Ramona Jean Cox Courtesy photo Cedar Rapids Gazette
Moravia native Ramona Jean Cox in an undated photo.

Ramona Jean Cox


Ramona Jean Cox
24 YOA
1526 Woodland Avenue
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 62-00508
April 22, 1962


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

Ramona Jean Cox, 24, was found dead in her first-floor apartment at 1526 Woodland Ave. in Des Moines on Sunday morning, April 22, 1962.

A stout woman about 5-foot-8 and weighing around 130 pounds, Cox fought back against her assailant before being beaten and slashed across the throat with a hook-billed linoleum knife.

The Moravia, Iowa native had moved to Des Moines in 1956 — the same year she graduated high school — and worked as a secretary for C.D. Wilcox Company and as a part-time cashier for Ardan, located then at 12th and Locust Street.

An 18-year-old neighbor and two girls told police they saw a man leap from Cox’s apartment window and flee into the darkness shortly after hearing screams. The man, whom they described as about 5-foot-9 and wearing dark pants and a white shirt — ran down an alley, they said.

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

Police questioned more than 3,000 individuals in their search to find Cox’s killer.

“You never really get over it,” said Cox’s mother, Hazel Cox, in a Des Moines Register article published September 8, 1974. “You think you would, but you don’t.”

Hazel Cox and her husband, Harold “Jocky” Cox, lived on a farm six miles east of Moravia. Ramona had left the farm and moved to Des Moines in search of meaningful employment. (Note: In both census and newspaper reports, Mr. Cox’s name is alternately spelled both Burdett and Burdette.)

“I just can’t think of any reason, excuse or anything why it happened,” Mrs. Cox told Register reporter Nick Lamberto in the telephone interview. “Ramona was the oldest.”

Mrs. Cox said crime stories always bring back memories and re-open scars, but one must still carry on and hope police catch the person responsible. In the 1974 interview — 12 years after her daughter’s unsolved murder — Mrs. Cox said she’d almost given up hope, but that prayer had helped a lot.

“Whoever did it should be caught and confined,” she said. “I don’t want revenge, just justice.”

Mrs. Cox said she’d always get a terrible feeling when reading about current crimes taking place, and sometimes would write and send cards to families of other victims.

“Do you think you or anyone else would really get over it?” she asked.

Case Still Cold a Half-Century Later

In July 2015 the Iowa Newspaper Association launched a new statewide cold case project after partnering with Iowa Cold Cases and participating newspapers to highlight some of the state’s unsolved murder cases in hopes they might still be solved.

The Daily Iowegian’s Michael Schaffer published a story Nov. 22, 2015, about Ms. Cox’s unsolved homicide and spoke with the decedent’s family members about the loved one they lost more than a half-century ago.

First cousin Francis Bennell, of Moravia, said Cox had been active in sports during high school playing basketball, worked on the family farm and was well liked in Des Moines.

“As far as I know. She was always very well liked. I liked her very much,” Bennell told the Iowegian. “And I felt bad when I heard that. Because you grow up with somebody and you really get to care for them, especially in our family. Everybody wants to help each other.”

Bennell said his golden red-haired cousin got involved with a rough crowd and said he’s convinced she knew her killer. Whenever she’d come home to visit, he said she’d talk about her job and partying in Des Moines, but never mentioned any acquaintance by name.

According to the Iowegian, published reports indicate Cox went to area bars like Tommie’s and the Woodland Tap. Wrote Schaffer:

Following Cox’s murder, Des Moines was filled with rumors and accusations concerning her case, published reports indicate. The then Polk County attorney, Harry Perkins Jr. and the then Des Moines police chief, Vear V. Douglas, appealed for information from the public but no one has ever been charged with Cox’s murder.

— The Daily Iowegian, Nov. 22, 2015

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Ramona Cox’s murder was one of approximately 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 the resolution of 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 Ramona Cox

Ramona Jean Cox was born December 7, 1937, the first child born to Harold Burdette “Jocky” Cox and Hazel Cox. She had moved from her hometown of Moravia, Iowa, to Des Moines, where she worked as a secretary.

ramona-cox-gravestoneCourtesy photo Donald Bitner, Findagrave.com
Ramona Cox is buried at the Hillcrest Cemetery in Moravia in Appanoose County. Her parents, Burdette and Hazel, as well as a brother, Dale, have since passed away.

In addition to her parents, she was survived by three siblings: Dale Arthur, Rowena, and Nyle Burdett.

Memorial services were held May 1, 1962, at the Methodist Church in Moravia with burial in the Hillcrest Cemetery in Moravia, Appanoose County.

Hazel Cox passed away in 1999. Ramona’s brother Dale and her father both died in 2005.

Information Needed

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

Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


38 Responses to Ramona Cox

  1. Alice Sheehan says:

    I am familiar with this case because I was a dance student whose recital was at Hoyt Sherman close to when this happened. I was a junior in high school and moved away from Des Moines during the summer of 1962. Now that I find relatives for family members and adoptees through DNA research, I hope that the Des Moines or state police crime labs can find grant money to pay from analyzing the DNA with an Investigative Genetic Genealogist…I would even help if I could. I have never forgotten this case as it was so horrific that people around the apartment heard her screams and no one took action immediately. I know if there is enough DNA available, the killer will be found. Every day now cold cases are being solved and the group of IGG is growing to fill this need for both victims families and also Jane/John Doe cases. God Bless her family and the cold case investigators who have continued to work this case.

  2. Pat says:

    DM Register 04/30/1962: “police alerted hospitals and taxi cabs, officers combed dozens of blocks”.
    The initial description was somewhat misleading.
    From 14th Place the murderer had a straight line (due) north trajectory to reach neighborhoods with relatives and friends.
    About 1.5 miles to traverse.
    There was no freeway to deal with.
    His biggest exposure would be crossing Keosauqua.
    If he stuck to alley ways, his exposure was minimal.
    Assuming a pace of 12 minutes/mile, that is 18 minutes travel time.
    He was probably indoors before Clark and I returned to Clark’s apartment.

  3. Pat says:

    What I misunderstood, as many people do, is that trailing is highly problematic.
    According to trailing expert, Jeff Schettler: “… most trailing-dog deployments rarely find what they are looking for.” [K9 Trailing The Straighest Path (p. 62). Kindle Edition.]

    What likely happened on 04/29/1962 was:

    The bloodhound(s) got started with the right scent article.
    Contamination of the scent article occurred before exposure to bloodhound(s).
    The bloodhound(s) did NOT get started with the right scent.
    The handler was handicapped by arriving at the scene after other investigators. He never got control of the situation.
    The murderer-rapist’s scent was not the freshest or strongest on the scene, and the bloodhound(s) didn’t “select” it.
    Inner city environment contributes to odor confusion.

    Trailing failure did not detect that the murderer-rapist fled the crime scene on-foot.
    After he jumped from the window of the house at 1526 Woodland, he ran south to the alley, east to 15th Street, north to Woodland, east to 14th Place, north on 14th Place.

  4. Pat says:

    Today marks 60 years since the murder-rape of Ramona Jean Cox. This case has been of lasting interest to me because I was walking within 150 feet of 1526 Woodland, WHILE THE CRIME WAS IN-PROGRESS.

    My friend and I went to Foodland (630 14th Place) to buy cigarettes. The clerk had to face east as he pulled the cigarettes from the shelf, and that is when he mentioned a black guy running shirtless past the store window. I couldn’t see from inside the store, so I stepped out of the store door, and looked north on 14th Place. He had a white shirt gripped in his left hand. It enabled me to see him in the dark, on an overcast night (no moonlight). He glanced back, and saw me, but kept slow trotting north.

    When the first squad car arrived, my friend and I walked back to the corner of 15th and Woodland. After the police informed the three people in the yard at 1530, that they found the dead body of their neighbor at 1526, the women started yelling and crying. That would be Sharen C and Jackie P. Charles R, the boyfriend of Sharen C, tried to console her, but she wouldn’t be consoled. From 150 feet away, my friend and I, interpreted it as a boyfriend-girlfriend spat that had gotten out of hand. When the vehicle with the bloodhounds arrived, our theory didn’t seem to fit. Why were the bloodhounds on the scene?

    Charles, Sharen, and Jackie identified the man who jumped from the window as white. Later, the FBI analysis of hair fibers, indicated a black-white mix. The guy I saw slow trotting on 14th Place was black. He was in the neighborhood, at the right time, and had about the same stature (5’9”, 160 lbs) as reported in the newspaper, so why don’t I think he was the murderer? The bloodhounds arrived on the scene in less than an hour. If the guy I saw was the murderer, the bloodhounds would have been on that trail in a heartbeat. Instead, the newspaper indicated the bloodhounds only tracked to the back alley. This indicates to me that the murderer fled the scene in a vehicle parked behind 1526 Woodland.

    • Cody says:

      Reading your previous entries regarding this case, you indicated that you didn’t see anything. Now you are saying you did indeed see “a black man jogging”? Please explain.

      • Pat says:

        You are probably referring to when the officer asked us “boys” if we had seen anyone in the neighborhood, and I said no.
        Keep in mind, my friend Clark and I, didn’t know until the next morning what had happened, and how serious the situation was. That night, we thought it looked like a boyfriend-girlfriend spat that had gotten out of hand.
        We actually hadn’t seen anyone in the neighborhood on our walk to Foodland, at 630 14th Place. The streets were desolate. We were the only ones out and about. Not unusual considering people were getting ready for the start of the work week, and were headed to bed or already in bed.
        The only activity we saw was the guys screech off the stop sign at the south segment of 15th at Woodland. We were positioned right in front of them, if they had came up over the curb onto the sidewalk, they would have hit us. But, the driver cut hard left and sped west on Woodland. I figured out the next day after reading the paper, that this was Charles Russell, and his friend who was driving him back to 1530 Woodland.
        We had run out of cigarettes, and that was why we went to Foodland. We were underage, but Clark was 6’0″ and about 200 lbs. I was 5’10” and 98 lbs. He looked old enough if the clerk didn’t check id.
        We spent a few minutes looking around getting some candy, then when Clark asked for the cigarettes, I lingered in the store doorway, getting ready to run if the clerk questioned our age. I just realized last night, in a flashback, that I actually saw that jogger come up the south segment of 15th, headed for Woodland. I went back into the store, and chatted with Clark and the Clerk. When the clerk faced east to grab the cigarettes, he said he saw a black guy, shirtless, jog by the window. I stepped back out of the store doorway, and could see him jogging north on 14th Place. He had a light colored shirt in his left hand, wadded up. Since it was an overcast night (no moon, no stars), I probably wouldn’t have seen him without that light shirt.
        I believe he had the shirt on when I first saw him, and must have taken it off when I went back into the store.
        Clark was in the store the whole time, and wouldn’t have seen the guy. I never mentioned anything about the jogger to him. The clerk only got a poor glimpse as he jogged by. I say poor glimpse, because the store window had cardboard signs and a neon sign that would have prevented him from getting a good look. The best view I had was when he was jogging north on the south segment of 15th toward Woodland. The view I had of him as he jogged north on 14th Place was inferior, because there was no close by streetlight, his back was to me, although I saw him glance back over his shoulder.
        I’ve been trying to refine that memory image, but it is from 60 years ago.

  5. Pat says:

    Even though this is a 59 year old case, consider that a 65 year old case was solved in 2021 through DNA technique. In 1956, Kenneth Gould murdered and raped Patricia Kalitzke. Gould, who was never considered during the murder investigation, died in 2007, and was cremated. However, his children volunteered DNA, and using a single sperm cell and genetic genealogy, the connection was made to Gould.

    In the case of Ramona Jean Cox, the following forensic evidence was gathered: 1) multiple hairs left by the murderer at the crime scene; 2) a t-shirt left by the murderer at the crime scene; 3) skin matter taken from under Ramona’s fingernails; 4) whatever biological material was gathered by rape examination. And, even if the DMPD lost the evidence inadvertently, the FBI may still have the hair and analysis work that they did.

  6. Pat says:

    I had to stop at Iowa Methodist Medical Center today, and after leaving, I drove over and parked in the east side parking of the Hoyt Sherman place. I walked from 680 15th Street down to the location where the 15th Street sidewalk met the Woodland sidewalk, back in 1962. From that location, I stepped off across Woodland, on a diagonal to where I was immediately in front of the location where 1526 Woodland stood back in 1962. Fifty steps, and figuring each step was an average of 3 feet, calculates to 150 feet. It was a shorter distance than I had remembered. I walked between 1530 Woodland, which still exists, and the west end of the apartment building next to it on the east. This is the pathway the murderer of Ramona Cox took that night back on April 29, 1962. The concrete walkway is no longer there, but a stone wall separates the properties. The landscaping behind is totally different. I walked east in what had been the alley to 15th Street, and over to the corner of 14th Street Place, where the grocery store had been in 1962. The whole route was dramatically shorter than what existed in my memory.

  7. Pat says:

    My best theory:
    The man in the living room at 7:30-7:45 pm, dressed like the murderer who fled at 11:00 pm, is the murderer.
    The man is an acquaintance of Cox, or she wouldn’t have let him in.
    He drops by, and promises not to stay long, since it was Sunday night, and the work week would soon begin. She lets him in and they chat briefly.
    He may have gotten aroused.
    He notices the open bedroom window, and plans a return to rape.
    He leaves the apartment before 8:00 pm.
    This accounts for Mrs. Grismore not hearing anyone with Cox, when she went to bed at 8:30 pm.
    This accounts for Cox getting into her pajamas, and curling her hair, since the visitor had left.
    This accounts for Cox not mentioning the man in her telephone talks with Norma Jean Higgins, at 7 pm and 8 pm, since the conversations focused on the dress she was making, and the man was only there briefly.
    He returns about 10:45 pm, in the same clothes he wore earlier.
    He parks his car parallel with or behind any car at 1526, as it is likely there was no parking space available.
    He does not park in the alley, as attention would be drawn to the vehicle, and it could result in an interruption if he was blockading anyone.
    He enters through the open bedroom window.
    He discovers the linoleum knife which Cox had brought into the apartment to use, and left in the bedroom.
    He decides he has to kill her since she could identify him.
    The mayhem begins, and he escapes to the back alley, and drives his car away.
    Because his car was parked close enables a quick getaway.
    This explains why the bloodhounds only track to the alley.

  8. Pat says:

    As my high school friend and I were talking with the clerk in the neighborhood grocery store, I seem to remember the clerk looking out the window behind him, on the east side of the building, and indicating he saw a shirtless man running by, north on 14th Street Place. We could see nothing from the customer side of the counter. The newspaper account on 04/30, indicates the police used bloodhounds for tracking, early Monday morning. Although nothing was reported by the newspaper regarding the results, since the escape route would be only hours old, it would be interesting to know what those bloodhounds detected.

  9. Pat says:

    According to the 05/04/62 Tribune, p. 9, Ramona had moved into 1526 Woodland in February. Thus, she had only lived there for 2 months by the time of the crime. It is likely she had moved from 930 Bancroft on the “near” south side, where the Aug 1961 Des Moines phone book lists her. Unless there had been an in between move. Not likely.

  10. Pat says:

    All times are approximate as reported in the newspaper:

    10:45 pm a woman’s scream is heard from 1526 Woodland;
    11:00 pm a man jumps from the bedroom window at 1526 Woodland;
    11:15 pm the police find Ramona Cox dead in her living room at 1526 Woodland.

    At about 10:55 pm my high school friend and I walk from his apartment at 680 15th to the corner of 15th and Woodland and turn east heading for the grocery store at 14th Street Place and Woodland. We couldn’t have known that across the street and three doors to the west, a murder-rape was taking place. We saw no one out that night except us. By the time we walk east and reach the point where we can see south on 15th Street, we see two guys in a car coming north towards us. They turn onto Woodland heading west and were in a hurry. I’m sure this was Charles R. and his friend who drove him back to 1530 Woodland, after looking for police. Charles enters 1530, and he and Sharen C. and Jackie P. come outside. The women are sitting in his car and Charles is standing next to it when a man jumps out the bedroom window at 1526, and flees south into the back alley and heads east to 15th Street, where he stops running to tuck his shirt in, under a street light, before resuming his escape. My friend and I are in the grocery store buying cigarettes and candy while this is taking place. At about 11:10 pm we see a police car speeding by east to west on Woodland with his light flashing, no siren. At this point we leave the store and walk back to the NW corner of 15th and Woodland. It wasn’t long before there were four squad cars. One of the officers walked over to us and asked what we were doing out at that time of night and we said we had gone to the grocery store. Then he asked us if we had seen any one out and about in the neighborhood, and we told him no. We asked what was going on, and he told us he couldn’t tell us. It was obvious the police were checking out the gray house at 1526 Woodland. We didn’t find out what was going on until the next morning when we saw the DM Register headline: “Woman, 25, Slain in Home”.

  11. Pat says:

    Apparently, Jackie P. passed away in 2003, and Charles R. in 2018. Two of the three witnesses that saw the murderer jump from the bedroom window at 1526 Woodland, at approximately 11:00 pm on 04/29/1962.

  12. Sharon Peckham says:

    I really don’t know why but I’ve always remembered this case. I didn’t know Ramona and had no idea who she is until I heard about her murder. I would love to talk to family members to let them know that she’s being remembered even by strangers who didn’t know her.

  13. Merlehay says:

    Why do you describe a 5’8″, 130 pound woman as “stout”? She would actually appear rather thin.

  14. Marie says:

    The story I heard about this murder had nothing to do with the rough crowd, she may or may not of hung around.
    I heard the killer cut more than her throat, that the body hair left of her body was that of a white and black mix. That she had received anonymous phone calls, for awhile before she was killed.
    It was also possible he was a serial killer, that worked as a fry cook. And often changed jobs traveling between Des Moines and Chicago.
    That some believed he was also responsible for a second murder in Des Moines. Who had also received anonymous calls before her murder, in her own home, much the same, the only difference was the weapon used. Might all be just gossip.

    • Melanie Wood says:

      She was into going to bars and said to have a few male friends. I would suspect one of these persons first. I am not indicating there was anything bad about her character. It has been stated a man called a neighbor a few days before and asked “Who is that neighbor woman next door”. The man did not tell him. It was also stated mixed race hair found. There was a 25 yr old mixed race man known to hate whites that confessed to the crime. He later said he made it up just to confuse things. A 14 yr old neighbor boy was questioned and by the parents consent gave him a lie detector. He was released. But he had admittedly been in the basement apartment where the linoleum knife originally was. Also he had been caught peeking in her windows. A well dressed man was seen sitting on her couch that evening. It was stated it appeared she was putting in rollers in her hair at the time she was attacked from behind. To me this indicates it was someone she knew. A few decent suspects.

  15. This is very heart breaking.

  16. Good heavens she was killed in DM on Woodland –she was from Moravia. — the most likely perp is now deceased —PD was fairly confident of his identity . RIP mall town girl RIP

  17. Moravia apartment? She was FROM Moravia. (I know this because I have relatives who grew up there, and knew her. :( )

    • Sarah Rushton, that is why we distinguished that she worked as a secretary in Des Moines but lived in Moravia. This is definitely a very sad case. Did your relatives ever have any suspicions as to who might have been involved or had motive to kill Ramona? Thanks for your input.

  18. That’s a shame they never caught the killer & her family never got justice. I lived across the alley when this happened.

  19. Ronda Six Garnett We’re not certain. There is NO statute of limitation on murder and, technically, nothing should ever be discarded. Unfortunately time passes, law enforcement personnel come and go, buildings are torn down, items are moved, people forget what the evidence is related to, etc. That is VERY unlikely to happen in the present, however!

  20. Ronda Six Garnett It depends on the jurisdiction. Often, it gets “lost” over time. Evidence collecting and storage was very primitive 50 years ago compared to now, but DNA can still be identified. There is a 1968 Iowa case in which strong DNA has been found because the evidence was kept.

  21. The murderer killed her with a curved linoleum knife. She never stood a chance!

  22. Thanks for posting these.

  23. Amazing…I wonder if they still this evidence??

  24. How long is evidence kept in cases like this?? And could it be tested today for DNA??

  25. Marcia Kupka says:

    We lived a block north of where this happened-had friends that lived in the front of the building-wasn’t the landlord/maintenance man suspected?

  26. Sheri Glover says:

    I remember this as we lived a couple houses down across the alley. I then met a friend who lived in the same apt. and she showed me where you could still see blood around the tub from this incident. It was pretty scary back then.

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