Judy Corbin (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Judy Corbin (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Judy Ann Corbin


Judy Ann Corbin
17 YOA
The Hotel Chamberlain, Room 522
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
April 19, 1967


Case Summary by Jody Ewing
Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines in Polk CountyDes Moines in Polk County

Judy Ann Corbin, 17, was stabbed to death at the Hotel Chamberlain in Des Moines on Wednesday, April 19, 1967. Corbin, a blonde, blue-eyed, part-time Go-Go dancer, was found dead in the bathroom of room 522.

Hotel maid Loera Frederickson, 60, discovered Corbin’s fully-clothed body just before noon Wednesday after going in to clean the room. The teen’s body was propped up in the corner of the bathroom. The room’s bed covers had been pulled down, though the room showed no other signs of a struggle.

Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Leo Luka said Corbin bled to death from a stab wound to the neck.

Hotel records showed the room was registered to Curtis Chittenden, 21, of Des Moines.

According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated June 1, 1967, Corbin lived at the hotel but in another room (#401).

Chittenden’s brother, Daniel Chittenden of 1714 Des Moines Street, told police his older brother had dated the victim but had broken up with her some time ago.

Holding down three jobs

Corbin was holding down three jobs at the time of her death; in addition to working part-time as a Go-Go dancer, she also worked as a Younkers Tea Room waitress and as a clerk in a men’s clothing shop.

Chamberlain Hotel in Des MoinesCourtesy photo Cowles Library, Drake University
The Hotel Chamberlain, located at the corner of 7th and Locust streets in Des Moines.

A Gazette article dated April 20, 1967, said Corbin had been residing at the Hotel Chamberlain for several weeks. She was found dressed in a blouse, black stretch pants and go-go boots.

Corbin’s family had been living in California but had just moved back to Des Moines the month before. Corbin’s father, Norman Corbin, was in the Navy. In addition to Judy, there were three other siblings — a sister and brother, all younger.

Officials told the press the girl was involved in trouble at National City, Calif., about two years earlier, was on parole to Iowa authorities and had served time for parole violation at the Mitchellville State Training School for Girls.

Des Moines prisoner charged, acquitted in slaying

On Wednesday, May 31, 1967, a Polk County grand jury indicted Ralph Ben Reynolds, 43, in Corbin’s stabbing death.

Ralph Reynolds (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Ralph Reynolds (courtesy Des Moines Register)

Reynolds was a Des Moines jail prisoner who’d been allowed to leave the jail during the days to work at his job in the Hotel Chamberlain’s boiler room.

Reynolds refused to be arraigned without an attorney, and broke away from 75-year-old Deputy Sheriff Howard Allgood while being returned to jail. According to the Gazette, he was captured several blocks away.

Reynolds — a 5-foot-7 African-American weighing 188 pounds — had gone to jail December 7, 1966, to serve six months for receiving and concealing stolen property. A court order dated December 15, 1966, allowed Reynolds, who had only a fifth grade education, to be released from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily in order to work at the hotel.

Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette

Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette, Dec. 19, 1967

Like Corbin, Reynolds also had served time in a state training school. Reynolds was sentenced to the State Training School at Eldora in 1938 for breaking and entering, and served 10 years — from 1941 to 1951 — at the Men’s Reformatory in Anamosa on a rape charge. He later was incarcerated at the Fort Madison prison for aggravated robbery. He made attempts to escape from every facility, and by 1963 was back in jail for 180 days for bootlegging before being convicted in December 1966 on the stolen property charges.

Jury proceedings began Tuesday, December 12, 1967. Reynolds’ defense attorneys included Robert A. Wright, president of Iowa’s NAACP chapter, and William Katmus from Polk County Legal Services.

A district court jury of six men and six women deliberated for more than four hours on Monday night, December 18, 1967, before finding Ralph Reynolds innocent of Corbin’s murder.

According to an AP story published December 19 in the Gazette, “Reynolds put his head in his hands and sobbed when District Judge Waldo F. Wheeler read the jury’s decision. He then thanked the jurors as they filed from the room.”

About Judy Corbin

Judy Ann Corbin was born July 22, 1949, in Des Moines to Norman Lee and Helen Louise (Sample) Corbin. In addition to her parents, Judy was survived by her three siblings: Bruce, Allen, and Nona.

She was buried at Highland Memory Gardens Cemetery in Des Moines.

Information Needed

Anyone with information regarding Judy Corbin’s murder is asked to contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.



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10 Responses to Judy Corbin

  1. Melanie Wood says:

    I find it very suspicious the ex boyfriend didn’t seem to be suspect. If not him I suspect the guy they found not guilty. But why?. He had the background of violence. And they let him out on day reease and at a hotel. Idiots.

  2. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I find it interesting that she was found dead, in a room registered to her supposed former boy friend. Yet, he is not identified as person on interest. Also, her family moved back from California, and yet she is living in a hotel room.

    However, I like that Mr. Reynolds, served time for rape and he was in jail for another crime, and he is allowed out of jail to work. That’s real nice. But then Illinois allowed some guy out on a weekend pass, and he kills someone.

    Also elected officials here in Chicago, pressured Chicago Police investigators, to stop following John Wayne Gacy around. Then when suburban cops busted and started carrying bodies out of his house, these same investigators had to change their reports to eliminate any reference that they considered him as a suspect in the disappearance of some young men.

    • LakeLife says:

      I agree with you!
      Do we know what happened to the “boyfriend”?!
      She’s dead in his hotel room but he’s not a person of interest??!!
      I think it was the boyfriend.
      Praying for justice!

  3. Bernadette Butler says:

    , may have to be found may her soul rest in peace

  4. Bernadette Butler says:

    Wow that's something that they found a black man not guilty back in the sixties without being racist Thank God

  5. andrea says:

    Interesting that she worked as a Younkers Tea Room waitress. Paula Oberbroeckling also worked at Younkers.

    • Angie (Hites) Carter, cousin of judy corbin says:

      paula did not work at younkers tea room, she taught class to disabled kids at a place named younkers

      • Kristina Fleenor says:

        Angie are you about the same age as Judy? I grew up in the same neighbor hood as Alan. My brother and Alan were pretty close back then. I didn’t even realize Alan had an older sister until I saw this article.

      • Kristina says:

        Angie, I’m sorry for your loss. My family lived a few houses away from Corbins. My brother and Alan were best friends. I knew Alan had an older sister that passed away but didn’t know she was murdered until I ran across her name on this website.

        • Lindsey Corbin says:

          Judy is my father’s sister. This case has been a huge burden on my dad, the oldest son. I wish I would’ve been able to meet my aunts. They were both, unfortunately, gone well before I was born…but this has created a lot of tension in my family, and we have never had any answers. Justice is probably far off now, but it would be nice even to know what happened so we could have some closure.

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