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Martha Kistenmacher, a 74-year-old lifelong Davenport, Iowa, resident, died Thursday, Nov. 16, 1978, nearly two weeks after being mugged outside her 1308-1/2 Main St. home.
Kistenmacher suffered a broken shoulder after a young assailant attacked her from behind just as she was leaving the house on Saturday, Nov. 4, 1978. The robber grabbed at her purse, which contained only $25, and as he tugged at the purse the strap broke and Kistenmacher fell to the ground, police said in a Quad-City Times article dated Nov. 17, 1978.
Kistenmacher spent one week at Mercy Hospital before being transferred to the Americana Healthcare Center, where she died.
Prior to retiring, the never-married Kistenmacher worked for the former Newman’s Ready-to-Wear Store in Davenport.
Scott County Medical Examiner Dr. Rollin M. Perkins II conducted the autopsy, and cited official cause of death as pulmonary embolism — blood clotting in the lungs.
“But our line of thought right now is that her death is definitely tied into her attack,” Perkins stated.
Capt. H.T. Fitzsimmons, who headed up the Davenport police detective division, told the Times they had indications Kistenmacher’s death was complicated by the injury.
Three months before Kistenmacher’s assault, 90-year-old Clara Schiele of 1423 Main St. died after being attacked just one block away from where the assailant assaulted Kistenmacher.
On Thursday, Aug. 3, a man wearing a nylon mask over his face attacked Schiele about 2 p.m. as she climbed the steps to her home after a shopping trip. Schiele struck her head on the concrete steps, and the robber ran off after stealing $20 from her purse.
The independent senior refused medical treatment until later that afternoon. A Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Aug. 5, 1978 said Schiele was taken to a Davenport hospital were she died from a skull fracture and internal injuries about 10 hours after the mugging.
Fitzsimmons said detectives believed the two women’s deaths may be related.
“Naturally, the scope of the investigation into Miss Kistenmacher’s death has been broadened,” said Fitzsimmons, who also told the Times police recently had received an anonymous tip directing them to check out a particular individual in both assaults.
“We will be talking to him,” Fitzsimmons said.
According to the Quad-City Times, before Kistenmacher died she described her attacker to police as a young black male between 13 and 16 years of age. A witness in Schiele’s assault also had described the attacker as a black youth.
Said Fitzsimmons about Kistenmacher’s case:
“This homicide is very similar to the Schiele death. And this is not your normal homicide. There is no crime scene. Without physical evidence — like fingerprints — and witnesses, we’re starting from ground zero.”
~ Capt. H.T. Fitzsimmons, The Quad-City Times, Nov. 17, 1978
Martha Kistenmacher was born July 16, 1904 to Louis A. and Louisa (Rochau) Kistenmacher in Blue Grass, Iowa, Scott County.
Memorial services were at 11:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 20, 1978, at the Runge Mortuary, with burial following in Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery.
Visitation was held from 3 to 9 p.m. Sunday.
The family asked that memorials be made to a favorite charity.
One of 12 siblings, Martha was survived by four sisters, Alice Kistenmacher, Seattle, Wash., and Lydia Haase, Flora Miller and Minnie Kistenmacher, all of Davenport; and two brothers, John of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Robert of Davenport.
Her parents and brothers Henry, Walter, David, Louis and Arnold preceded her in death.
Martha was laid to rest in Davenport Memorial Park Cemetery.
Her homicide, like Clara Schiele’s, remains unsolved.
The last of the 12 Kistenmacher siblings, Minnie, died December 1996 in Davenport at age 93.
If you have any information about Martha Kistenmacher’s unsolved murder, please contact the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979.
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