frank was responsible. Mary had kept in touch with the two Children, P.J. and Chris. She told them the truth. I have been trying to contact P.J. Tony’s son told me he found an address for him in Des Moines. He wanted to contact him as his cousin and although I never got a hold of P.J. I would love to show reconnect with him as his cousin. I understand Chris is married and lives in Des Moines as well. You can contact me at larrylarew1@hotmail.com

  4. X says:

    There are only 2 ways to get to the house. You have to know exactly where you are going. Back in the 70’s it was all farmers, and you could literally count on both hands the number of farmers who had land around Churchville for a few miles in any direction.
    In mid June, farmers should of been out in the fields. If you drive the route from the east or the south to their property, you see the road. You would notice a strange car, and definitely recognize a vehicle owned by anyone who lived around there. It was 1973, the DCI probably didn’t exactly canvas farmers. The other thing that’s never been brough up is where were the kids, and why. Janet was not the type to ever leave her children. Her family and church were the center of her life. Someone saw something strange, and has never come forward. There is no way a person could die as horribly as she did without someone seeing something, and the person responsible having some kind of connection to the family. It was not a random act. It had to have been planned, and whoever did it knew exactly what to do and when. I’m not a conspriacy nut, I don’t need a tin foil hat, Janet didn’t deserve to have someone take her life, and those kids never deserved the life they were stuck with after her death. Fifty years later, everyone who lived around there is dead, and sadly so is this case. As with all of these cold cases, someone got away with murder.

    • doofy says:

      I agree with you and as for the dozens of other cases like this someone had to see something but never spoke up and like you said they are gone and dead and got away with an awful crime

      • X says:

        Thank you.
        I’m pretty sure no one in that area even knows this ever happened,
        I’m not even sure if there are any of the original family descendants in the area anymore. To see a few people have commented over the years Is nice. I used to live around there, over the years one person came to mind, but is also long deceased. It’s pure speculation.
        Hopefully they are in a special section of Hell wether connected to this tragedy or not.

        • Helen Burk Clark says:

          I am a niece of Janet’s and was in high school at the time. Janet’s husband was my mom’s brother. We all believed as a family that he was the one responsible for her death. He was disowned from the family after her murder until the day he died. I remember the next day being told that she had committed suicide which was what Uncle Frank had told us!!!!!

    • Helen Burk Clark says:

      The day Janet died she had taken her children up the road to grandma’s house. She told grandma that Frank needed her to help in the field. She was found dead later that day.

  5. Sara says:

    I wish for compassion and and the truth as to this loss of life but I don’t wish bad to happen to anyone.

  6. Kathy Wall says:

    The evil killer will burn.

  7. prayers to the family, so sorry for your loss.

  8. Very sad. Breaks my heart.

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts