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Shortly after 4 a.m. on Tuesday, March 31, 1981, a fire broke out in the home of Mamie Sime on the outskirts of Rolfe, Iowa. Firemen answered the alarm at 4:30 a.m., and arrived to find the house fully engulfed in flames.
Firefighters later discovered Sime’s body, and Pocahontas County Medical Examiner Dr. John Rhodes Jr., pronounced her dead at the scene. Sime, 74, had lived alone in the house since her husband, Telmer, passed away in 1973.
Authorities first believed the petite 5-foot-2 Sime had died in the fire. An autopsy, however, concluded Sime had been raped, beaten, and stabbed numerous times, and officers said it appeared the fire was deliberately set in an effort to destroy the evidence.
Officials involved in investigating the suspicious fire included the state Fire Marshal’s Office, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Pocahontas County Sheriff’s Office, and the assistant county attorney.
Investigators ruled the fire as arson and Mamie Sime’s death a homicide.
Mamie and Telmer Sime wanted to have a family, and on June 3, 1934, Mamie gave birth to a son, Julia Paul, at the Fort Dodge Lutheran Hospital, but the infant lived only a short while.
The Simes later adopted a daughter, Judith, who would be the only child they would raise. They welcomed the birth of their grandson, Tony.
According to Sime’s closest friends, Mamie doted on Tony, though Judy “was the type of person you were scared of…very tall, large, and mean, and prone to fits of anger.”
Mamie allegedly had given her adult daughter money on a regular basis, but the week before her death, Mamie had finally told Judith “no more,” and refused to give her any more money.
The [then] Pocahontas County sheriff and the county attorney both had attended high school with “Judy.”
Officials who investigated Mamie’s murder said robbery did not appear to be a motive, as Sime had many valuable antiques in her home and none were reported missing. There was no forced entry into the home.
Although Sime had a sister and brother-in-law who lived nearby, sources said Mamie had “never given either of them a key to her home.”
According to one source who asked that her identity not be shared with anyone except law enforcement officials, the only known individual who had a key to Sime’s home was her adopted daughter, Judith.
Sime’s grandson Tony was never considered a suspect in her death, which remains unsolved.
Mamie (Pederson) Sime was born June 9, 1906 in Story County, Iowa, to Norwegian immigrants Annie Mortens and Paul F. Pederson. She had two siblings, Obid M. Pederson and Pearl I. Pederson Bielefeldt.
Mamie was active in her community and previously served on the Board of Parish Education for St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
Telmer preceded Mamie in death in 1973. The couple are buried in Clinton Garfield Cemetery in Pocahontas County.
Mamie’s sister and brother-in-law, Pearl and Cecil Bielefeldt, worked tirelessly to keep Mamie’s memory alive and pressed law enforcement for answers in her murder until their deaths.
Acquaintances of Mamie and citizens of Rolfe, Iowa, have since taken up the cause to help solve this brutal murder.
When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Mamie Sime’s murder was one of approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA technology.
Although federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.
The DCI remains committed to the resolution of Iowa’s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.