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Pamela Rae Hinrichs, 19, was shot during an apparent robbery of the AMVETS Post No. 28 at 1317 S. 17th Street in Clinton, Iowa, in the early morning hours on Tuesday, January 13, 1981.
According to reports at the time of the incident, the cash register and a nearby safe were cleaned out. There were no substantial leads, suspects or witnesses.
The Department of Criminal Investigation was called in to help solve the murder. John Jutte, special agent in charge, said the case remains open until it reaches the courts.
The following story, published in the Clinton Herald on January 16, 2009, provides a more in-depth look at the teen’s murder.
January 16, 2009
Editor’s note: This article is part of our series that takes a look back at our area within the last few decades. This article was printed in the Jan. 12, 1991, edition of the Clinton Herald.
Every week Jean Hinrichs turns on the television to watch “Unsolved Mysteries.”
Every week she also hopes that the mystery revolving around her own daughter’s death will be solved.
“I’m so happy when they break a case,” said Mrs. Hinrichs. Sunday (Jan. 13, 1991) will mark the 10th year since her daughter’s murder. “Somewhere in the back of my mind I think maybe they could do it (break the case) here.”
Pam, 19, was the youngest daughter of six children of Jean and Raymond Hinrichs, and had just gotten engaged that New Year’s.
She was shot during an apparent robbery of the AMVETS Post No. 28 on Jan. 13. According to reports at the time of the incident, the cash register and a nearby safe were cleaned out. There were no substantial leads, suspects or witnesses. Law enforcement officials aren’t any closer to solving the murder today than they were a decade ago. A $2,000 reward is still available to anyone who has information regarding murder.
The last person, besides the murderer, to see Pam alive was Richard Hudson.
He has replayed the night in his mind numerous times. Each time he is unable to come up with anything that would have made him suspicious of what was to occur after he left the Post at 1317 S. 17th St.
“There was nothing to make me suspect anything,” said Hudson, who remembered admonishing Pam to be careful as she walked with him to let him out the door about 9 p.m.
“There was no noise, nothing suspicious,” he said.
The only thing different about that evening for Hudson was he remembered to take his gloves with him.
“I had left my gloves there before,” he said, “What bothered me about it was thinking what if I had left them there that night and returned to get them? It’s scary to me to think I might have confronted the murderer and he might have killed me.”
He believes that the murderer hid in the building until everyone left. Hudson said when he left the Post he saw no cars or people lurking around.
Several hours passed before anyone noticed something was wrong at the AMVETS Post. When Pam walked Hudson to the door around 9 p.m. Jan. 12, she also went out to start her car to warm it up before she left. About eight hours later the car was still purring.
A nearby neighbor, who happened to notice the car at that odd hour, called local authorities. Three officers drove out to the AMVETS Post and investigated the area.
Steve Mallinger was one of the officers who was sent to the scene. He said since no windows were broken, the door was locked and the registration on the car checked out, a running car wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“If I had the ability to see through the doors and around corners we would have followed up,” said Mallinger. “But an idling car isn’t an unusual thing.”
Mallinger said he was irritated by the negative press that followed the discovery of Pam’s body.
“I got fed up with the editorials,” he said. “It became a real media event. All they were doing was speculating, and the only people who really knew anything were the people involved.”
The press unjustly attacked the Clinton Police Department, said Mallinger.
“It was unfair to accuse just the Clinton Police,” he said. “We weren’t the only investigating authorities.”
The Department of Criminal Investigation was also called in to help solve the murder. John Jutte, special agent in charge, said the case remains open until it reaches the courts.
Jutte has received tips on the case even within the last year. However, the more time passes, the more difficult it becomes to put the pieces together, he said.
“We have talked to many, many, many people,” said Jutte. “But the fact that we talked to somebody doesn’t make them a suspect.”
Jutte is philosophical about the criticism the authorities received.
“Over the years I have found a certain segment in our society that appears to be critical of all enforcement, whether it’s justified or not,” said Jutte. “I ignore that sort of thing. I know that a tremendous amount of work has gone into the case, not only by us but by the Clinton Police Department.”
Like the officers, Mrs. Hinrichs was disturbed by the media fanfare. In spite of the fact the officers aren’t any closer to arresting a suspect than they were Jan. 13, 1981, she is convinced they did all they could. Periodically, she checks in with the officers and the DCI.
Mrs. Hinrichs believes the person who murdered Pam was someone her daughter knew. She is also convinced the person is in the Clinton area.
“You can’t know what it’s like to walk down the street and see people and think, ‘could that be the one?’” she said.
The months following Pam’s death were difficult for the Hinrichs family. Pam’s father, who used to play the guitar for his daughter, will no longer touch it, said Mrs. Hinrichs.
She said she will never be able to forgive the person who killed her daughter.
“If it were an accident I could accept it,” she said. “But as long as anyone of us is alive — her mother, her father, her brothers and sisters — we will never let it die.”
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Similar murder within year but no connection
Ten months after Pamela Hinrich’s murder, 53-year-old George Leonard was also shot to death in the early morning hours at another Clinton tavern.
Early on Nov. 28, 1981, someone entered the Inn Tavern on 902 S. 14th Street — less than a mile alway from where Hinrichs was killed — and shot Leonard during a robbery/homicide.
Shortly after the suspect shot Leonard, another individual entered the establishment — only to be confronted by the suspect. The suspect beat the second individual and then fled, running down the building’s south side.
Leonard, like Hinrichs, was found dead behind the bar’s counter.
When Hinrichs’ father, Raymond Hinrichs, 48, learned of the similarities he contacted Clinton police and offered to help out with the investigation.
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Dec. 1, 1981, Clinton County Attorney G. Wiley Pillers said investigators had no information that would connect the two victims’ killings. He said the search was continuing for a young white male suspected in Leonard’s killing.
Raymond Hinrichs told news media he’d continue to offer a $2,000 forward for information leading to the arrest of his daughter’s murderer.
Pamela Rae Hinrichs was born April 20, 1961, the youngest of six children born to Jean Lucille (Legel) and Raymond John Hinrichs.
She graduated from Clinton High School in 1979, and got engaged over the 1981 New Year’s holiday.
She died on January 13, 1981.
Pam was laid to rest in Clinton Lawn Cemetery.
If you have any information about Pamela Hinrichs’ unsolved murder, please contact the Clinton Police Department at (563) 243-1457 or contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.