Pennye Watson

Pennye Watson

Pennye Watson


Pennye Watson
18 YOA
1054 21st St.
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 1983-32787
September 10, 1983


Pennye Watson, an 18-year-old Des Moines Technical High School student, was strangled and dumped along a street curb in the early morning hours on Saturday, September 10, 1983.

Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Des Moines in Polk CountyDes Moines in Polk County

A passing motorist discovered the shy student’s nude body in front of a home located at 1054 21st St. in Des Moines — just four blocks from where Watson lived.

An autopsy ruled cause of death as strangulation.

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Monday, Sept. 12, 1983, Police Sgt. Bill Mullins said officials were baffled by the case.

Detectives combed the area where they believe Watson’s body had been dumped from a car, but no one was talking.

Mullins said it was highly unusual for someone to dump a body in a crowded neighborhood and even more unusual that no one saw anything.

Mullins also said the fact that Watson was naked gave police even less evidence to work with in trying to track down her murderer.

Pennye Watson was dumped along the street curb in front of this Des Moines home.

Pennye Watson was dumped along the street curb in front of this 21st Street Des Moines home.

Police questioned a number of individuals, but had no suspects.

Five days after the teen’s murder, police impounded a car they said was connected to the investigation, but no arrest was ever made.

Nearly 23 years after Watson’s murder, a May 8, 2006 Des Moines Register article said police called the case “more bizarre than most.”

Two days before her death, the Register said, Watson had written an essay for her English class describing her fears about violence in Des Moines. The essay, however, contained no specific information indicating she might have known her attacker.

Her homicide remains unsolved.

Pennye Watson was born July 17, 1965.

Information Needed

If you have any information about Pennye Watson’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.

  • Des Moines Police Department, correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Person Details for Pennye Watson, “United States Social Security Death Index” —
  • Pennye Watson — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Pennye Watson (profile photo) —
  • “Des Moines’ Unsolved Mysteries,” by Jeff Bash, The Des Moines Register, May 8, 2006
  • “D.M. murder baffles authorities,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Monday, Sept. 12, 1983

29 Responses to Pennye Watson

  1. Milissa says:

    You would think with DNA today there has to be something anything that con be used for JUSTICE

  2. Milissa Ford (Kennedy) says:

    She was a good friend. We always hung out and walked home together. Loved her singing a voice like an angel. In ROTC we push the rules to a point, but we had fun. I was devastated losing what I considered a close friend.

  3. Cathi says:

    Anyone know if this case has been looked at again with all new DNA technology? I was her friend and lockermate in Jr High. She would come to my house after school sometimes and my mom would take her home. I’ve thought a lot about her over the years. She was such a gentle soul.

  4. Charles Barber says:

    If you went to Tech High between 1983-85, and you never heard about Penny Watson death then you most of not been in school. There is NO WAY you could have missed her death in school.

  5. Kim says:

    This discussion makes me sick to my stomach. I knew Pennye, and I believe she was murdered, not because she was black, but because she may have trusted the wrong guy. she spent her whole high school years being shy, and kept from everything. I remember she said she lived with her Grandma, and wasn’t allowed to wear make up, she would come to school each morning and put lipstick on first thing. I think she was finally enjoying some freedom, and someone took her life, I was at that school, none of ever knew or heard what actually happened to her, and if I did I would most definitely have told someone. I will remember this gal for the few memories I have of her, and not focus on how her life ended. I will always pray she is at peace, and I know someday someone will come forward, until then, I wont listen to anyone try and make her life a rumor of race.

    • Patrick Kerrigan says:

      I was reviewing the cold case murder of Betty Ann Moore (12) of Robbins, Illinois, in my neck of the woods, on June 4, 1986. She was a young black girl, whose mother a nurse’s aid, was in the hospital.

      So,she normally stayed at her foster grandfather’s house. She supposedly did not want to go to school, because of her mother. Also, her father had died a few months before. She did not interact with the other kids in the neighborhood.

      She also wrote a short story for an English class in school. The story was titled “The Case of the Missing Body and Murder”. It was about a fictional rich woman, who everyone wanted dead. The fictional woman was named Betty Ann Moore.

      Betty Ann Moore was found naked and severely beaten close to the Cal-Sag Channel, not far from where she lived. Her foster grandfather assumed she got up and went to school. She was not home when they got up. She was reported missing when she did not return from school. In fact she never made it to school. This somehow sounds similar to Pennye’s case

    • Hi Kim,

      My name is Sarah Herriott, I have been attempting to gain traction on Pennye’s case, I would love to hear from you.

      If you are comfortable, please find me via Twitter @pennyes_cause

    • Tim whitehead says:

      I was in Pennyes class. She was very quiet,and she could sing. May she RIP

  6. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Larry, I would think the police, might prefer a bit more information on wbich to look at Henry Claytor.

    Was a student at the school, or maybe someone who had a thing for Penny, and she turned him down. Maybe he believed her essay implicated him in something she was aware of.

  7. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    You would think that the students from the high school know something. But, then I recently read a story about the murder of an active duty female sailor and her male companion. NCIS and the local police worked the case. The sailor was white and was her mother’s only child. She also loved being in the U.S. Navy

    They identified and arrested the offenders, a bunch of males of color. One of them was found guilty of kidnapping and not guilty of murder because some juror did not want to put another person in color in prison. Well, the guilty verdict gave him 60 years to think about his actions. I wonder what that stupid juror would have thought if the victims had been their son or daughter.

    So someone in Des Moines know something and is protecting them. I wonder if the othersstudent’s murder is connected to Pennye’s murder. The aumni of that school should stand up and demand answers from her community.

    • Alena Soto-Derry says:

      Apparently you know nothing about Des Moines, Ia. This is isnt New York, Chicago, Cakifornia where people are afraid to open their mouths about things like this. If we seen something we would talk, no matter what color of the victim. We care about our city and all the people here.

  8. Tim sly says:

    This was a good friend of mine n I really wish they would reopen this case n try to solve it,I have wondered why this was never looked into again .I miss her dearly

  9. Laurie Fontana says:

    I never heard about this case. Another Tech High grad was murdered in October 1983. His name is Jeffrey Deaver. That murder is an unsolved case as well. The weird fact is that Pennye was murdered one month before Jeff was killed on Jeff’s birthday.

  10. Ronda Lovan says:

    she was one of my good childhood friends and I can’t believe her case was never solved.

    • Kim reimer says:

      She was shy, but said hello to me everyday. We had some classes together. She stood out one year when we had a sit in at school, she sang why do fools fall in love. It was the most courageous thing in our years together I had ever seen her do. And she had a voice like an angel. I had the seat next to her in personal development class and was devistated to see it empty that Monday, as I had already read what had happened, she was nice, and kind and I regret not knowing more about her. I hope one day she can rest.

  11. Cheda says:

    I believe it was the kkk, or maybe even the police who did this. A young black girl in iowa during thr early eighties…things like this happened alot back then.

    • Lynette Haynes-Byrd says:

      I am from Des Moines. Went to Tech. Left 1984. Never heard of this case

    • Alena Soto-Derry says:

      I dont know what state your from, but trust me, I live in Iowa and not that far from where this happened. I have never heard of cops or KKK in our state doing this shit. Quit race baiting. This is about a young ladies life cut short a year older than I was at that time. That neighborhood not considered a nice place to live. One of Des Moines Ghettos.

  12. Lori says:

    It’s cases like this where you can feel the cops know who did it but they don’t have enough evidence to make a case. How frustrating this must be for everyone involved. There is NO statute of limitations on murder.

    We can all hope the cowardly killer is always looking over his shoulder and the science of forensics makes it harder for these criminals to get away with it. God Speed.

    • V says:

      This murder took me from a boy to a man. I was only 11 when she was murdered. The cops actually woke me up knocking on the door early saturday morning showing me a picture of her strangled naked body. It scared the living daylights out of me and I never was the same. May she rest in paradise and her killer be brought to justice.

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