juanita-lagrone-QCTimes-obitCourtesy photo Quad-City Times
Juanita L. Lagrone was beaten to death with a baseball bat on her 56th birthday.

Juanita L. Lagrone

Homicide

Juanita L. Lagrone
56 YOA
2809 E. Douglas Avenue
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Investigating Agency: Des Moines Police Department
Case Number: 14-9854
Died on Sunday, April 13, 2014

Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, Des Moines police found Juanita Lagrone beaten to death with a baseball bat in her 2809 E. Douglas Avenue home.

Her murder — which just happened to fall on her 56th birthday — marked the city’s first homicide of 2014.

Authorities arrived at the home about 2:14 p.m. after her daughter called police to report she had found her mother unresponsive on the home’s floor, the Des Moines Register reported.

Juanita Lagrone crime scene
Courtesy KCCI.com
Crime scene tape blocks the 2809 E. Douglas Avenue home where someone beat Juanita Lagrone with a bat on April 13, 2014, the victim’s 56th birthday.

Lagrone’s body showed signs of trauma, and a baseball bat lay nearby.

“Obviously, (it’s) very suspicious, enough (that) we’re calling it a homicide,” Des Moines Police Sgt. Jason Halifax said in a KCCI-TV Channel 8 News report on Monday, April 14.

Lagrone rented the home and had lived there with her daughter for about a year.

She worked at CDS Global in Des Moines.

In a public statement released to the press, CDS Global said:

“Juanita Lagrone was a valued employee of the CDS Global family for 6-1/2 years. While we cannot comment on an ongoing police investigation, we would like to express our deepest condolences to Juanita’s family and friends at this time.”

~ Public statement by CDS Global re Juanita Lagrone’s death

Police took witnesses to the Des Moines police station for interviews, and Halifax said Lagrone’s boyfriend, Robin Butts, has been interviewed and is a witness in the case but is not a suspect at this time.

KCCI said police records show Lagrone had a no contact order against Butts after a domestic assault in November 2012. According to the report:

Butts “grabbed her by the shoulders and slammed her head into the wall behind the chair forcefully 5 to 6 times,” but she “didn’t want Butts to go to jail” [because] “she now fears retaliation.”

~ KCCI.com, April 14, 2014

The day after Lagrone’s murder, police booked Butt into the Polk County Jail for violating the no contact order.

Neighbor Ray Mondlin told Channel 8 that in the 14 years he’s lived in the 2800 block of East Douglas Avenue, he’s never had any problems.

“It’s just kind of really strange, [that] something like that would happen here,” he said.

Robin Butts
Courtesy photo KCCI
Robin Butts

A crime scene unit remained at the home through Monday as investigators continued to process physical evidence, Halifax said.

The state medical examiner conducted an autopsy that same Monday, but didn’t release an official cause of death.

Lagrone had no criminal record, but was listed as the victim in a domestic assault case from November 2012, the Register reported on April 15, 2014, noting the case had been dismissed four months later in March 2013.

The day after her murder, the suspect in that case was arrested for violating a no-contact order. The court released the defendant, however, because the no-contact order had been rescinded after the case’s dismissal.

Though officials have not publicly identified a suspect, Halifax said the homicide did not appear to be random and there is little threat to the rest of the city.

In a Register article dated December 31, 2014, Halifax, who also serves as Des Moines police’s public information officer, said that of Des Moines’ 12 homicides in 2014, the victims ranged in age from 4 months to 97 years.

Police cleared all cases except Lagrone’s — the year’s first murder.

The 11 cases solved put the department above its 87.5 percent clearance rate for the previous 10 years. The Des Moines Police Department has a higher clearance rate than the 64.1 national average recorded in 2013, the Register reported.

Halifax said police have a suspect in mind for Lagrone’s homicide, though they haven’t yet made an arrest.

“It’s a matter of what you can and cannot prove,” he said.

‘Not Random Acts’

“Most homicides are not random acts” but involve people who know each other, Halifax said in the Register’s December 31, 2014 story, citing the 12 homicides from 2014 as examples:

  • April 13 — Juanita Lagrone, 57, of Des Moines was found beaten to death in her home in the 2800 block of East Douglas Avenue. No arrests have been made in the case.
  • April 22 — Drew James Weehler-Smith, 17, was charged in the death of his four-month-old son, Gabriel King McFarland, after Gabriel was found unresponsive in an apartment in the 6500 block of Chaffee Road.
  • April 25 — Gabriel Michael Johnson, 18, has been accused of punching his father, Bert Edward Johnson Jr., 54, when Bert went to the home of Gabriel Johnson’s mother. Bert Johnson went to Mercy Medical Center on April 26 and died the next day.
  • May 7 — LB Goodjoint, 23, of Des Moines has been accused of shooting Ameisha Heard, 19, while trying to shoot another person in Des Moines’ Oakridge Neighborhood.
  • June 1 — Stephanie Renee Moses, 35, is believed to have strangled Jerry Victor Brueggeman, 36, at the Royal Motel, 3718 Douglas Ave.
  • July 2 — Ngor Peter Makuey, 19, was charged in a fatal home invasion that resulted in the death of Rupert Anderson 97, in the 4400 block of Northeast 46th Street.
  • Sept. 17 — Police fatally shot Brian Lee Beeler, 41, after he allegedly brandished a knife at officers in the 6700 block of Southeast Fifth Street.
  • Oct. 15 — Norman Wadsworth, 74, fatally stabbed Rebecca Darlene, 58, an apartment manager, in the 700 block of East Fifth Street, police said.
  • Nov. 7 — Keith Meco Collins, 17, has been accused of shooting and killing Aaron Michael McHenry, 24, near 26th Street and Hickman Lane.
  • Dec. 7 — Pamela Jean Bullington, 56, has been accused of shooting and killing Jack Duane Dennis, 68, in the 2900 block of Maple Street.
  • Dec. 16 — Matthew John Hansen, 49, shot and killed himself and Melissa Jo Downing, 48, in an apparent murder-suicide in the 3200 block of East Douglas Avenue.
  • Dec. 31 — Christopher Bear, 35, fatally stabbed Jahron Parker, 34, with a knife Parker had produced during an altercation in the 1100 block of Amos Avenue. Police said it appeared to be a justifiable homicide.

Over the last two decades, Des Moines saw its highest number of homicides — 20 of them — two decades ago in 1995, but had only five per year in both 2009 and 2010.

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines map Des Moines in Polk County

Lagrone’s murder — the first in 2014 and the year’s only open case — remains high on the list of those officials believe they can still clear.

Lagrone’s final post to her Facebook page ended on a happy note. On March 30, exactly two weeks before her death, she’d posted a link to a YouTube video featuring an excerpt from standup comedian Robin Harris.

Her last word to the world about Harris’ act: “Hilarious! !!!”

Lagrone then left the stage on the same month and day as when she’d made her own debut into the world.

About Juanita Lagrone

Juanita Lagrone, 56, of Des Moines and formerly of Davenport, departed this life Sunday, April 13, 2014 at her home.

Services to celebrate her life were held at 2 p.m. Monday, April 21, 2014, at Weerts’ Funeral Home in Davenport, where her family greeted friends from 1 p.m. until the time of service. Burial followed in Davenport Memorial Park cemetery.

Juanita was born April 13, 1958 in Columbus, Mississippi, the daughter of the late Millard LaGrone Sr. and Ophelia LaGrone.

She attended Scott Community College, Bettendorf, and upon her move to Des Moines, worked in data entry for the fund-raising business.

She loved fishing, cooking out and watching the Chicago Bears and Bulls with her family. Spending time with her family was her greatest joy.

Her survivors included three daughters, Donnita (Tony Young) LaGrone, Juanice (Wendell) Freeman and Sheila LaGrone, nine grandchildren, her mother Ophelia LaGrone, and sisters, Elizabeth Tyson, Wilma LaGrone, and Helen (Fred) Thomas, all of Davenport; Mary Gardner of St. Petersburg, FL and Shirley Davis of Davenport; brothers, Millard LaGrone Jr. and Roosevelt Smith, and stepmother, Edna Smith, all of Davenport; and many nieces, nephews, cousins and an aunt who loved her dearly.

Those preceding her in death included her father, Millard LaGrone Sr., her brother, Sterling Buckingham, and a granddaughter, Azina Young.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Juanita Lagrone’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at (515) 283-4864.

Sources:

 

One Response to Juanita Lagrone

  1. I pray they find the person/persons who did this horrible act of violence to this poor woman…. How sad they are still out running around after all this time!!

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