John E. Clinton

John “Johnie” Edward Clinton


John Edward Clinton
68 YOA
1525 Walker Street
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 1978-41681
Found: Friday, Oct. 27, 1978
Estimated Date of Death: Oct. 18 – 20, 1978
Case information by Jody Ewing

John Edward “Johnie” Clinton — a 68-year-old retiree and World War II veteran who often sat strumming his guitar on his Des Moines home’s front porch — was stabbed to death in his kitchen sometime between October 18 and October 21, 1978.

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

Des Moines Police Officer Fred Allen discovered Clinton’s body Friday, October 27, and officials determined Clinton, who lived alone in the small 1525 Walker Street home, had been dead anywhere from seven to nine days.

Neighbors described Clinton as pleasant and quiet, and simply assumed he wasn’t home when they didn’t see his 1972 gold Plymouth Satellite parked in the driveway.

Relatives notified police after knocks on Clinton’s locked door went answered.

An Unusual Crime Scene

Officer Allen found Clinton in the kitchen after forcing open the home’s back door.

Clinton lay on his back on the kitchen floor, a mattress covering all but his legs. Clinton was fully clothed and had suffered 10 stab wounds to the neck, inflicted by some type of thin blade. A blunt instrument had also been used to fracture Clinton’s skull.

Courtesy Des Moines Register, Oct. 31, 1978

Relatives told Des Moines police the home had little value, but the home had been ransacked and furniture drawers dumped and stacked near the front door.

Investigators believed the killer brought the mattress in from the garage; mattresses from the home’s two beds were left undisturbed.

Clinton’s vehicle was later found at the corner of Dixon Street and Jefferson Avenue, several blocks from Clinton’s home.

Polk County Medical Examiner, Dr. R.C. Wooters, said Mrs. Clinton died of several stab wounds in the neck.

Clinton, a lifelong Des Moines resident, had been employed by National Handcrafts, Inc. He was a member of Kyles A.M.E. Zion Church and American Legion Post 126.

About Johnie E. Clinton

John “Johnie” Edward Clinton — referred to in some reports as Johnnie E. Clinton — was born on March 25, 1910, to Alice and William J. Clinton.

His coal-miner father was born in South Carolina and his mother a native Virginian, but the couple settled in Iowa to raise their five sons.

Johnie served with the US Army during World War II.

Survivors included a son, Edward James of Des Moines, three brothers, Moses, George, and Andrew, all of Des Moines; and two grandchildren.

One brother, William, preceded him in death. 

Friends called at Caldwell-Brien-Robbins Funeral Home between 7 and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 31, 1978.

Graveside services were held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 1, at Sunset Memorial Gardens Cemetery, where Clinton was laid to rest. 

Information Needed

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

  • Des Moines Police Department, Correspondence with Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Social Security Death Index
  • Find a Grave Memorial
  • Find a Grave Memorial for John Edward Clinton
  • Obituary for John E. Clinton, The Des Moines Register, Oct. 31, 1978, P 22.
  • “Man, 68, Found Slain: City’s 27th Homicide,” by Tom Suk, The Des Moines Register, Oct. 28, 1978
  • “United States World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946,”
  • United States Census, 1940,
  • Johnie E. Clinton, United States Census, 1930,
  • John Clinton, United States Census, 1920,


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13 Responses to Johnie Clinton

  1. LakeLife says:

    Maybe it was someone or a group of people that asked for e drink of water just to get into his house?
    Maybe that’s why he was killed in the kitchen?

  2. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Therese, the other thing for crime patterns is geography. An investigator in Canada, plotted the locations of a rash of sexual assaults in his city. He theory was that the offender lived in the area, and was in his comfort zone. However, his computer program, sort of displayed a graph, vesus a map. There is a company that provides training in this area, and he was an instructor.

    As former detective with the Veterans Administration hospital, I used a Geico leave and pay period brochure, to look at some thefts from patients. It highlighted that the thefts were taking place on pay week. We had no incidents after payday. It did not identify an offender.

    There might be a pattern, or something that might link these cases, but it will not reach and grab you.

  3. Patr says:

    Someone, I assume thought that there was something of value in the place. The offender or offenders were most likely upset that they found nothing. But then there is no mention if anything was missing. Also, I notice there is no mention of signs of forced entry to his home.

    I like that Theresa is looking at possible pattern to these attacks. It could that somene seemed to think that these seniors may have had something of value. It would be nice if these cases were entered into the FBI’s VICAP system. It was set up for this reason to help see if the M.O. of the crime had been used before.

    The pattern could be related to the day of the week. It could be related to wgen they got their retirement checks. This was before we had direct deposit. Also, someone was observing certain stuff about these people, at a bank, store, drug store or whatever. Then they shared it with a friend who targeted them.

    They might have something in common, that law enforcement did not look at or think to look at.

  4. Stabbed to death seems awfully personal….

  5. That may have been a long time ago but, justice should still be served! That’s how I feel about it. And the family deserves justice!

  6. Diana Wilson says:

    That’s a long time!!!

  7. amanda says:

    I don’t like that a under this listing a picture of the wrong home is here! Was a picture added so people would click and read this case? I lived at 1523 walker when I was a child. My family lived at that address 1992-1995 and 1525 Walker no longer existed then. It was a vacant lot. Google street view is wrong. The picture shared here is of 1517 Walker. I remember as a child the neighbors said the house 1525 Walker burned down. I don’t know when in time that happened. Just knowing the neighborhood during the 1990s, the neighborhood was well on its way to being empty. I remember the house that was next door to the vacant lot was empty. I don’t know how long. Knowing there was a murder in that neighborhood makes sense why it always felt really eerie. There are not may people left in that neighborhood who lived there during 1978, but whoever wanted to investigate might check also into the neighbors. Check into microfilm of property records from that period.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Amanda, thanks so much for bringing this to our attention, and I know what you mean about the problems with Google street view pictures. I’ve since removed the house photo from Johnie’s page. We don’t just add any photo to a case summary, but rather try to provide our readers with as much information as possible (including relevant photos) with hopes of sparking someone’s memory and/or conscience so they might contact the appropriate investigating agency with what they know or remember.

      I’m sorry to hear about your old neighborhood, and thank you for your input.

  8. This is the only one from Sept. that fits the profile.Homicide:
    William Thomas
    70 YOA
    1213 Jefferson Avenue
    Des Moines, IA
    Polk County
    Case # 1979-35742
    September 9, 1979

    William Thomas, 70, was beaten on the head near his home at 1213 Jefferson Avenue on September 9, 1979. He died the next day.

  9. Just noticed as I viewed Iowa cold cases: 1978; July 8-Anna T Miller-57-bludgeoned in her home. August 10-Glenn W Turner-59-bludgeoned and left in van.Oct 19-Johnnie E "john" Clinton-68-stabbed and bludgeoned in home…there appears to be a distinct pattern here…I am currently checking for Sept. 1978 deaths…or if this is serial, perhaps the person was out of circulation for a period.

  10. Potemkinville Idiot (@vermontaigne) says:

    Lots of old men murdered in the area during the previous years.

  11. Theresa says:

    Gut Instinct: Someone he knew, but not good friend, thought he took something personal of theirs. Individual has anger issues. Possible police report on theft.

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