Mildred Clemenson (Courtesy Albert Lea Tribune)

Mildred Clemenson (Courtesy Albert Lea Tribune)

Mildred Adaline Clemenson

Homicide

Mildred Adaline Clemenson
81 YOA
DCI Case Number: 98-12891
3926 Ironwood Avenue
Kensett, Iowa
Worth County
November 9, 1998

 
Case Summary by Jody Ewing
Worth County
Worth County in Iowa
Kensett, Iowa Kensett in Worth County

Mildred Adaline “Millie” Clemenson, 81, was brutally slain on Monday, Nov. 9, 1998, inside her rural Kensett, Iowa, mobile home — a home about seven miles west of Kensett and directly attached to the family farmhouse Clemenson owned at 3926 Ironwood Avenue.

Clemenson’s only child, adopted daughter Marcia Patton, had moved her own family — husband Ron Patton and the couple’s two children — into the main home and moved Clemenson out and into the mobile home next to the farmhouse.

Family members said they didn’t discover her body until Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1998, despite the fact Clemenson had a plane ticket and was supposed to fly out to Arizona on Tuesday, Nov. 10.

An autopsy indicated Clemenson died from blunt force trauma to the head and had been dead for two days before family members reported her death to authorities.

The attack was so violent that the elderly victim’s brain matter was found on the mobile home’s ceiling.

Mildred Clemenson homeCourtesy photo realtor.com
The 3926 Ironwood Ave. home in Kensett, Iowa, where Mildred Clemenson lived before her adopted daughter moved her own family into the main home and moved Clemenson out and into a mobile home next to the farmhouse.

“She died as a result of a head injury caused by a blunt object,” said Doug Krull, (then) Worth County attorney, in a Mason City Globe-Gazette article dated June 27, 2010.

“It was not an accidental injury,” Krull said.

Clemenson had just recently become the executrix of the estate for Mabel Bitker, Clemenson’s late stepmother.

On Nov. 9, the day before Clemenson’s scheduled trip to Phoenix, she’d allegedly gone to the bank to cash in a large bond and was bludgeoned to death in her mobile home sometime after returning home from the bank.

Within one week of Clemenson’s death, her daughter and son-in-law spoke with Des Moines criminal defense attorney Montgomery Brown, whom they later retained as counsel.

Victim feared daughter’s family, desired to “never return to Iowa”

Mildred Clemenson (Courtesy ancestry.com)

The widowed Clemenson — who had two living and two deceased siblings and remained close to her in-laws — customarily spent winters in Phoenix. On Sunday, Nov. 8, the day before her slaying, Clemenson told one family member that once she got to Arizona, she wanted to “never return to Iowa.”

“But your family is in Iowa,” the family member said they told Clemenson.

Clemenson responded that all they wanted was to borrow money from her and never repay it.

The night before her scheduled flight to the Grand Canyon state, one of Iowa’s worst ice storms rolled through the county. Even after Monday night’s bitterly cold weather and storm — and knowledge of her mother’s next-day flight — neither Marcia Patton nor her husband admitted to ever having checked in on Clemenson Tuesday.

Clemenson had not cancelled her flight to Phoenix — nor did her daughter place any phone calls to those in Arizona to let them know her mother wouldn’t be arriving.

Clemenson’s friends waited all day at the Phoenix airport for her arrival.

Yet, another day would pass before officials received a call stating Mildred Clemenson was dead in the trailer next to the family farmhouse Clemenson once called home.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was brought in to help work the case.

A Million Motives

After learning of Clemenson’s death, family members automatically assumed that the role as executrix of Mabel Bitker’s estate would pass on down to one of Clemenson’s two surviving siblings — brother Johnnie or sister Geraldine. Instead, Clemenson’s daughter Marcia immediately assumed the position.

attacked-mildred-clemenson-albert-lea-tribuneCourtesy photo Albert Lea Tribune
The Worth County farm where 81-year-old Mildred Clemenson was slain Nov. 9, 1998.

Clemenson’s death “made her adopted daughter a millionaire,” the family member told Iowa Cold Cases.

As questions arose not just about Clemenson’s murder, but the status of the funds from Monday’s cashed-in bond, Marcia and Ron Patton lawyered up.

Some years before Mabel Bitker’s death, Ron Patton had asked her to co-sign a sizable loan for him to purchase a truck for long distance hauling. When things didn’t go as planned, Ron stopped making payments, and the elderly Bitker got “stuck” with paying off the loan, relatives said.

A Life Dishonored

In life, “Millie” Clemenson made few requests, but two were extremely important to her.

Mildred and Gunder Clemenson

Gunder and Mildred Clemenson (Courtesy ancestry.com)

Clemenson and her late husband, Gunder, owned the 80-acre farm where Clemenson would eventually be murdered, and upon their retirement had leased the full 80 acres of cropland to a friend. The Clemensons — good friends with the farmer who leased their land — had promised him that if they ever sold the land, he would have the first right to purchase it.

After Gunder Clemenson’s death in March 1997, Mildred Clemenson continued to lease the land to the couple’s friend.

After Mildred Clemenson’s November 1998 murder, Marcia Patton sold the land out from under the leaseholder, disregarding her adoptive parents’ wishes.

Betrayal surfaced yet again when it came to Mildred Clemenson’s burial.

Mildred and Gunder were in Arizona when Gunder died, and he was cremated there so his ashes could be taken back to Iowa for burial. Mildred, however, had made wishes about her own death quite clear to family members; she did not want to be cremated. In fact, two plots had been purchased in the Elk Creek Cemetery in Kensett so Mildred’s full casket could be buried in the plot right next to Gunder.

Marcia Patton had her adoptive mother’s body cremated, anyway.

Investigators raid Patton farmhouse

Two months after Mildred Clemenson’s brutal slaying, homicide investigators raided the Patton farmhouse, where they seized an undisclosed number of financial records.

3926-ironwood-ave-kensett-clemenson-remaxCourtesy photo remax.com
Aerial view of the Clemenson family farm where Mildred Clemenson was murdered Nov. 9, 1998. Officials and family members suspected Clemenson’s adopted daughter, Marcia Patton, was involved in her mother’s slaying.

In a Globe-Gazette article dated January 23, 1999, attorney Montgomery Brown said his client firmly denied any involvement with her mother’s murder.

“No one has told me she’s a suspect, but there are community rumors,” Brown acknowledged in the article.

Worth County Sheriff David Gentz declined to comment about the case when interviewed on Friday, the day before the article appeared, except to say the investigation was ongoing and had been a complex case from the start.

In the years following Mildred Clemenson’s slaying, Marcia and Ron Patton relocated several times.

According to family members, a few years after Millie’s murder, Marcia Patton contacted Clemenson family members with hopes of gathering enough information to track down her biological mother. It is unknown whether or not Marcia Patton eventually found her birth parents.

When the DCI established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Mildred Clemenson’s murder was one of about 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 resolving 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 Mildred Clemenson

Mildred (Bitker) Clemenson was born February 1, 1917, in rural Klemme, the daughter of John S. And Hattie (Weing) Bitker. She moved with her parents to Clear Lake and Hanlontown, and graduated from Manly High School in 1936.

Mildred moved to California and married Gunder Clemenson on March 11, 1940, in Reno, Nevada. They moved to Norfolk, Virginia, and in 1945 relocated to rural Kensett.

They retired in 1976 and spent their winters in Texas and Florida; beginning in 1983 they spent winters in Mesa, Arizona.

Mildred enjoyed playing five hundred and cribbage. She was a member of Elk Creek Lutheran Church, Kensett.

mildred-clemenson-gravestoneCourtesy photo Shawn, findagrave.com
Mildred and Gunder Clemenson’s gravestone in Kensett, Iowa.

Mildred was survived by her adopted daughter, Marcia Patton, and Marcia’s husband, Ron, of Kensett; two grandchildren, Lacey and Brandon Patton, Kensett; one brother, Johnnie Bitker and his wife, Dolly, Tuscon, Arizona; a half sister, Geraldine Kalaplastos, Lowell, Arkansas; a sister-in-law, Karen Bitker; and several nieces and nephews.

Mildred was preceded in death by her parents; her stepmother, Mabel Bitker; her husband, Gunder; one sister, Gladys Dahl Urbatch; and one brother, Morrie Bitker.

Memorial services were held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, November 18, 1998, at the Elk Creek Lutheran Church in rural Kensett, followed by inurnment in the Elk Creek Cemetery.

Family greeted friends one hour before the service at the church. Ward-Van Slyke Colonial Chapel, 101 N. Fourth St., Clear Lake, was in charge of services.

Memorials were to be directed to the Mildred A. Clemenson memorial fund.

Information Needed

Anyone with information about Mildred Clemenson’s unsolved murder is asked to contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us.

Sources:

 

Copyright © 2017 Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

10 Responses to Mildred Clemenson

  1. My dad was killed just a few miles away from Kensett and his case is also unsolved. I don’t think any Worth county attorneys have looked into these cases in years, if at all. I know the DCI has hundreds of cases to solve but I hope they look into these two cases again soon.

  2. Seems pretty clear cut who killed her to me!! the daughter and son in law most likely,

  3. Emily, is your father listed in “Iowa Cold Cases”?

  4. Emily, please feel free to share your Dads case on my friends page. Her case is also an unsolved murder from Iowa. It’s called: Justice For Rosie.

  5. Alisia Rand says:

    Duh it was the daughter, after reading I could find lots of “motive” why wasn’t this investigated more? Seems like shotty police work to me!

  6. Emily Toresdahl, I have sent you a message through FB’s Message service.

  7. I feel bad for the people who read this and who write this. The people who knew my grandmother should have known how much she loved her “adopted daughter” and her family, and known how much her family loved her. It is funny how ridiculous rumors, spread in small towns, and how no one cares about the Truth. I was only 14 when this happened, but I know the real story that you won’t find in small town media. It was not our family she had the problem with, it was in fact her brother and half-sister, that she feared. I heard her say multiple times how all they wanted was her mother’s money, and they thought that they deserved to be the executors of her estate. She had originally planned to leave the end of October, however I asked her to stay for my birthday on Nov. 5th, and she did. So not only do I feel responsible for her death, but I feel the blame for the problems my family had gone through as well. As far as her last dying wishes about her land and how she wanted to be buried, that is a joke. The lands were first offered to the leasee of the land, then once he purchased what he could afford the rest was offered to the public. Regarding the cremation, i was next to her the entire time of my Grandfather’s funeral, when she requested many times that she wanted to be cremated and her ashes buried next to his. As for us being millionaires that is a joke! We sold the farmhouse after we couldn’t handle the fact, that we were living place where she was murdered. We also did not push her out of her house, she wanted to move into the trailer home because she was 81 years old and did not want to have to go up and down the stairs of the farm house, and we moved into the house to be close to her and help after her husband (my grandfather) died. It didn’t matter where we went in that podunk state everyone knew what was said about my family, and all those small country folk believe what is on the tv. So I say shame on those who believe this garbage, and those who create lies about my family, you didn’t know her and you don’t know us. We loved her with our whole heart, as she loved us. A part of us died the day she did! I grieved at my wedding, at the birth of my children and at each event that she should have, and could have been a part of! Even though her blood doesn’t run through our veins, a Part Of Her is with us, every time I sew, or cook, or bake with my children. I just hope where she is in heaven she can’t see this, because her heart world break! Even though my mother was her adopted daughter, she loved her and us like we were blood, and even though she never had a harsh word to say about anyone, I know she would be disgusted about the lies spread here today. If anyone wants the truth about her, contact me and i can set you straight!!!!!!!!

    • C says:

      This is asinine. You seriously can’t be this dumb. If Marcia didn’t do it, then she hired someone to do it (her husband perhaps). You’re being foolish Lacey. Stop kidding yourself. Marcia is a murderer and I sincerely hope she succumbs to the same fate. Idiot.

  8. Johnathan says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that Marcia did it. I can’t even begin to comprehend why they haven’t put two and two together.

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