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Around 4:30 a.m. early Sunday morning, November 17, 1974, a passing Farragut truck driver discovered a body lying along Iowa Highway 42 near the foot of a hill about three miles west of Riverton, Iowa. He notified authorities, who identified the body as that of 26-year-old Melvin Price.
Price’s driver’s license listed his residence as Phoenix, Arizona, though he most recently had been living in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Fremont County Attorney Robert Leonard initially told media Price died of head injuries but refused to elaborate. A witness reported that Price appeared to have been beaten with a crowbar.
Fremont County Sheriff Bob Jenkins investigated the case along with the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation.
Price — a US Navy and Vietnam veteran — had come in contact with law enforcement the night before his death.
On Saturday about 6:30 p.m., Price’s car got stuck in wet concrete on the I-29 access near Hamburg’s city limits. Construction workers were laying cement and working after dark in efforts to complete the job to Main Street before quitting for the weekend.
Workers reported seeing headlights coming toward them from the west and down the new pavement. Price’s car came to a stop in the wet concrete near the paving train’s head. He’d had to be pulled out and the concrete patched.
Price told authorities he’d been traveling from his home in Lincoln and was on his way to Hamburg. He’d maneuvered his way around the barricades at the west ditch bridge.
When the construction company’s contractor declined to file any charges, authorities had no choice but to let Price go.
Later that night and into Sunday morning, Price was seen at the Hamburg VFW Club socializing with locals, including Janice Holland, a sister to Shirley Sebek.
Shirley’s husband, Gary Eugene Sebek, 20, disappeared from Hamburg on March 4, 1968, in what officials considered a homicide based on blood found in the Sebek residence. Shirley Sebek had given birth to the couple’s son that day in a Nebraska City, Neb., hospital, before Gary returned to their Hamburg home around 11 p.m.
Sebek’s father-in-law, Victor Kenneth “Buck” Moyer of Hamburg, had never made secret how much he hated his son-in-law and wanted him dead. The Moyers had adopted Shirley and her brother, John, as young children, but not their sibling, Janice. Reports filed with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office stated Moyer was obsessed with Shirley and wanted her husband gone. Shirley fully cooperated with the Iowa BCI, telling them she felt certain her father killed her husband and that she also feared [Moyer]. She passed two polygraph tests and eventually fled Iowa to escape Moyer’s control.
The evening Melvin Price spent at the Hamburg VFW, he’d become friendly with Shirley’s sister Janice, and was seen kissing Janice later that night.
Price was last seen alive around 1:30 a.m. when he left the VFW Club with companions.
An autopsy conducted at Jenny Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs ruled Price’s cause of death as blunt force trauma to the head. His body didn’t suffer broken bones consistent with a hit-and-run, and investigators said he died under mysterious circumstances.
According to a Hamburg Reporter article published Nov. 21, 1974:
Fremont County authorities are going on the assumption that homicide is involved.
On January 30, 1975, James Price of Lincoln, Nebraska — the youngest of Melvin Price’s five brothers — posted two large ads in the Hamburg Reporter announcing a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for his brother’s death.
The noticed indicated that those with information could contact either the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office or James Price individually at his Lincoln address.
Unfortunately, no one ever claimed the reward.
Melvin Price was born February 27, 1948, the son of Cecil Raymond and Mamie Ella (Wooten) Price.
He attended Hamburg schools and then entered the US Navy where he worked as a construction mechanic. He later served in Vietnam.
Melvin’s survivors included six sisters: Norma Cummings, Lincoln, Frances Mortimore, Phoenix, Ariz., Darlene Nesiba, Nebraska City, Carlene Mueller, Lincoln, Dorothy Austin, Richmond, Va., and Judy Barnett, Julian, Nebr.; and five brothers: Raymond, Grand Island, Kenneth, Flagstaff, Ariz., Marvin, Lincoln, Larry, Shenandoah, and James, Lincoln.
Funeral services were held at 2 p.m. Wednesday, November 20, 1974 at the Johnson Funeral Home in Hamburg.
After the services, the Hubert Woodward Unit 156 of Hamburg American Legion Auxiliary served lunch for 70 family members and friends at the American Legion dining hall. Those helping with the luncheon included Helen Smith, Anne Hollingsworth, Edythe Clayton and Agnes Bolin.
Melvin Price was buried at Mt. Olive Cemetery in Hamburg, with military rites by the Hamburg American Legion Color Guard.
Any information about Melvin Price’s death should be directed to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or the FBI at (402) 493-8688 or Omaha@ic.fbi.gov.