John JefferyCourtesy photo Pamela Jeffery Chandler
John Wayne Jeffery

John Wayne Jeffery


John Wayne Jeffery
31 YOA
1018 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 1990-21313
May 29, 1990


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

John Wayne Jeffery, 31, was shot to death late Tuesday night, May 29, 1990, while sitting inside his 1970 Chevy Chevelle outside Leo’s Lounge, an east-side tavern in Des Moines, Iowa.

Patrons of the 1018 E. 12th Street lounge heard a gunshot that night, and although one person went out and spotted Jeffery inside his vehicle, didn’t realize Jeffery had been shot and assumed he was sleeping. Police weren’t notified until the following morning when Judy Leo stopped by the tavern about 8 a.m. with some supplies.

Leo's Lounge crime scene Courtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13, Des Moines
Des Moines police detectives questioned several individuals in John Jeffery’s death, but were unable to convince any witnesses to come forward. Leo’s Lounge has since closed.

“I went over to wake him up,” Ms. Leo is reported as saying in a Des Moines Register article published May 31, 1990. “I hollered at him and banged my knees against his car. Then I poked his arm and realized he was dead.”

Police found a sawed-off .410 shotgun in front of Jeffery’s car. Officials reported a shotgun shell fitting the weapon was found in Jeffery’s hand, and that other shells were found on the seat of the car.

Polk County medical examiner Dr. R.C. Wooters ruled cause of death as a small-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

Only planned to “scare them a little”

In a Register article dated June 1, 1990, Jeffery’s wife, Ruth Jeffery, said her husband had had problems with alcohol and drugs but had completed a drug rehabilitation program the previous year. She said he’d been drinking Tuesday night for the first time since completing the program.

Ruth’s recent three-week hospitalization, and her inability to work during that time period, had left the family facing a financial crisis as medical bills continued to pile up.

Ruth told Iowa Cold Cases her husband came home agitated after seeing two friends, Jeff McNeely and Tim McGreen, drinking at Leo’s Bar in the company of a woman, Dianne Cross. McNeely and McGreen had owed Jeffery money for over a year, and Ruth said her husband reasoned that if they had money to buy alcohol, they should be able to repay him. When he confronted the men, Ruth said they’d laughed at him.

Courtesy Des Moines Register, May 31, 1990

Jeffery came home to the couple’s 2108 E. Maple Street home and retrieved a shotgun, telling Ruth he only wanted to “scare” the two men a little. Ruth said that although her husband didn’t have shells for the gun when he left the house, she feared she might not see him again.

“I just knew he wasn’t going to be coming home,” she stated in the Register’s June 1 story. “I just knew.”

It was, in fact, the last time she’d see her husband alive.

Leads Run Out

The Register’s May 31 article reported that Des Moines police broadcast a statewide alert for a “stop and hold” on the driver of a “white over blue older-model Chevrolet Blazer” in connection with Jeffery’s homicide.

Assistant Polk County Attorney Maggi Moss referred to the individual as a “material witness.”

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines in Polk CountyDes Moines in Polk County

Police located Cary Lapour of 3833 E. Tiffin Ave. at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday at a north-side tavern, and although Lapour was taken to police headquarters for questioning and subsequently arrested on a weapons charge, Des Moines Police Lt. William Fitzgerald said ballistic tests couldn’t link him to Jeffery’s murder. Lapour was later released on a $575 bond.

Moss said authorities were seeking “several search warrants” to gather evidence in Jeffery’s slaying, but didn’t articulate what locations police wanted to search.

Des Moines police interviewed numerous individuals, including the men who owed Jeffery money, but were unable to make an arrest in the case. They believe there were witnesses to Jeffery’s murder who feared coming forward then with what they knew, and continue to encourage the public to contact them with any known details. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

Family First

In a interview with WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck in a story airing September 23, 2010, Jeffery’s first wife, Pamela Chandler, said her ex-husband had a wild side, but always put family first.

“John did whatever he could to make sure [his children] were taken care of,” Chandler said. “He used to donate blood when he had to, to make ends meet.”

Chandler and Jeffery had one child together, daughter Shannon, who was 12 years old when her father was killed.

Shannon at her father's grave siteCourtesy photo WHO-TV Channel 13
John Jeffery’s daughter, Shannon, visits her father’s gravesite. Jeffery’s only brother, Olan, passed away in 1995. The brothers had one sister, Beverly.

The day of Shannon’s birth, Jeffery brought her a single pink rose, and continued to deliver pink roses to her on special occasions. The day she graduated high school, Shannon’s mother made sure Jeffery was there, if only in spirit; Chandler gave her daughter a bouquet of pink roses with a card that read, “Love, Dad.”

Jeffery’s other children included Shawn and Shaleen Jeffery (with wife Ruth), as well as Ruth’s children Charles Klingensmith and Tricia Garrett.

“John and I always considered all of them as ours,” Ruth told Iowa Cold Cases. “We never differentiated between ‘our’ kids as ‘mine’ or ‘his.’ They all were and all are still ours.”

John Wayne Jeffery was born October 10, 1958, and is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa.

Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the unsolved 1990 murder of 31-year-old John Wayne Jeffery.
September 23, 2010

Information Needed

If you have any information about John Wayne Jeffery’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.

  • ‘Gone Cold’: John Jeffery,” The Northwest Iowa Review,, Tuesday, September 13, 2016
  • Gone Cold: John Wayne Jeffery, killed in 1990,” Special to the Register, The Des Moines Register, Part of the GONE COLD: EXPLORING IOWA’S UNSOLVED MURDERS series, May 21, 2016
  • Des Moines Police Department, Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Charles Klingensmith, Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases‘ Facebook page, May 29, 2012
  • John Wayne Jeffery (1958 – 1990) – Find a Grave Memorial
  • Judy Leo, Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, October 26, 2011
  • John Jeffery Unsolved Murder, WHO-TV Channel 13 Des Moines, Report by Aaron Brilbeck, September 23, 2010
  • Ruth Jeffery Jobe, Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, June 25, 2010 and 2012
  • Pamela Jeffery Chandler, Correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, May 2, 2010, September 2010
  • Lt. Camden Moran, Des Moines Police Department, correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • “Weapon charge filed in probe of D.M. slaying,” The Des Moines Register, Friday, June 1, 1990
  • “Man slain in car near D.M. Tavern, The Des Moines Register, Thursday, May 31, 1990


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


23 Responses to John Jeffery

  1. Chris says:

    I don’t quite understand though. He took a shotgun to the lounge but then was shot with a shotgun? Was he shot with his own gun? Or did the shooter already have a gun and shot John and John’s gun is the one they found?

  2. Renee Fleming ( Bauer ) says:

    Wow I remember that. And sadly to say , I know one of the guys that were mentioned who owed John money I’m not at all positive , but he , himself couldn’t shoot anyone , but I’m sure he knows exactly who did.
    I kinda knew John , thought he was a descent man. Definitely didn’t deserve getting killed.
    For John’s n Pam’s daughter , you are a very strong young lady n I’m sure ur daddy is very proud of you.
    So sorry yours was taken away from you at a young age. Mine was too , I had just turned 14 the day before mine was taken away.

  3. Diana Wilson says:

    No one in the bar knew the suspect???? Just asking.

  4. Fred Loveridge says:

    I too am sorry for your loss, I new joun from a very young age we helped there family move a few times when we where all young. I remmember when Val was reported missing for several hours only to be found asleep in her bed, I also remmember Olen,John and I terorizing the city when we all started driving

  5. Praying for the family!

  6. Hoping for justice.. Love you John RIP

  7. Thank You for All that you do by re-posting John’s story, and the stories of all the others. We pray that one day they catch who did this.

  8. Suz Smith says:

    They should tax us and reopen it..hell they tax us for everything else in Iowa, may as well tax us on something that really matters like the cold case unit.

  9. Amy Hintz says:

    I wish they would refund and reopen the Iowa Cold case unit again! :(

  10. I’m so sorry about your loss. I wish I could help All of you. My prayers and thoughts are with you. God bless.

  11. kyle keesey says:

    Im Shannons first child and I never got to meet my grandfather, its nice to finally know what happened to him

  12. Ruth Jobe says:

    Somewhere, somebody knows something about this. Somebody saw the whole thing, even if it was dark outside. Somebody heard the argument and the gunshot. Then there is the person who did it and their friends who know about the whole thing. They all have to live with themselves for the rest of their life. Justice will be served, in this life or the next.

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