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On Saturday, July 20, 1996, Sandra Dee “Sandy” Kinney, 33, was strangled to death near the Mississippi River walkway in Davenport, Iowa, and her body thrown into the Mississippi River. Her nude body was found floating face down by local fisherman the same day. Scott County officials said that she had only been in the water for approximately three to four hours when her body was pulled from the river at 8 p.m. that night.
Davenport police interviewed more than 150 persons who may have seen or heard something or known details about Kinney’s murder. They did confiscate a vehicle owned by a local junk dealer, 52-year-old Jerry Lee Huff, that contained Kinney’s personal contents.
When Huff arrived at the Davenport Police Department he was arrested, charged with First Degree Murder and Willful Injury, and jailed until his trial began several months later.
According to court documents, Huff made an incriminating statement to Davenport police detectives in October while in custody. The judge in the case, however, decided to suppress the statement and all information regarded as “any fruits from the poisonous tree.” That information was never offered to the jury selected for the trial that began in January of 1997, five months after Kinney’s murder.
Scott County officials did not give up, and pushed for a Motion in Limine, which was granted, to keep the case open for further investigation into Huff’s activities. During the trial, Scott County prosecutors accused Huff of killing Kinney because she refused to perform a sex act with Huff, sparking Huff to angrily slay Kinney via strangulation and dispose her body in the Mississippi River.
More than 50 witnesses testified during the week-long Scott County District Court trial.
Kinney, while known to live in rural Calamus, Iowa, was reported by witnesses and Scott County and Davenport officials to have spent much of her time in the downtown Davenport area, sometimes working as a waitress in various establishments but also working as a prostitute to fund a crack cocaine addiction. Kinney had been convicted of minor charges involving alcohol, theft, drug and vehicular related offenses and she was completing probation given for her guilty pleas prior to her death. She had no driver’s license or vehicle and allegedly accepted rides from Huff and other persons during the summer of her death.
Other evidence offered during the trial included a pair of shorts Kinney was seen wearing on the day of her death, along with other pieces of Kinney’s clothing and personal items found in Huff’s car immediately following her murder.
On January 21, 1997, the jury found reasonable doubt and acquitted Huff of both charges. Huff walked out of the courthouse a free man. Since the trial, public records show he has been charged with more than two dozen minor charges unrelated to Kinney’s death. Because he was living in his vehicle at the time of Kinney’s murder and at the time of his arrest several days later, it is believed that he remains a resident in Iowa but his exact location is unknown to Iowa Cold Cases. Due to Double Jeopardy, he cannot be tried again for the First Degree Murder and Willful Injury charges in Sandra Kinney’s case since he was acquitted by the jury.
Davenport police consider Kinney’s strangulation murder an “unsolved homicide” and continue to investigate her homicide as a “major case” along with many other murders that have occurred in Davenport through this year.
Although many Scott County area officials allege that Huff had the opportunity and motive to kill Kinney, they continue to search for any new clues that would lead to the arrest of any person or persons involved in the woman’s untimely and violent death.
Kinney’s daughter, Amie, has reached out to Iowa Cold Cases to spread the information about her mother’s murder hoping that someone will remember something, large or small, that would help officials solve her mom’s case.
Sandra Dee Kinney was born November 29, 1962 and was 33 years old when she died on July 20, 1996. She lived in Davenport and nearby Calamus all her life. She was employed as a waitress in Davenport at various restaurants and clubs.
Survivors included her daughter, Amie Wittmeyer of Cambridge, Illinois, a grandson, two brothers, Douglas Kinney and David Kinney of Calamus, and her parents, Mary Kinney of Calamus and Russell Kinney of Jacksonville, Illinois.
Cunnick-Collins Mortuary and Cremation Service was in charge of private arrangements. Nine days after her murder, Kinney’s remains were cremated July 29, 1996 at Fairmount Cemetery Crematory in Davenport. Daughter Amie provided this information about Kinney being laid to rest and she retains the package information about the incinerated remains. Amie is reaching out for any information leading to the conviction of her mother’s killer.
If you have any information regarding Sandra Kinney’s murder, please contact the Davenport Police Department at (563) 326-7979 or Iowa Cold Cases via our Contact form or Anonymous Tip Form. You may choose to either remain anonymous or include your personal information to us or law enforcement when you offer any information you have about the end of young Sandy Kinney’s life.