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On March 8, 2007, Robert Scott Hatcher, 38, was shot seven times near Playland Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa, as he stood on the Iowa Riverfront Trail beneath the Interstate 480 Bridge on the city’s western edge.
In November 2008, stepbrothers Jimmy Joe Caballero, 22, and Derek Gaston, 25, were arrested in connection with Hatcher’s death and charged with first-degree murder, but the charges were dropped by February 2009.
According to a March 13, 2011 article published in the Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil by Chad Nation — who has written extensively about this case:
Informants had told investigators a number of stories about the two men, but little physical evidence existed.
At the time of the dismissals, an assistant Pottawattamie County attorney said the state needed more time to investigate the case further to make sure the charges were against the right person.
There was evidence that needed further evaluation before the case proceeded, and additional witnesses were also being sought.
Nothing else has ever been filed.
Family members told the Nonpareil that Robert was walking back from a job fair, and the paper said documents indicated Hatcher was there to meet two men about a money issue.
The Nonpareil also stated:
Court documents indicated that sources told authorities the murder weapon was thrown in the Missouri River. So while the case is not closed, it is not considered active either.
On the four-year anniversary of Hatcher’s death, his family held a memorial in his honor and released balloons.
When the five-year anniversary arrived, Hatcher’s parents, Bill and Marjorie Hatcher, told KETV Channel 7 in Omaha they’d nearly run out of hope. They hoped that by telling their story, someone would come forward and provide a clue to what happened to their son.
“Bob was always the one that called me all the time, so I miss all of his phone call,” Marjorie Hatcher told KETV. “It just feels like there’s a big hole in your heart.”
Mrs. Hatcher described her son as a shy man who would help anyone, and said it had to be someone with a mean reason for having shot [Bob] that many times.
The couple memorialized their son by planting an evergreen tree in front of their Treynor home.
Bill Hatcher told KETV they are frustrated that justice hasn’t yet come for their son. “It seems like it’s going to end up being a cold case,” he said.
“We thought maybe if somebody saw it again, somebody would remember something,” his wife added.
The couple acknowledged nothing would bring back their son, but believe someone knows who killed him and why.
“It would give us some closure and maybe we’d find out why,” Hatcher’s mother told Channel 7 News.
On the seven-year anniversary of their son’s death, the Hatchers spoke with Daily Nonpareil reporter Mike Brownlee in a month that also would have included Hatcher’s birthday.
“It’s bad. This is always a bad time,” Marjorie Hatcher said in the Nonpareil article published March 9, 2014.
Robert Hatcher would have turned 46 years old on March 21, 2014.
“A lot of things can change in seven years,” Sgt. Chad Meyers of the police department’s criminal investigation division told the Nonpareil. “We’re asking for the community’s help. If you’ve heard something, anything — even just a rumor — give us a call.”
Council Bluffs police received a number of leads in the case over the years, but none that Meyers said were substantial enough to result in an arrest. Meyers still believes the case can be closed, and told the Nonpareil:
“It’s a case that’s solvable. We just need the right info.” ~ Sgt. Chad Meyers
March 8, 2017, marked 10 years since Robert Hatcher’s murder, and in another interview with the Omaha World-Herald’s Mike Brownlee, his family reflected on what it’s been like 10 years without Robert.
“Some closure would be wonderful,” Marjorie Hatcher said. “We miss him so much.”
Sgt. Mark Stuart with the Council Bluffs Police Department said the agency has reassigned the still-open case, the World-Herald reported.
Stuart said detectives planned to review the case material, possibly determining whether advancements in technology would warrant retesting evidence. Stuart said there’s nothing to suggest the first investigation wasn’t complete and thorough, but said the department thought another look could be helpful.
“It’ll never be over until the family gets their day in court,” Stuart told Brownlee.
The murder weapon has yet to be found.
The Hatchers’ daughter, Billie Jo Gubbels of Council Bluffs, died in December 2016 at age 50 from liver disease.
“It’s just really hard to start every day and know two of your kids are gone, you’re never going to see them again,” Majorie Hatcher said in the March 2017 article. “Your heart is just empty.”
Robert Scott Hatcher was born March 21, 1968, in Council Bluffs to William C. and Marjorie Ann Hatcher.
He graduated from Treynor High School in 1987, and at one time worked at the Travel America Cafe in Council Bluffs.
He’d worked as a cook at Ameristar Casino before his death.
In addition to his parents, Robert was survived by his wife, Christine; a brother, Tim; and sister Billie Jo.
He was buried at the Zion Congregational Cemetery in Treynor, Iowa.
If you have any information about Robert Hatcher’s unsolved murder, please contact the Council Bluffs Police Department Criminal Investigation Division at (712) 328-4765 or Crime Stoppers at (712) 328-7867.
Callers may remain anonymous, and a reward is possible.
KETV Channel 7 Omaha: Interview with Bill and Marjorie Hatcher
January 27, 2012