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On Friday, September 24, 1971, two young boys out hunting discovered a woman’s body atop the trunk lid of an abandoned car in a wooded ravine off Ely Road near Cedar Rapids’ southwest edge. The victim was 17-year-old Maureen Brubaker Farley, a newly married woman not much older than the boys who found her.
The Linn County medical examiner ruled Farley had been dead no less than 48 hours and no more than 96 hours, and said death was caused by a “massive blow” to the right side of her head, causing a basal skull fracture.
Farley had last been seen alive at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, September 17.
‘We’re not giving up’ on cold cases: Retired investigators continue work on Cedar Rapids cases — The Cedar Rapids Gazette visits with retired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agent J.D. Smith and retired Cedar Rapids police Capt. Jeff Mellgren, who make up the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s cold case unit.
COLD CASE: IOWA’S UNSOLVED MURDERS — The Sioux City Journal visits with Maureen Brubaker Farley’s family about the teen’s unsolved 1971 murder.
Maureen’s family members have created a new Facebook page — “Remembering Maureen Brubaker Farley” — on Facebook. Please take time to visit Maureen’s FB page and share any favorite memories you might have, or take part in discussions about her unsolved murder. A special thanks to Richard Ueding-Lox for getting Maureen’s FB page up and running!
Who was this Maureen Farley, and who would have wanted such a young, beautiful woman dead?
As the eldest of seven siblings, Maureen Brubaker would babysit for her six younger siblings whenever their parents, David and Mary Ann Brubaker of Sioux City, Iowa, decided to go out. David and Mary Ann knew what a challenge the job could be, but always told the children they’d make it worth their while if they were good for big sister Maureen.
The children knew what kind of reward each would receive in exchange for minding Maureen — 10 cents apiece — and in the late 1960s, 10 cents could go a long way. They’d be able to purchase an extra-large bag of popcorn at the dime store, or even a pack of candy cigarettes, where the powdered sugar would blow off the minty sticks just like real smoke.
The money could be put back and saved, too, to buy a Hula Hoop, paper dolls or coloring books, or even a model airplane kit.
They couldn’t help but get into a few skirmishes now and then, but their big sister always came through for them; when their parents returned home, Maureen would bestow lavish praise on all of them for having minded every word she said, and they’d all be given a dime apiece to save or spend as they liked.
In 1971 after Maureen married, her siblings cried when she told them she needed to move to Cedar Rapids for a while. Her husband, David Farley, had gotten into some trouble and been ordered to serve a brief stint in Anamosa’s correctional facility; she wanted to live somewhere close enough to visit him.
Cedar Rapids — clear across the state from Sioux City — may as well have been a continent away to Maureen’s two younger sisters and four brothers. Still, they knew she’d be back. She loved them all, and her parents, too much to stay away for very long.
Once in Cedar Rapids, Maureen rented a sleeping room at 522 Tenth St. SE and got a waitressing position at Weida’s Restaurant, located at 836 First Ave. NE.
She sent photos back to her family, telling them how much she missed them and that she’d see them soon. Phone calls were costly, but she called whenever she could.
Early on Friday, September 17, 1971, she borrowed money for a pack of cigarettes, knowing her paycheck from Weida’s would be ready for her later that day.
She never arrived to pick up her check.
On Monday, September 20, when the usually reliable Farley still hadn’t arrived for work by 10:30 a.m., her employer reported her as missing.
In Farley’s sleeping room, officials found the partial pack of cigarettes. At the residence’s rear, they found Farley’s car – its gas tank full.
The young woman, however, was nowhere to be seen.
On Friday, September 24, Kevin Coppess, 15, of 2357 Blakely Blvd. SE, and Danny Lineweaver, 14, of 2350 Blakely Blvd. SE, gathered their rifles to go hunting. Sometime between 5 and 5:30 p.m., they’d just crossed the river on the railroad trestle and were headed up Ely road when they saw a junk car in the ravine. They hadn’t noticed it from the road due to the trees and other foliage.
Lying across the trunk, with one leg propped up and the body lying against the rear window on its back, they saw what they believed to be a woman sleeping. The lady wore clothes, but no shoes.
Thinking no more of it and not wanting to disturb the person, they continued on down the road to hunt. After eventually approaching Highway 30 — too close to the road to hunt — they turned back.
Upon returning to the junk car, the boys decided to take a better look. The woman was still in the same position as when they’d seen her earlier. Only when they got closer did they notice the discoloration in her body.
Frightened, they began running down the road. They briefly considered stopping at a nearby tavern to get help, but then thought better of that idea; they were carrying guns, and possibly would get into trouble.
Instead, they recrossed the railroad trestle and headed to Lineweaver’s home, where they told his mother, Violet Fowler, they had found a body.
Fowler, who apparently did not believe them at first, asked the boys to take her to the place where they said they’d found the victim. At approximately 6:40 p.m., two-tenths of a mile south of the River Road intersection on Ely Road SW, Mrs. Fowler also saw what appeared to be a woman sleeping atop a car in a ravine.
Mrs. Fowler took the boys and went to the Milo Skvor farm residence nearby, where she telephoned police.
After officials secured the scene, Maureen Farley’s body was removed and taken to a local hospital for an autopsy. Investigators initially theorized the young woman may have been thrown from a passing vehicle and crashed through heavy vegetation onto the car’s trunk, but didn’t rule out the possibility she’d been carefully placed there.
On Monday, September 27, Cedar Rapids police issued a public plea for anyone with information on Farley’s death to come forward and report what they might know.
In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated September 29, 1971, Assistant Cedar Rapids Police Chief Kenneth Vanous said officials believed Mrs. Farley’s death occurred at a place other than where the boys discovered her body. Vanous said investigators were particularly interested in Farley’s actions from Sept. 17 – the day she was last seen alive – through Sept. 22.
Vanous said the girl may have been incapacitated in some way during the time she was missing or at least out of the city. Hoping someone might have seen her somewhere and know something, he described her as five feet tall and very slim, weighing about 100 pounds, having long brown hair and a light complexion.
Had she been in town or capable, he said, she would have picked up her paycheck because she needed the money.
The assistant chief said there was no indication of “defense wounds,” which would be evident if a struggle occurred or Farley been given an opportunity to fight off her attacker or attackers. Farley’s clothing, he said, were somewhat in disarray, but not torn. The blunt trauma to the side of her head pointed to a surprise attack that caught the newly married woman off guard.
In the Gazette’s Sept. 29 article, Vanous said several items were missing from the victim’s Tenth street SE sleeping room, and that officials were “very interested” in finding them.
“Our investigation has revealed she never went anywhere without her purse, which is one of the items missing,” Vanous told Gazette reporter Gary Peterson. “It contained a driver’s license altered to show she was 21 years old, usual make-up articles, rent receipts, miscellaneous family pictures, a picture of a marine in uniform, social security card, and a green order pad which she carried to make notes.”
The purse contained a leather wallet with red velvet lining; Farley’s husband David had made it for her at the reformatory.
Vanous described the purse as a brown vinyl bag with two straps and side pockets. It also had a red velvet lining, Vanous said.
Vanous said when the body was found, the only article of clothing missing was the victim’s shoes. Her feet — which were clean when found — indicated she hadn’t been going barefooted when she died, he said.
Vanous cited several pairs of Farley’s shoes that also were missing, though it was unknown what pair she’d been wearing when she disappeared.
“The shoes we think are missing are a pair of yellow patent leather dress shoes, white work shoes, brown sandals and brown moccasins,” Vanous told the Gazette.
The assistant police chief made it clear that if anyone found any of the missing items, they were to report to police where the items were found and when.
Farley’s autopsy showed no signs of alcohol in her blood, and officials were left wondering what had happened since the morning she’d borrowed just enough money to purchase cigarettes.
Over the years, numerous suspects were questioned, interrogated, given lie detector tests, and eventually cleared.
In September 2010, as the 39th anniversary of Maureen Brubaker Farley’s death approached, WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck traveled to Sioux City, Iowa, to meet with Maureen’s family and talk about what happened and where they felt the investigation might be headed.
Maureen’s mother, Mary Ann Brubaker, said Maureen was their first born child, born July 4.
“Everybody said she’ll be a firecracker and be born on July 4, and she was, and she always was a firecracker,” Mrs. Brubaker said. “She was just special, and always wanted to grow up so fast.”
The family recalled getting the phone call from police, and broke into tears as they told Brilbeck the story.
“She just said ‘David, David, they found Maureen and she’s dead,'” Mrs. Brubaker said of the phone call taken by her late husband, who passed away in 2002. “And David said ‘No No No!’ and he kept walking the floor and saying ‘No No No.'”
“That really hurt. I always looked up to my sister and wanted to be like her,” said Maureen’s sister, Angie Via.
Maureen’s then-husband David Farley, who’d returned to Sioux City following his release from Anamosa, joined the Brubaker family for the WHO-TV interview and said he remembers Maureen as always being happy.
“I don’t ever remember her arguing or getting mad,” he said.
Though answers to many questions still elude the family, there is one thing they find comforting, albeit in a quite unusual way; the killer placed Maureen’s body atop the car rather than leaving her in the dirt where she may not have been found for months.
“Maybe that was kind of their way of saying they were sorry by placing her somewhere where they figured that, out in the open, she would be found,” said Maureen’s other sister, Lisa Schenzel, who spent 13 years in law enforcement working as both a police officer and deputy sheriff.
Craig Brubaker – one of Maureen’s four brothers – wondered what it would be like to have his sister here today.
“I think she probably would be pretty much the same way and I kind of wonder what kind of nieces and nephews ….” he said, before breaking up. And then “… it’s been a long time.”
DNA testing in 2009 produced no new clues for investigators, said Brilbeck, but officials said they planned to review the case again before year’s end.
Following Brilbeck’s story, which aired Sept. 16, 2010 on WHO-TV Channel 13, the Brubaker family offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Maureen’s killer.
More importantly, they said, is finding out what happened.
Maureen Ann Brubaker was born Sunday, July 4, 1954 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Sioux City, Iowa, to Mary Ann (Meyer) and David Roland Brubaker, weighing in at six pounds and 11 ounces.
In addition to her parents, Maureen was survived by her husband, David Farley; two sisters, Angela and Lisa; and four brothers, David, Craig, Robin, and Scott.
Maureen’s father passed away in January 2002 without ever learning what happened to his daughter.
Maureen’s brother David passed away in May 2009.
All three are buried in the Calvary Cemetery in Sioux City.
Maureen’s sister, Lisa Schenzel, has never given up on finding answers — including her pursuit of justice for other victims and families — and continues to work in the law enforcement career field.
If you have any information about Maureen Brubaker Farley’s unsolved murder please contact Cedar Rapids Police Department Investigator Matt Denlinger at (319) 286-5442 or email M.Denlinger@cedar-rapids.org.
WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck talks with the Brubaker family about Maureen’s murder. Sept. 16, 2010