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