Ross McConnell

Ross R. McConnell

Ross Reynold McConnell


Ross Reynold McConnell
47 YOA
1604 Tichenor St.
Des Moines, IA
Polk County
Case # 71-29236
Crime Date: June 26, 1971
Date of Death: July 7, 1971

Ross R. McConnell, 47, died July 7, 1971, of burns suffered at his home June 26 in a fire that investigators later ruled as arson. The fire began when someone threw a flammable liquid through a window onto the bed in which McConnell was sleeping.

Ross McConnell burned in fire, Tribune story

The Tribune ran this story June 26, 1971 (Courtesy pmwm from

Early Saturday morning, June 26, McConnell awoke at 1:30 a.m. in his 1604 Tichenor St. Des Moines home and discovered he was on fire. He ran from his burning house with severe burns on his face, hands, arms, legs and chest, summoning a neighbor for help.

Detective Frank Murray investigated at the scene and talked briefly to McConnell later at Broadlawns Polk County Hospital.

“All he could tell me was that he woke up and he was on fire,” Murray said in a Des Moines Tribune article dated later that day.

Neighbor Dwain L. Hill of 1608 Tichenor St. told the Tribune he was awakened by McConnell, who had run to his yard “hollering my name” and that was burned “pretty bad.”

Arson investigator William Devine spent three hours early Saturday probing through McConnell’s one-story, rock-faced frame house, and said a window to the bedroom where McConnell was sleeping was burned from the outside and that there was an odor of gasoline and unusual burned patches in the yard.

Hill told police McConnell said he “was scared that this would happen” and that he had received threats recently, the Tribune reported June 26.

According to the Tribune, Hill said McConnell was living alone in the house since separating from his wife earlier that week.

Homicide Probers Get Fire Case

Des Moines Tribune, July 9, 1971 (Courtesy pmwm

District Fire Chief Patrick Murray said the fire badly damaged the one bedroom in the house and also damaged the living room. The rest of the home sustained considerable smoke damage.

McConnell, who’d barricaded the front door with chairs, was able to escape the burning home through the back door.

Arson Case Turns to Homicide Investigation

McConnell, who sustained second-degree burns over 60 percent of his body, remained in critical condition at Broadlawns hospital until passing away 11 days later on Wednesday, July 7, 1971.

Lt. Raymond Steiner said the case had been considered as arson until McConnell’s death, at which time the classification changed to homicide and two detectives were assigned to the case, Steiner said in a Tribune article published July 9, 1971.

Police said the fire started when someone threw a flammable liquid through a window onto the bed in which McConnell lay sleeping.

Officials said witnesses provided descriptions of two automobiles seen in the area shortly before the fire, but no one was ever held accountable for the crime and it remains unsolved.

About Ross McConnell

A lifelong Des Moines resident, Ross Reynold McConnell was a welder with Fruehauf Trailer Corp. and a member of International Association of Machinists Union Local No. 118.

He was born November 21, 1923, and served as a private with the U.S. Army during World War II.

He died Wednesday, July 7, 1971, from burns sustained in a June 26 arson fire at his Des Moines residence.

Services were held at 10 a.m. Saturday, July 10, 1971 at the Dahlstrom Funeral Home with interment in Laurel Hill Cemetery.

Ross McConnell gravestoneCourtesy photo Pamela Schisel,
Ross Reynold McConnell is buried in the Laurel Hill Cemetery in Des Moines.

Survivors included McConnell’s wife, Marilyn; his mother, Mrs. Lucy McConnell of West Virginia; his father, Ross W. McConnell of Des Moines; two sisters, Mrs. Myrtle Head of West Virginia and Mrs. Marion Welshons of Los Angeles; three brothers, Lawrence and Maurice, both of Des Moines, and Melvin of West Des Moines.

Information Needed

If you have any information regarding Ross McConnell’s unsolved murder, please contact the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 283-4864.

  • Des Moines Police Department, personal correspondence to Iowa Cold Cases, July 10, 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial
  • “Funeral Services,” The Des Moines Register, July 10, 1971
  • “Homicide Probers Get Fire Case,” The Des Moines Tribune, July 9, 1971
  • “D.M. Man Burned Severely in Fire,” The Des Moines Register, June 27, 1971
  • “D.M. HOME FIRE – Man Is Burned; Suspect Arson,” The Des Moines Tribune, June 26, 1971


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12 Responses to Ross McConnell

  1. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    Not a lot of investigative details for some reason. I guess the police don’t have or found anything of use. I guess he was loved by the whole world.

    We don’t know if he worked, was extremely wealthy. Was he was married or divorced. I guess they closed the case, since he is deceased.

    Maybe, the police are holding back some details to prevent someone claiming they killed him, while not being involved. I guess after 46 years you have to prevent that from happening.

    • Patricia Meiners says:

      Divorce announcement April 5, 1968 from Marilyn Jean McConnell, but they were still married at the time of his death (hmmm). They had no children. He died Wed., July 7, not on the same day as the fire. He was a welder at Fruehauf Trailer. His father lived in West Virginia. I posted the July 9, 1971 DM Tribune story on FindAGrave.

      • Patricia Meiners says:

        His mother (not father) lived in W. VA.

        • Patricia Meiners says:

          He separated from his wife earlier that week & had been threatened. See June 26, 1971 article on FindAGrave.

          • Patricia Meiners says:

            Aug. 3, 1968, TRIB, he or his father, also Ross, held at gunpoint in a robbery at the Hotel Kirkwood.
            He went to Phillips Elem. School.
            Sept. 25, 1957 TRIB, found innocent of an OWI south of Indianola.
            July 23, 1969, TRIB, while welding at Fruehauf, gasoline fumes caused a fire.
            Dec. 3, 1952, TRIB, attacked his former father-in-law with an axe, accused him of causing the divorce from Enid Eleanor, the daughter of C C Downey, paroled from a year at Anamosa.
            His parents divorced in 1935, when he was 12.
            His father was from Mexico & advertised he sold the ‘best hot tamales this side of Mexico’ in 1941.

            • Patrick Kerrigan says:

              Patricia, thanks for the information. I wonder if he suffered from what we now call PTSD. It appears that he was married and divorced twice,

              The last set of details provide some interesting details. However, nothing stands out as pointing to someone or a reason, for his being attacked in a way. It would be nice to know if law enforcement has any information in regards to the alleged threat, or what it was related to.

              Also, I wonder if any of his co-workers were ever interviewed. The threat could have been work related, maybe a labor/management issues. We know that Organized Crime was involved with many labor unions years ago.

            • Jody Ewing says:

              Patricia, thanks so much for sharing the photos & newspaper articles. I’ve updated Ross’s page to reflect the additional info about his case.

              Patrick, these case summary pages are always works in progress. When the Des Moines PD first sent me their list of unsolved homicides a decade ago (included the case #, victim’s name, date of crime and location), it was important to me to get the victims’ names added to the website so they were at least “acknowledged” as being unsolved cases. The DMPD’s list, like other LE agencies, includes just the basics, and the date is always the date the crime took place.

              There are far more publicly available newspaper archives available today than back when we launched in 2005 (those are checked when anniversary dates roll around as we continually add new cases), but just because a case here may not include every answer to every conceivable question one might ask (there are always more questions than answers) it by no means indicates that investigators didn’t do their job(s).

              One of the primary reasons cases don’t get solved is because witnesses or those with knowledge about a crime refuse to cooperate with investigators. “We’re not going to do your job for you,” John Q. Public says, oblivious to the fact that “interviewing witnesses and getting those statements” is part of any investigators’ “job” and often plays a tremendous role in whether a case gets solved or goes cold.

              But please, do not confuse the amount of details on any given case summary here with how hard the respective investigators worked the case.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Cynde!

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