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On Tuesday morning, September 30, 1947, two men on their way to work at Credit Island Park in southwest Davenport discovered a woman’s body near the park’s main entrance.
The victim was later identified as 34-year-old war widow Margaret B. Treese of Davenport, formerly of New Cumberland, West Virginia.
Davenport park employees Howard Whitlock and Orville Crow found Treese’s nude and badly mutilated body at 7:48 a.m.
She lay face up with pieces of her clothing scattered about the scene. A battered photo of a young child lay near her body.
According to the coroner’s report, Treese suffered 15 stab wounds to the chest and her body was run over repeatedly by an automobile.
Newspaper accounts varied in reporting the number of Treese’s stab wounds. While the Spokane Daily Chronicle said she was stabbed 10 times, the Neosho (Missouri) Daily Democrat reported 19 stab wounds.
Numerous tattoos on Treese’s body led to her case being dubbed “The Tattoo Murder Case.”
The (St. Petersburg, Fla.) Independent described the tattoos in a story published Oct. 1, 1947:
Both of the woman’s arms and legs and her chest had tattoo markings. What appeared to be a social security number was found on one arm. Tattooed on her chest was “Stanley,” and under it the inscription “true love,” beside which was an elaborate tattoo design of a snake with bared fangs.
Other tattooed designs on the body included a large cross inside of which was the lettering “Rock of Ages” and below this the phrase, “Bill and Ezzie.” — The St. Petersburg Independent, Oct. 1, 1947
Davenport Police Chief Reed Phillips said the victim was identified as Mrs. Treese by Clarence Saunders, 42, who said he’d last seen Treese Monday night, September 29.
Saunders told Phillips that Treese had shared a hotel room with him but went out with other men. She’d been living in Davenport since May and was employed in a laundry part of the time, Saunders said.
Phillips said Treese’s first husband, Elmer G. Treese, was killed during the war.
The Independent said it was reported from West Virginia that Treese had married Stanley Dombkiewicz in 1946, but that they’d apparently separated in recent months.
According to an Oct. 2, 1947 story published in the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Evening News, Dombkiewicz told authorities his name was one of those tattooed on Treese’s body.
Dombkiewicz said he married Mrs. Treese Oct. 20, 1945, at New Cumberland, W. Va., but they separated shortly afterward as the result of an argument.
On October 1, 1947, the Daily Democrat reported Treese may have been killed to keep her from talking about a previous murder.
Officials traced Treese’s whereabouts on the night of her death to several area taverns; she was known to frequent a Davenport neighborhood called “skid row” and had been drinking heavily that night.
She was last seen around 12:30 a.m. drinking with three men in one of the row’s taverns. One witness told police he saw her get into a car with the three men, none of whom he could identify.
Over the years, police questioned hundreds of individuals in the slaying, and though more than a dozen people confessed to her murder, none of the confessions was considered valid.
In one such confession in December 1951, police said they were studying reports from Salinas, California to determine if they should file murder charges against William Alfred Brinkley, 28, Centerville, Iowa, in Treese’s death.
An AP story published in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald Tuesday, Dec. 18, 1951, said Brinkley walked into the Salinas police station early Monday morning, and according to Chief of Police R.J. McIntyre, claimed he was involved in the death of a woman in Davenport in 1948.
Davenport police confirmed there was an unsolved slaying from that year and requested Brinkley be held for questioning.
Chief R.W. Nebergall of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation pointed out discrepancies in the dates Brinkley provided, and Chief McIntyre said Brinkley had told him he spent 12 years in the Woodward, Iowa, state school for the feebleminded and was released in 1939. The chief also pointed out the time elements in Brinkley’s story, which apparently did not tally with his age.
Brinkley wasn’t charged in Treese’s death, which remains unsolved.
Margaret Beatrice (Martin) Treese was born Feb. 7, 1913 in Steubenville, Ohio, Jefferson County, to Joseph W. Martin and Flora (Kirkbride) Martin.
She had six siblings, including James J. Martin, Bernard Rex Martin, Clara W. Martin, Curtis V. Martin, Flora L. Martin Leack, and William F. Martin.
She married Elmer G. Treese, who died in the war, and on Oct. 20, 1945, married Stanley Dombkiewicz in New Cumberland, West Virginia. The couple separated shortly afterward as the result of an argument.
Margaret’s survivors included her mother and siblings.
Margaret Treese was buried Oct. 3, 1947 in the New Cumberland Cemetery in Hancock County, West Virginia.
If you have any information about Margaret Treese’s unsolved murder, please contact the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979.