Jerry Cooper

Jerry Cooper (Courtesy Des Moines Register)

Keith Clayborne, II

Keith Clayborne, II (Courtesy Des Moines Register)

Double Homicide

Keith Clayborne II, 20 and
Jerry Fonzo Cooper, 23

3205 Kingman Blvd., Apt. #208
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 1991-12517
March 27, 1991


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On Wednesday, March 27, 1991, Keith Anthony Clayborne II, 20, and Jerry F. Cooper, 23, were shot execution style at 3205 Kingman Blvd. #208 in Des Moines, Iowa. The deaths were believed to be drug-related.

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

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Saturday, August 3, 1991, Des Moines police said they were studying evidence to see if the shooting deaths of Clayborne and Cooper were somehow related to the July 12, 1991 shooting deaths of two women in a central Iowa farmhouse.

Shari Exline, 29, and a friend visiting from Fort Dodge, Melissa Maharas, 35, were found shot to death in July in a farmhouse east of Adel, Iowa. Jeff Thomas, 32, was wounded in the shooting, according to the Gazette.

Harris Evans, 21, and Troy Mure, 25, were arrested in the Adel shootings and charged with first-degree murder.

“Our case [the Clayborne/Cooper double homicide] was execution-style and drug-related and if their case was similar, who knows,” Des Moines police Sgt. Robert Ervin told the Gazette.

Police were never able to connect the two double homicides.

In a Des Moines Register article dated May 8, 2006, reporter Jeff Bash presented a “deck” of Des Moines’ unsolved mysteries; the Clayborne/Cooper case was presented as “Case 1.” Bash wrote:

THE CASE: Jerry Cooper, 23, and Keith Clayborne II, 20, were found shot to death in their Kingman Boulevard apartment in March 1991. Police said the men died of multiple wounds, and that some shots had been fired at close range into tops or sides of the victims’ heads.

THE OBSTACLES: A teen-age girl was in the apartment at the time of the shootings but apparently did not see the intruder or intruders. Officers found a small amount of cocaine in the apartment.

THE DETAILS: The killings sparked outrage among black civic leaders who said city officials had failed to provide urban youths with alternatives to crime and violence.

The Des Moines police department, Bash wrote, had just hired two retired detectives to work exclusively on unsolved homicides.

In a separate Register article written by Tom Alex published the same day, Alex spoke with Keith Clayborne, Keith Clayborne II’s father, who said he supported the police department’s move to have the two retired detectives — Lt. Clarence Jobe and Sgt. Jerry Jones — look into the department’s 74 unsolved murders.

“If Des Moines is starting a cold case unit, even part time, then that’s better than nothing,” Clayborne is quoted as saying in the article by Alex. “My feeling is, people who kill each other usually know each other. Maybe now enough time has elapsed they can find out who the perpetrator was.”

The younger Clayborne, Alex wrote, was “atypical” of young men caught up in the drug trade at the time; Clayborne II had been to private prep schools, attended summer camp, and had gone to college. His father, wrote Alex, now a newspaper publisher in Florida, was corporate director of employee relations for the New York Times Co.

“I tended not to look at the case too closely at the time because I was too devastated,” Keith Clayborne told the Register. “Nothing will bring back my son, but I think I would find some closure if the people responsible for that hideous crime were brought to justice. We all want justice.”

Jobe had tried to get a cold case unit started while in charge of the department’s homicide unit in the 1990s.

“We couldn’t figure out a way to make it work within our budget back then,” Jobe told the Register. “I just didn’t want to look back five years from now and realize it’s something I should have done.”

It was Maj. Judy Bradshaw’s idea to bring Jobe and Jones on board, Alex wrote, and Bradshaw said [the department] wasn’t going to hire just “anyone” to work on the cold cases. “We decided who we wanted to get, who we thought would be motivated,” Bradshaw said.

Officials have continued to encourage anyone with information to come forward, but the Clayborne and Cooper murders remain unsolved.

Both men were buried in the Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.

About Keith Clayborne II

Keith Anthony Clayborne II was born October 9, 1970. He died on Wednesday, March 27, 1991, at age 20.

keith-clayborne-gravestoneCourtesy photo Katie Lou,
Keith Anthony Clayborne II is buried at the Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.

Surviving are a son, Keith III of Des Moines; his mother, Marie Doolin, and two half sisters, LaShonna Dorsey and Shayla Dorsey, all of Omaha; his father and stepmother, Keith Sr. and Bernadette Clayborne, and three half brothers, Kishon, Kendall and Kendrick, all of Coconut Creek, Fla.; his grandparents, Leonard and Carol Stovall and Donald Clayborne, all of Des Moines, Tina LaMay of Omaha and Donald Doolin of Detroit; and his great-great-grandmother, Catherine Durden of Des Moines.

About Jerry Cooper (from obituary)

Jerry Fonzo Cooper was born in Des Moines on December 4, 1967. 

jerry-cooper-gravestoneCourtesy photo Katie Lou,
Jerry Cooper is also buried at the Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.

Survivors included two daughters, Leann Cooper and Marquetta Cooper, both of Atlanta, Ga.; his mother and stepfather, Terry and Donna Gross of Kansas City, Mo.; his father and stepmother, Jerry and Harlene Cooper of Des Moines; two half-sisters, Lynea Cooper of Washington, D.C., and Armirra Cooper of Des Moines; three brothers, Terry Stewart, Anthony Burrell and Cassiuf Cooper, all of Des Moines; a stepbrother, Kerry Gross of Kansas City, Mo.; his grandparents, Emma Trumbo and Clyde Drain, both of Des Moines, and Ralph Trumbo of Waterloo; a step-grandfather, Joe Neighbors of Des Moines; and his great-grandmother, Hortense Trumbo of West Des Moines.

Services were held at noon Monday, April 1, 1991, at Estes and Son Funeral Home, with burial at Glendale Cemetery. Visitation was held at the funeral home from 7 to 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 31, 1991.

Information Needed

If you have information about this double homicide, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864.

Sources and References:
  • Robert Trumbo (uncle to Jerry Cooper and cousin to Keith Clayborne), correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, January 9, 2010
  • Des Moines Police Department, correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial for Jerry F. Cooper
  • Find a Grave Memorial for Keith Anthony Clayborne II
  • “Cold Case,” by Jeff Bash, The Des Moines Register, May 8, 2006
  • “Part-time unit will seek to find full answers,” by Tom Alex, The Des Moines Register, May 8, 2006
  • “DM homicides from 2000 officially closed,” The Des Moines Register, April 11, 2005
  • “4 sons seek answers in dad’s ’86 murder,” The Des Moines Register, February 20, 2004
  • “Slayings keep DM police stumped,” The Des Moines Register, September 13, 2003
  • “Police arrest 2nd suspect in double murder at Adel,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Saturday, August 3, 1991, Page 12
  • Jerry F. Cooper obituary, The Des Moines Register, Sunday, March 31, 1991, Page 13
  • Keith Clayborne II obituary, The Des Moines Register, Friday, March 29, 1991, Page 17


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4 Responses to Keith Clayborne and Jerry Cooper

  1. Lynea Cooper says:

    Miss you little brother. We will one day meet again. Rest in peace. Lynea

  2. Debrah Rochon says:

    Our families are still praying for answers.

  3. Praying for answer!

  4. Tammy Baker says:

    Kelli the comment was cruel. Jerry was the father of my oldest daughter, she grew up without him, and no man could ever take his place.

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