Mary K. Senne (Courtesy Des Moines Register)

Mary K. Senne (Courtesy Des Moines Register)

Mary K. Senne


Mary K. Senne
21 YOA
4119 E. University Ave.
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 1973-51704
October 22, 1973


Information provided by Des Moines police and Des Moines Register
Courtesy Des Moines Register, Oct. 23, 1973

Courtesy Des Moines Register, Oct. 23, 1973

On Monday night, October 22, 1973, Mary K. Senne, 21, was stabbed to death in her east Des Moines home sometime between 6 and 6:30 p.m. after an intruder cut the telephone line.

A report by Polk County Medical Examiner R.C. Wooters stated that Senne was stabbed twice in the stomach and one time in the throat. There were signs of a slight struggle, Wooters said, but Senne had not been sexually molested.

Authorities said robbery may have been a motive.

Mary Senne’s husband, Douglas Senne, 23, said he discovered his wife’s body when he came home about 7:30 p.m.

Mrs. Senne, clad in a yellow sweater and black slacks, lay face up on the living room carpet in a pool of blood in the couple’s residence at 4119 E. University Ave.

Mary Senne was employed by AID Insurance Services at 701 Fifth Avenue in Des Moines, and was the daughter of a Galesburg, Ill., surgeon.

Gregory Hawkins, who managed the complex’s 11 duplexes, said Mr. Senne moved into the $140-a-month unit on Dec. 3, 1972, and that Mrs. Senne moved in when the couple married in February 1973.

Hawkins described the Sennes as “the best people we had,” and said they’d never had complaints or trouble with the couple (Des Moines Register, Oct. 23, 1973).

Information Needed

If you have any information you think might help solve this case, please contact the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at 515-283-4864.


17 Responses to Mary Senne

  1. Kennedy says:

    What really bothers me about this case is that it just doesn’t make any sense. First of all, there were 10 other duplexes where she lived and no one heard anything at a time when people are regularly home? The fact that her phone lines were cut doesn’t make sense for it to be just a simple robbery gone wrong especially when there are no signs of forced entry and nothing of note was missing. the fact that she was murdered between 6:00 and 6:30pm, where it would be light outside and there is a higher chance of beeing seen. Also the fact that the medical examiner said that she only had “slight” signs of a struggle just does not make sense. Paired with thte fact that there were no signs of forced entry it makes it seem like she knew the person who killed her. Apparently her husbands alibi checked out. Could it have been someone from her work or school that followed her home? Was the murder weapon ever recovered? Why were the clothes she was wearing described but not much else was? Why was the husband immediatly cleared in the origional DesMoines register article that announced her death? that just doesn’t seem normal to be like “This woman was killed, but her husband didn’t do it!” There are just so many questions

    • JP Miller says:

      To answer Kennedy directly… Lack of neighbor observation is a little troubling. A re-interview of neighbors after this many years might allay the usual fear of getting involved and anyone who did see something may have tired of guilt over failing to speak up.
      The cut lines are also troubling. It was never clear whether the lines were cut outside or inside the home. That alone would make a difference in the timeline and motivation. What kind of tool was used? Was a tool found? I can tell the difference between scissors, knife and wire cutters for example. Outside wires would be harder to cut.
      Second or third hand hearsay shortly after the murder from people who rode with her indicated her husband was at work at a shipper’s sorting facility at the time of the murder and could not have traveled in the available time. Further hearsay was that he had called home twice during that time. Once the phone was picked up but no one answer and later the phone was busy. Since both of these are hearsay I would rather see the police reports than rely on it. I would think police would have checked phone records at work and would also have checked whether her husband could have arranged a killing.
      We know none of this, so anything one might conclude about the murder is pure speculation. What is needed for any further progress is a lot more information, information the police are unlikely to release.
      The detective who interviewed me was interested in her contacts, potential extra marital interests and friends among those who commuted with her to school. I knew of no liaisons and had heard no rumors but I provided lists and schedules of those who rode with her. My job was to maintain the schedules for the commuter club. If they followed up with those people it could be as many as 5 people each way for each day of the week she rode or drove. I got no feedback or contact from police after that interview. Further hearsay indicated she rode back from school in an earlier car which was a common practice in the club. Even more people would have to be interviewed.
      In most cases I’ve gotten the impression police are rather exhaustive in interviewing potential contacts in murder cases.
      I wonder whether any physical evidence such as her clothing were preserved that could be checked for DNA. That might be helpful, much more so if it were found on a weapon or on wire cutters or the phone or wire themselves.
      Yes, there are many questions that we in the public cannot begin to help answer. Especially after so many years, it would be good for the police to release information to a limited review team to get fresh eyes on it, but not wholesale publication. I am sure police are and all of us should be concerned about wild speculation and life destroying false accusations that can go viral on the internet. It is so easy for people to gen up hysteria regarding totally innocent people on flimsy, incorrect or even false evidence and literally destroy their lives. The Atlanta bombing and the drowning of Elissa Lam are two that come to mind.
      It is also possible the police know exactly who killed Mary but are unable to prove it with enough evidence to convict. Perhaps they know but that person is serving a long prison sentence already. Perhaps they know but the person is dead. Perhaps the person is avoiding prosecution overseas. Releasing information could jeopardize future prosecution or foil plans to capture that person. Releasing information they can’t yet prove can expose them to defamation lawsuits etc.
      I got a hint from what Kennedy wrote that he may suspect some kind of cover up. Unanswered questions about how quickly the husband was cleared are not evidence of malfeasance. They are simply unanswered questions.

  2. JP Miller says:

    I hope just commenting, here or anywhere, can trigger a new look. Stabbing sounds too personal to be just a robber. Mary was still a student. I think her husband was working at a UPS shipping center but part time. 24xx University is generally low cost housing for students. I don’t think I buy the robber hypothesis. I don’t think they had much to steal. What tool was used to cut the line? Why bother to cut it? Was it a line outside the house and the perpetrator wanted to prevent her from calling for help? Was the line inside the house and the perpetrator had some other purpose? If robbery was suspected were any things taken? If not was the perpetrator scared off? Then why take the time to cut the line? If something was taken what steps were taken to find or recover items? In a complex of so many duplexes was no one home who might have seen or heard someone or something? A lot of questions were asked about possible extra marital relationships on Mary’s part. Were those thoroughly explored? I heard the husband’s alibi checked out. But did he have some untoward relationship that led to a jealous girlfriend? If I can think up these kinds of questions can the police assure us they have chased down all the answers?

    If I saw the evidence I am sure I could think up a hundred more questions some of which may not be answered yet. I’d like to keep this going.

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      JP, I agree with your comments. I have come across cold cases, that were solved many years later, because fresh eyes came names of people who were never interviewed or something not followed up on. In the last couple of months, a recent newpaper aticle about the kidnapping of Teekah Lewis from a bowling alley in the State of Washington. A new detective came across two different witnesses, one who ran into the guy, who took Teekah, while.beading for the washroom. The.second saw the same a few nights later, when they recreated the situation, to.generate some leads.

      Two different witnesses both described a M/W, with a pock marked face. Also, there is description of the vehicle he used. It appears that some of this information may not have been released to the public to identify the kidnapper. Here, it is twenty some years later that the authorities dropped the ball.

    • Dave Burt says:

      Such a tragedy the murderer couldn’t be brought to justice. There HAS to be someone who knows something, and for some reason didn’t want to get involved. Who knows.

      I live in the same hometown where she was from. I dated her for 2 and a half years in high school. Her father was a local surgeon. Mary went to college in Missouri, and her family moved to the Peoria IL area shortly thereafter.

      My parents informed me of the tragic news. I was away at college at the time. The last time I saw or had any contact with her was when she came home for break from college, and I was still a senior in high school in the fall of 1969.

      She was a sweet, outgoing girl. Such a sad situation. I have fond memories of her, and the house where she used to live still stands here in Flora, IL. I pass by it frequently…..a lot of memories of the carefree wonderful times of youth.

      Hopefully, someone will be held accountable in this life for this horrific crime.

  3. JP Miller says:

    There were a number of people who rode with her in the Des Moines Commuter Club, several that day, including me. I didn’t remember any details about her, I usually slept or studied in the car. A lot of members became friends with fellow passengers. If they weren’t all interviewed, something may have been missed. At this point my memory is fuzzy too. I would trust the notes of the detective who interviewed me and the car schedules and passenger lists I gave him more than my own memory.

    It is also possible that police know, but just can’t make a strong case or they know the criminal is safely incarcerated or already dead.

    Can targeted funding like Crime Stoppers or a Go Fund Me help get a re-look? Can civilians get involved? As an engineer, I know that fresh minds applied to a problem can often uncover what previous people overlooked. Just like a technical problem I don’t want to let go. I know there are many cold cases but this is the only one that directly affected me.

    Another important message is that police and people in general think human life important enough to bring murderers to justice no matter how long they think they have gotten away with it.

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      JP, the State of Wisconsin has a Cold Case Review Team of 13 active & retired investigators, with local, state and federal agencies. They bring 13 extra sets of eyes and don’t hesitate to ask the agencies if they took certain steps or spoke to other people.

      So, the case should be reviewed by others, with a more detail. How, a homicide investigation is handled today is different then when she was murdered. So, different questions would be asked.

      • JP Miller says:

        Yes, Even if a detective simply re-read the case notes with an eye to what might have been missed or what new forensic tools might be applied it would be hearting. It would be good if say every 10 years at least that was done. Another thought. It would be good if agencies would report a status like: no suspect, suspects but weak evidence, suspects in prison for other crimes, suspects deceased. I could be satisfied with no further review if a suspect is deceased and that was reported here. Of course the suspects should not be named to protect the innocent.

        I think a volunteer team of people connected by the internet having some appropriate training in forensics but not necessarily detectives or forensic experts could review cases and ask questions that then could be reviewed by professionals. Appropriate non-disclosure safeguards would have to be instituted but I think the fresh eyes might generate some of the right questions. An organization like Iowa Cold Cases might sponsor such an effort.

  4. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    JP, also it’s important that we keep discussing and commenting on these cases. It might knock loose some tidbit of information that someone all sudden remembered. It might have been something inconsequential, but in the grand scheme of things it might be the key to solving her murder.

  5. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    JP, I find that sometimes law enforcement does not interview everyone. A few years ago someone commented on a cold case involving somene in Mchigan. The person, had received a phone call from the person who disappeared the night before. She was looking for a ride, but the poster was going out of town. The poster had never been interviewed by the police all these years later.

    Also, quite often relooking at cold cases is not a priority. Also, a recent article reported that testing of evidence from cold cases was not a priority for crime labs in California. This allowed several offenders to remain on the street, committing further violent crimes.

    It cost money, manpower, and other resources to relook at cold cases. But, it also sends a message that the agency does not give up. It also important to the famiy that the authorities are still determined to find the answers to what happened to their loved one.

  6. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I wonder if the local police ever relooked at his case. Also, I wonder if their any similar crimes like this in the area. Also, the fact that the offender or an accomplice cut the phone wires

    Also, I wonder if she had a previous boyfriend who was upset, that she dumped him and married Douglas. The other thing was that she was stabbed twice in the stomach, and once in the throat. I wonder if this was to keep her quiet. Also, the auhorities mention robbery as a motive, but no mention of anything missing, or signs of forced entry.

    • JP Miller says:

      I wonder if contacting Des Moines Police would get them to look again in light of so many forensic technical developments in recent years. The investigation at the time seemed pretty thorough. I was asked about things like possible boyfriends and conflicts. I knew of none but provided lists of people she rode with commuting to Iowa State University. I assume those people were also asked.

    • Anne Pearson says:

      I didn’t know her, but she was from my home town in Illinois. I went to school with her younger siblings. I remember when this happened, but was too young to understand much. I randomly remembered it after I developed a interest in cold cases. It always struck me as weird that a “robber ” would cut phone lines, and break in at basically dinner time? I do remember that she was strikingly beautiful (the photo used here is terrible) and wondered if some guy had fixated on her or targeted her. I very much doubt she had a boyfriend, both from what I know of her family; also she’d only been married for a few months. Her parents had the resources to pursue the case publicly or privately, and perhaps they did, or perhaps they wished to put it in the past. Looking at it now, it just seems strange that it’s labeled a robbery/murder and makes me wonder about the thoroughness of the investigation. I know there were a lot of unsolved homicides in Iowa in the years around this sad crime.

  7. JP Miller says:

    I rode together In the Des Moines Commuter Club with Mary Senne to Iowa State. I barely knew her but have never since forgotten her name. Every few years I am saddened to discover her murder has not been solved. I hope to see justice in my lifetime.

  8. Diana Wilson says:

    Sick people out there!

  9. I pray for justice .my prayers to the family .

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