Mariana Redrovan
(Courtesy Des Moines Register)

Mariana Redrovan


Mariana Redrovan
(aka Mariana Redroban)
15 YOA
DCI Case Number: 98-00744
Walnut Creek Inn
West Des Moines, IA
Polk County
January 23, 1998
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

On Friday, January 23, 1998, Ecuadorian immigrant Mariana Redrovan, 15, was stabbed to death in a room at the West Des Moines Walnut Creek Inn where she worked as a housekeeper.

A supervisor found Redrovan’s body in a guest room.

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
West Des Moines in Polk CountyWest Des Moines in Polk County

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published January 24, 1998, Michael Went, deputy director of the INS office in Omaha, Neb., said Redrovan was employed illegally at the Walnut Creek Inn because she did not have proper documentation to enter the country and worked more hours than the law allows for a 15-year-old.

Neal Roth, the hotel’s general manager, said Redrovan presented a driver’s license and a social security card with a last name of “Prieto” and an age of 17 when hired nine months earlier.

Roth said Redrovan worked 28 to 32 hours a week for $6 an hour.

Under labor regulations, 15-year-olds could not work more than four hours a day. Redrovan was working to support her parents, siblings, and other relatives.

An attorney for Iowa’s labor commissioner, Cynthia Tofflemire, told the Gazette the state didn’t receive many reports of illegal employment of under-age immigrants.

“We do have concerns, but I wouldn’t say we get a lot of reports,” Tofflemire said.

Connection to Other Iowa Slayings?
Zurijeta Sakanovic

Zurijeta Sakanovic

Authorities have long wondered whether Redrovan’s slaying might be connected to the slaying of Zurijeta Sakanovic, a 21-year-old Bosnian refugee who was strangled and stabbed to death in September 1997 at the Budgetel Inn in Clive where she worked, as well as the slayings of Patricia Lange and Julie Davis.

Sakanovic’s body was discovered in one of the hotel’s guest rooms two hours after she reported for work on September 4, 1997. She was found naked from the waist down with her wrists bound.

Investigators have not said whether Redrovan was strangled, and while there are similarities in the slayings, police have not confirmed whether they were committed by the same person.

Donald Piper

Donald Piper

Sakanovic’s murder came less than one week after the stabbing death of 33-year-old Julie Davis of Marion, Iowa, who died August 28, 1997 at her office near downtown Des Moines. Davis’s murder also remains unsolved.

Julie Davis

Julie Davis

Donald Arthur Piper of Des Moines — a former hotel maintenance man — was convicted June 18, 2002, in Sakanovic’s murder. At the time of that conviction, the 41-year-old Piper was already serving a life sentence for murdering 36-year-old Patricia Lange, an August 1993 guest at the University Park Holiday Inn in West Des Moines.

Lange, like Sakanovic, was found strangled in a guest room. Piper was convicted of first-degree murder in 2000 for Lange’s death and sentenced to life in prison with no parole. Officials linked Piper to Lange’s homicide through DNA evidence recovered from the hotel bedspread and a sock.

Cedar Rapids Gazette story from Jan. 8, 2002

Courtesy The Gazette, Jan. 8, 2002

Polk County District Court Judge D.J. Stovall denied a motion for a mistrial after jurors returned the verdict in Lange’s case.

In January 1999, authorities confirmed that a West Des Moines police officer and a Polk County prosecutor also questioned Roberto Rodriquez Perez to see whether a statement he’d recently made referred to Redrovan’s slaying. Perez was sentenced January 20, 1999, for the April 14 slaying of Connie Sue Osburn at a Denny’s restaurant.

“We have nothing to link him to the crime,” West Des Moines police Sgt. Lee Hart is quoted as saying in a January 21, 1999 article published in the Moline Dispatch and Rock Island Argus. “We are aware of his statement, but now we have nothing concrete, nothing to corroborate.”

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Redrovan’s case was one of approximately 150 listed on the Cold Case Unit’s new website as cases the division hoped to solve using 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.

Piper remains a person of interest in Redrovan’s slaying.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Mariana Redrovan’s unsolved murder please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, e-mail, or contact the West Des Moines Police Department at (515) 222-3320.



Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

30 Responses to Mariana Redrovan

  1. Stephanie Elizabeth Caceres Redrovan says:

    Marianna Is my aunt it’s so sad that still today there is no justice for her. She was only 15 she wasn’t even able to experience life yet because that was taken from her.

  2. Diana Wilson says:

    Sorry about your cousin, Roniie.

  3. RIP Julie Bell. I pray for justice.

  4. May she rest in peace my dear cousin

  5. Wendy says:

    I am disgusted with Donald Piers wife’s actions, covering for him and claiming to hav had sex with him in 12+ rooms…what a horrid couple…she is just as culpable for covering up and being his weak alibi…why hasn’t she been charged with perjury?

  6. Emma De Mendonça says:

    I just watch a ci programme on the case which indicates they believe Donald piper did murder Mariana redrovan but did not put a case against him as there was no dna evidence. The photo of the 15 year old (not pic in this peice) haunts me, no justice for this young girl.

    • andrea says:

      There was a very strange comment on her story here that caught my attention and I have tried to follow up with this gentleman that says he had an idea as to who it was. He worked for Quality Ford during the time of her death. He said he believed that the person responsible is in jail and that it wasn’t Donald piper. I have had no luck at all with him returning any messages. I know her family well and I helped the detectives as much as I could in the beginning. It bothers me still to this day that they could not catch her killer. I am going to retain a complete report of everything about her case and have a friend help me see if we can find something to solve this case and put her and her family at peace.

  7. segundo says:

    I’m her brother and need help finding a movie or a TV show that is based on her death.. someone told me there’s a movie or tv show not sure yet but its based on her.

    • andrea triana says:

      Hello Segundo, my name is Andrea. My husband is Martin and he is from Ecuador as well. I have not heard of any movie or documentary made in regards to Mariana. But I have heard of a documentary based on the guy they think is responsible for her death. His name is Donald Piper. They don’t have any solid proof that he was her killer. I am still trying to find out as much information I can to try and help solve her case. You are more than welcome to contact me at any given time ok.

  8. andrea triana says:

    I am a friend of the family! If you have any information brad greene please contact me! I still see her parents from time to time!!

  9. Don says:

    I linked the documents into the replies section below. Kind regards, Don

  10. Don says:

    If you Google- 2002 11:11:52 AM USDC, Southern District of Iowa- you will find the transcript of the lawsuit filed against the hotel. It has in the background section a description of Mr Piper’s behavior in this murder case. Depraved is an understatement.

  11. josh piper says:

    Donald piper did not do this he was framed by the police if u knew Donald piper u would know that this is not a kind of person who could do something like this to a human being I love my uncle and the person who did it is still out their y

    • Jess Makay says:

      You may not think he did it, but his cousin, and uncle (who both share the now unfortunate name) both think he did. Don’t know about the rest of the family.

  12. brad greene says:

    dear jodi ewing, i may have info for you on a suspect or possible suspect. please contact me. if youve read my innitial post you may just think im crazy. but what if im not. cant hurt to find out can it. sincerely brad greene

  13. brad greene says:

    hello, i’m trying to find info on the murder in the walnut creek in. I know what I’m about to say will make me sound crazy but I have to try and get this resolved. Back in 2000 I moved to DesMoines into a house i rented off someone i know.Strange things happened there so i started paying close attention. long story short i think it was the spirit of the girl murdered there. there was a car stored in a garage at my house which belonged to another friend of mine who was in jail for something else.i heard someone comment that talked to him where he said he shouldnt ever get out of jail because he said he was a very bad man. this person frequented the motel at the time of the murder. i believe there may be a connection. this spirit will not leave me alone cause i feel she needs me to get her case resolved. i may be out in left field but if i can help in any way let me know. this spirit is not mean in any way just but is relentless in needing me to do whatever it is thats keeping her from crossing over. please email me at

  14. Jessica says:

    The picture you have is NOT Mariana Redrovan! That is Zurijeta Sakanovic – the maid that Donald Piper murdered at the Budgetel Inn in 1997.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Dear Jessica: Thanks so much for alerting us to this. Someone had passed that photo on to us stating it was Mariana, but I have now removed the photo from all references to her. I don’t suppose you’d know where we could locate a photo for her? :-) At any rate, we appreciate it when readers pay attention and catch errors like this. Thank you again for taking the time to write! Jody

      • Jessica says:

        I’m sorry I don’t. I worked with Zurijeta at the hotel & that’s how I knew it was her & not Mariana.

      • Veronica O. says:

        I hope Redrovan’s case gets solved one day. My dear cousin Mariana deserves to rest in peace and our family wants justice for her death. She was just 15 years old, how can they hurt someone so young. at the time she was killed no one ever knew who killed her neither tried to bring justice to her murder. NO one knows how hurtful this was and still is for our family.

  15. Mr. X says:

    The TV channel investigation discovery has a show/documentary about Donald Piper. I had never heard of him before. I did try searching the internet for him and nothing came up on any true crime sites or even on wikipedia.

    Unusual Suspects (Season 3)
    Hotel Homicides
    TV-14 (V)

    Between 1993 and 1997 three women are murdered in three Des Moines, Iowa hotels. Hampered by the sheer volume of suspects and the infancy of forensic testing, it takes years of dogged investigation to bring a sadistic killer to justice.

  16. Joe says:

    There are some court documents on line which show the extent of Mr Pipers depravity. Hopefully he stays in jail for a long, long time.

  17. Joe says:

    If I recall correctly wasn’t this murder attributed to Donald Piper? Investigative Discovery showcased Mr Piper who was convicted of First Degree Murder for the murder of a woman in a West Des Moines hotel. He was the Building Engineer and had a pass key to her room. The Investigation tied him to other murders in Des Moines as well. I should think he is possibly Iowa’s first convicted Serial Killer.Kind regards, Joe

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