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Melvin Royale Adams, a 55-year-old Royal Canadian Air Force veteran, was found dead in a small cabin south of Agency, Iowa, just off Cemetery Road near the Cliffland Bridge on February 13, 1983. The cabin was located on property owned by the Coghlan family.
Adams, who had celebrated his 55th birthday just five days earlier, had been partially decapitated.
The Vermont native was estranged from his wife, Betty Mae (Pentzer) Shoemaker Adams, at the time of his death. The couple had no children together, although Betty had a son and daughter from a previous marriage. Betty died of congestive heart failure July 1, 1988, and both her (adult) children succumbed to the same disease.
In correspondence sent to Iowa Cold Cases in July 2010, Betty’s niece, Suzanne Eaves Koehler, said her uncle (nicknamed “Mez”) had kept a “diary” of sorts regarding his sick days and the days he didn’t feel well. It didn’t help when it came to solving his murder.
“His death was barely acknowledged,” Koehler said.
Adams lived next door to Ronald McLeran, a man with whom Adams frequently drank. McLeran’s lady-friend, Betty Dyer, discovered Adams’ body.
Wapello County Sheriff Bud Erwine investigated the homicide, which occurred in the same area as that of 42-year-old Francis Jordon four and one-half years earlier. Jordon 42, was slain July 12, 1978 after two men knocked on his door saying they had car trouble and asking him for help. Jordon’s murder also remains unsolved.
Koeller described her late uncle as quite intelligent and a truly nice person with faded good looks and a Vermont clippy twang. Her aunt, she said, had met Mez’s family in Vermont, and they were proud of Mez’s military service with the RCAF.
Melvin Royale Adams was born February 8, 1928, in Canada to Leon and Nellie Ackerson Adams. He lived in Wapello County, Iowa, most of his life, and in addition to serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force had also been employed at Whitham Nursery.
He married Betty Shoemaker July 6, 1971. The couple were not living together at the time of his death.
Graveside services and burial were conducted at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Ottumwa Cemetery with the Rev. Dale Gray of Agency United Methodist Church officiating. Reece Funeral Home handled arrangements.
His wife survived him but died five years later from congestive heart failure.