Sarah Ann Ottens (Courtesy Waterloo Daily Courier)
Sarah Ann Ottens
Homicide — Guilty Verdict Overturned
Original Case Information provided by the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation Cold Case Unit; additional case information provided by local news media and The New York Times
Sarah Ann Ottens, a 20-year-old University of Iowa student from Morrison, Illinois, was assaulted and suffocated in her Rienow Hall room in Iowa City on Tuesday, March 13, 1973.
Student Brenda Simpson of Waterloo discovered Ottens’ body in room 429 just before midnight.
Courtesy The Gazette
James Hall in 1973
Six months after the murder, University of Iowa student and football player James Wendall Hall, 20, of Toledo, Ohio, was charged in Ottens’ murder based on fingerprints and DNA evidence found at the crime scene.
In May 1974, he was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to 50 years in prison at Fort Madison.
Courtesy the Daily Reporter, Nov. 14, 1973 (Click image to enlarge in PDF format)
The defense began a number of appeals, though the Iowa Supreme Court upheld Hall’s conviction and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Hall’s conviction was overturned in November 1983 after it was learned the prosecution withheld evidence in the case, and he was released from prison.
Ten years after his release, Hall was convicted in the 1992 strangling death of Susan Hajek.
No one else was ever charged in Ottens’ murder.
DCI Still Pursues Answers
Though officials strongly believe they arrested and charged the individual responsible for Ottens’ homicide, they continue to review any new evidence and follow up on all leads.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Sarah Ottens’ 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.
Courtesy the Bryan Times, May 24, 1974 (Click image for full story)
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 resolving 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 Sarah Ottens
Sarah Ann Ottens was born February 9, 1953, in Morrison, Ill., to Robert W. and Myra (Schaut) Ottens.
Courtesy photo Pam and Dave Jindrich
Sarah’s gravestone in Grove Hill Cemetery in Morrison, Illinois.
Memorial services were held March 16, 1973, at Morrison’s Emmanuel Reformed Church, with burial following in Grove Hill Cemetery.
Anyone with information regarding Sarah Ann Ottens’ murder is asked to contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or call the University of Iowa Police at (319) 335-5022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sources and References:
- Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, former Cold Case Unit, December 6, 2009
- University of Iowa Police
- Iowa City Police Department
- “Iowa Victims of the State,” victimsofthestate.org/IA/
- “Cold Case of Sarah Ottens,” by Anna Cardamon, multimedia.jmc.uiowa.edu, November 13, 2013
- “IC HISTORY: REEXAMINING THE COLD CASE FILES,” by Marlin R. Ingalls, Little Village Magazine, October 25, 2013
- “Top Stories — University of Iowa Police Hoping for New Information in Nearly 40 Year Old Murder,” KGAN/KFXA, May 10, 2012
- “Hall’s lawyer asks for mistrial,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 14, 1993
- “Witness’ ‘ambush comment’ condemned by Hall attorney,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, April 10, 1993
- “Hall murder trial goes to Davenport,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, February 17, 1993
- “Hall knew finding body would put focus on him,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 26, 1992
- “GRAND JURY FREES MAN CONVICTED IN MURDER ,” The New York Times, September 2, 1984
- “Convicted killer’s attorneys say another confessed to the crime,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, October 7, 1983
- “Iowa City killer seeking new trial,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, July 29, 1983
- “Supreme Court rejects Hall’s murder appeal,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, October 4, 1977
- “GROUPS BACK HALL IN NEW TRIAL BID,” by Staff Writers, The Des Moines Register, June 9, 1974
- “Former university football player convicted of murder,” The Bryan Times, Friday, May 24, 1974
- “Additional Charge Filed Against Hall,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, December 4, 1973
- “State Sets Forth Evidence In Sarah Ottens Murder Case, The Iowa City Press-Citizen, November 14, 1973
- “Find fingerprint in coed’s murder,” AP / The Daily Reporter, November 14, 1973
- “Judge Orders Release of Hall Case Evidence,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Friday, October 12, 1973
- “Fingerprint, Samples of Hair Are Evidence in Ottens Case, The Iowa City Press-Citizen, October 4, 1973
- “Plea Seen In Slaying of UI Coed,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, September 27, 1973
- “Evidence Emerging In Slaying, The Iowa City Press-Citizen, August 27, 1973
- “Jury to Study Coed’s Death,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, August 15, 1973
- “Grand Jury To hear Evidence In Sarah Ottens Murder Case, The Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 20, 1973
- “No Prime Suspect in Coed’s Death,” The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Friday, March 23, 1973
- “Probe Into Slaying of Coed To Be Widened,” The Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 17, 1973
- “Slain UI Co-ed Remembered as ‘Outgoing,’” The Iowa City Press-Citizen, March 16, 1973
- “Suffocation Seen in UI Coed’s Death,” The Waterloo Daily Courier, March 15, 1973