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The drizzling began the night before, and by 1 a.m. on Monday, July 10, 1967, the low rumbling thunder gave way to light rain across the sleeping city.
The day would break at 69 degrees with drizzle turning to fog, and inside a neat, one-story home with blue-gray asbestos siding in Des Moines, Iowa, Raymond Camp, 25, would kiss his wife goodbye and head off for his job as a tabulating equipment operator for the Iowa Employment Security Commission.
Leota Camp, also 25, had given birth to the couple’s third child, daughter Kristine, three months earlier, and the days teemed with activity as she tended to the baby and kept a watchful eye on their two older children, 4-year-old Kevin and 3-year-old Brenda, at their 3213 Flemming Ave. home.
On this day, the clouds finally cleared by mid-morning, and Kevin and Brenda went outside to play in the back yard. A little while later, their mother came out to check on them and hang clothing on the clothesline. With temperatures heading for the high 80s, the baby’s diapers and kids’ clothing would be dry in no time.
Just after 12:00 p.m., the two youngsters went back inside, and though “Baby Kristy” lay nursing a warm bottle of milk on a white blanket on the living room floor, their mother was nowhere to be seen.
The two children found her in the home’s front bedroom, lying face down on the bed. Blood soaked the bed around her and a knife protruded from her back. Kevin removed the knife and the two children then ran crying to the next-door neighbor’s home.
“Mommy’s bleeding,” they told Mrs. Mary Groe of 3209 Flemming.
Mrs. Groe ran to the Camp home, saw Mrs. Camp on the bed, and rushed out the door calling for Mrs. Nelle Edwards — the Camps’ neighbor to the west who lived at 3215 Flemming — who was out in her front yard. The two women raced back to the Camp home, where Mrs. Edwards went into the bedroom to see what had happened.
Leota lay face down, fully clothed in a blouse, skirt and shoes, her arms crossed and tied behind her back with a necktie. Neckties also bound her neck and ankles, and a necktie had been stuffed into her mouth as a gag.
The blood-stained six-inch kitchen knife used to stab the young mother lay on the bed beside her. According to Mrs. Edwards, Leota moaned, but wasn’t able to answer any questions.
A fire department rescue squad administered artificial respiration for seven minutes on the way to Broadlawns Polk County Hospital, but pronounced Mrs. Camp DOA.
Officials summoned Raymond Camp at work and asked he meet them at the hospital, where they notified him of his wife’s death.
Dr. Leo Luka, Polk County medical examiner, said Camp had been stabbed four times in the back and that the wounds had penetrated her lungs. She died, he said, of internal hemorrhaging, and there was no evidence she had been raped or sexually molested. Luka would later say he believed Mrs. Camp was slain by “a kook or pervert who got scared and panicked.”
Des Moines Police said the wounds were inflicted by two different knives from a kitchen set: the one found on the bed beside Mrs. Camp, and another of which police found the blade but not the knife’s handle.
Neighbors described to police a young white handsome man who had parked his car — a black Ford Mustang with louvers behind the doors — about a house and a half away from the Camp’s home about 11 a.m. He had a good tan, they said, was approximately 20 to 25 years old, 5′ 8″ to 5′ 10″ tall with brown, curly hair, was stockily built and wearing a brown and white plaid shirt and dark trousers.
They said the man cut diagonally across the Camp’s front yard and then entered the home. Another neighbor said he saw the man leave a few minutes before noon.
Luka believed the killer entered the home around noon while Mrs. Camp hung clothes in the back yard. When she came back into the house quicker than expected, she likely “walked into trouble,” he said, and the intruder probably threatened harm to her baby if she screamed or struggled.
Luka stated there were no signs of a physical struggle, no marks, bruises, or scratches on Mrs. Camp, and that nothing had been noted as missing from the home.
Neighbors helped Detective Robert Weichman compile a composite sketch of the young man seen entering and leaving the Camp home, and within the first four days after the murder received approximately 500 calls with tips.
“We would like to talk with this man in the event he saw anything,” Des Moines Chief of Detectives Cleatus M. Leaming said in a Des Moines Register article dated July 12, 1967. “We’re digging just as hard and as fast as we can on this murder.”
Investigators also followed up on 1965 or 1966 “fastback” Ford Mustangs with louvers on the vehicle’s upper portion behind the doors.
On July 14, 1967, the Des Moines Register reported that Mrs. Camp had received an obscene telephone call a few weeks prior to her death. Raymond Camp told the Register his wife received the anonymous call “about one and a half or two weeks before the Fourth of July,” and that when she answered, a man asked, “Where you been?”
Thinking it might be a friend kidding her, Leota told the caller she’d been feeding the baby, to which he replied “I thought maybe you were … [an obscene expression],” Camp told authorities.
Their home phone number, Mr. Camp said, wasn’t even in the phone book so they thought some nut dialed it by mistake, and there had been no further calls.
On August 16, Raymond Camp offered a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for his wife’s death. The reward was valid until Feb. 18, 1968, and though police received a handful of calls, none led to an arrest.
More than four decades later, Mr. Camp and his three grown children continue to wait for the one call that will lead to closure in a loving wife and mother’s still unsolved murder.
Leota Mae (Hodges) Camp was born January 20, 1942, in Kirksville, Adair County, Missouri, to Mrs. and Mrs. Forest Hodges.
She married Raymond Camp, and the couple had three children — son Kevin and daughters Brenda and Kristine.
Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 13, at the Church of Christ in Unionville, Mo.
Burial was at Scobee Cemetery in Pollock, Missouri, in Sullivan County.
Anyone with information about Leota Camp’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864 or the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.