Mary Lange

Mary Lange (Photo courtesy the Burlington Hawk-Eye)

Mary Bernice Lange


Mary Bernice Lange
37 YOA
Rural Danville, Iowa
Des Moines County
Iowa DCI Case Number: 70-01291
December 17, 1970
Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

Mary Bernice Lange, 37, had been missing for two days when her fully clothed body was found shortly before 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 19, 1970, floating in Long Creek’s shallow waters below a bridge on the seldom-used Agency Road nine miles west of Burlington.

A July 25, 2004 article in the Burlington Hawk Eye described the discovery of Lange’s body:

Floating in a brook, her hand seemed to wave from her watery grave to the farmer who found her.

Des Moines County in Iowa
Des Moines County in Iowa
Burlington in Des Moines CountyBurlington in Des Moines County

An autopsy concluded Lange suffered three blows to the head from a blunt object, and then, while unconscious, was dragged into the water to drown.

At the time of her death, Lange was married to Marvin Dale Lange, 50, but divorce proceedings were pending and the couple was in the middle of a nasty custody dispute over their three children.

Marvin Lange had withdrawn about $2,000 from an Illinois bank account around the time his wife was killed.

Officials involved in the investigation believed Lange was struck elsewhere, put into the trunk of her car, and then driven to Long Creek where she was removed from the trunk and dumped into the water.

Lange — a clerk in the municipal court office — had not been sexually assaulted.

On Wednesday, Dec. 16, she had attended a Christmas party for city employees at Memorial Auditorium. Sometime between 8:45 and 9 p.m., she left the party to meet Charles Robert Hutson, a 42-year-old married man from Galesburg, Illinois.

Mary Lange timeline

as reported by the Hawk Eye
July 25, 2004

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 1970
7:30 or 8 p.m. Diane Lange said her mother left for a Christmas party at Memorial Auditorium.
8:45 or 9 p.m. Lange leaves the party early and meets with Charles Robert Hutson. They go to Fort Madison, then head back to Burlington.
Thursday, Dec. 17
2:45 a.m. Lange and Hutson part ways near Fourth and Washington streets.
3 a.m. Brothers Ivan and Don Gugeler are called by Marvin Lange to his home to wait for Mary Lange’s return. They allegedly leave about 5:30 a.m.
That afternoon, Dorothy Malloy, Mary Lange’s sister, reports her missing to police.
Friday, Dec. 18
12:37 a.m. Mary Lange’s white 1966 Chevrolet Impala is found, locked, parked on Smith Street, just off Plane Street. Police believe the car was parked there early Thursday morning.
Saturday, Dec. 19
10:05 a.m. Farmer William Moore finds Mary Lange’s clothed body floating in Long Creek near a bridge in rural Danville about nine miles west of Burlington.
Tuesday, Dec. 22
Mary Lange’s funeral is held.

According to Hutson, the two drove to the Palms Restaurant in Fort Madison, where they had three or four drinks. They parked on a gravel road on the way back to Burlington, he said.

Hutson said Lange dropped him off about 2:45 a.m. Thursday near Fourth and Washington streets and told him she was going home. Hutson said he’d made sure all doors to Lange’s vehicle were locked, and that he’d locked the front passenger door as he left.

Lange’s blood-spattered car — a white 1966 Chevrolet four-door sedan — was found on Smith St. at Plane (off Division) by Burlington police at 12:37 a.m. Friday, according to the Hawk-Eye’s Dec. 21, 1970 paper. A total of 31 items — including four sets of fingerprints — were sent to the FBI lab in Washington where tests were performed on blood, the fingerprints, mud and the rug found in Lange’s car.

Killer believed to be familiar with area roads

Police estimated Lange was killed sometime between 2:45 and 7 a.m. Thursday.

Authorities said they were fairly certain Lange was killed by someone who knew her and who also was familiar with roads in the area.

In the Hawk-Eye’s Dec. 21 article, Police Inspector James Ewing said Lange’s male companion “was as good a suspect as you could have found,” but that following a polygraph (lie detector) test in Cedar Rapids, the man was cleared as a suspect.

Hutson, who lived in Galesburg, took the polygraph the day after Lange’s body was found.

Ewing said a Cedar Rapids “veteran administrator” BCI agent conducted the test, and said it determined Hutson — who denied any knowledge of Lange’s disappearance or death — was telling the truth.

Lange’s purse and one shoe, the only two personal items not found with her body, were recovered Sunday, the Hawk-Eye reported. According to Monday’s article:

The shoe was found in a barbed wire fence which cuts across Long Creek — the same fence in which Mrs. Lange’s body was caught when discovered.

The purse was found one mile west of Middletown on the north side of the Geode blacktop.

Deputy Sheriff Mel Berges said it appeared the purse had been tossed from the operator’s side of an eastbound vehicle. Its contents were strewn over a 20-yard area, but Mrs. Lange’s unwashed payroll check was still in the purse. (The Burlington Hawk-Eye, Dec. 21, 1970)

Had Wife Followed

During the pending divorce proceedings, Marvin Lange had hired brothers Don and Ivan Gugeler to follow his wife and document her comings and goings. The night of the party, Marvin Lange called the brothers at their homes at approximately 2:30 a.m.

Arriving in separate vehicles, the brothers parked down the road and walked to the Lange home, where they said they sat in a dark kitchen with Marvin Lange while waiting for Mary to return home. The brothers said they left around 5:30 a.m. when Mrs. Lange failed to show up.

One week later, the brothers served as pallbearers at her funeral.

Burlington Hawk-Eye story dated Dec. 20, 1970Courtesy photo Burlington Hawk-Eye, Sunday, Dec. 20, 1970

Lange’s murder was the only one of six homicides in 1970 the state BCI did not solve.

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Mary Lange’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.

About Mary Lange

Mary Bernice Lange, the daughter of Wilbur Allen and Rose T. (Bacon) Grinnell, was born Jan. 24, 1933, in Burlington. Her home was in Flint River township and she worked as a clerk in the Burlington municipal court.

She was a member of First United Methodist church, Burlington Women’s Bowling Assn., and Eagles auxiliary.

She married Marvin Dale Lange at Wapello on March 10, 1951.

Survivors included her husband, her mother, Mrs. Rose Williams; three children: Connie, 18, Danny 14, and Diane, 11, all at home; two brothers, Robert Grinnell, Las Vegas, Nev., and Raymond Grinnell, Burlington; and a sister, Mrs. Dorothy Malloy of Burlington.

Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Prugh’s chapel with Dr. G. Dempster Yinger officiating.

Pallbearers, in addition to Donald and Ivan Gugeler, included Dale Johnson, Bernard Tucker, Municipal Judge Gary J. Snyder from the office where Lange worked, and Paul Rynell, the county assessor for whom Lange worked prior to transferring courthouse positions two years before her death.

Fellow employees called Lange a punctual and diligent worker.

Mary Lange was laid to rest in Burlington Memorial Park Cemetery.

A number of original articles about her unsolved murder are available for download in PDF format in the ‘Sources’ section below.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Mary Lange’s unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email You may also contact the Burlington Police Department Crime Stoppers at 319-753-6835 (319-75 DO TEL), or the Des Moines County Sheriff’s Office at 319-753-8212.

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


7 Responses to Mary Lange

  1. LakeLife says:

    All three men just happened to be able to provide alibis for eachother the night she goes missing & Melvin admitted that he had hired these guys to follow her?!
    It was obviously him!!

  2. Tracy N Kory Moore says:

    How can the FBI ignore the horrible alibi that the husband and Gugeler brothers gave. Why in the world would they park down the lane and walk to the house, unless they were going to kill her for being out late and wanting a divorce. There is DNA testing now, where you can get a composite of what the killer looks like, this has solved many lingering cases.

  3. One of those 3 had something to do with it!

  4. Diana Wilson says:

    Sounds like the husband to me.

  5. Meg Grinnell says:

    Mary Lange was my aunt. I stumbled across this website today. The memories it brought back. I am thankful that you are still working on cold-cases & hope that you continue this case. We already know what happened we just need proof which wasn’t available in earlier decades. I & other surviving family members would like closure & finality of what happened-the truth. Please don’t let this case drift away again. Thank you.

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