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On Sunday, January 28, 1968, Sheila Jean Collins, 18, of Evanston, Ill., was found lying face-down in a ditch off a gravel road four miles east of Nevada, Iowa, about 20 miles east of Ames.
Miss Collins — an Iowa State University coed who was headed home for the weekend — had been strangled with a nylon cord knotted around her neck. An autopsy report by Dr. John Powers of Ames showed that a pipe incorporated into the knot may have been used as a turning mechanism.
A father and son out fox hunting near the town of Colo in Story County found Collins’ body after the son spotted a foot in the shallow ditch.
Collins had arranged on Friday evening for a ride to her Evanston home through a bulletin board in the ISU’s Memorial Union, where students needing rides frequently posted notices.
The “Going My Way?” map was divided into numbered zones, and Collins had filled out a green card, indicating she wanted a ride home. Her card stated: “I need a ride to: DeKalb, Ill., or Chicago area; Date leaving: any Friday; Phone 294-1702.”
Collins told a friend she’d expected her boyfriend, a Northern Illinois University student, to come to Ames and drive her home for the weekend. He couldn’t make it, and some time before 8 p.m. Friday, January 26, Collins received the telephone call from someone offering her the ride home.
According to reports by the Story County Sheriff’s Department, Collins told a girlfriend she’d gotten a ride “in 10 minutes” but that she didn’t know the person’s name.
The caller told Collins to wait at the corner of Lincoln Way (on Highway 30) and Beech Street, the first main intersection entering the campus from the east. Collins then phoned her parents, James and Muriel Collins, to let them know she was getting a ride home. The friend said she’d helped Sheila pack and that she’d left the Elm Hall dormitory shortly thereafter.
According to a Des Moines Register article dated Jan. 30, 1968, the teen was last seen alive at approximately 8:30 p.m. on Friday standing near the heavily traveled intersection. When she failed to arrive at her parents’ home by noon on Saturday, they reported her missing.
About 2 p.m. Sunday, Dr. Roger Hogle of Ames and his son, Jeff, 8, were driving along a gravel road east of Nevada when Jeff told his father he saw something in the ditch that looked like a foot, the Register reported. Hogle went back, and once he saw a body, immediately drove to Nevada to notify the sheriff.
The petite ISU freshman, described as “the quiet, studious type,” was found partly clad with her belongings nearby. Her sweat shirt was pulled up around her neck and her panties, blue jeans, purse and suitcase were found just west of her body in a plowed farm field about six feet away and appeared to have been set on the ground just over a fence.
Authorities said the position of the body when found indicated Collins had been killed elsewhere and the body later placed in the ditch. Story County Sheriff Ivan Shalley said the body was found in a squatting position, resting on its knees and head. Collins’ dark woolen coat had been thrown over her body, partly covering her body and head.
Dr. William R. Bliss, the county medical examiner, said Collins had not been raped and that there was nothing to indicate sexual molestation. Still, due to how Collins’ body and clothing were found, he surmised the perpetrator had a sex deviation of some kind.
Sheila Jeans Collins was born August 2, 1949 to James and Muriel Collins in Elmhurst, Illinois.
She graduated from Evanston Township High School in June 1967, and was studying English and speech at Iowa State University at the time of her death.
In addition to her parents, Sheila’s survivors included two younger sisters, Patricia and Lee.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Sheila Collins’ 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 remains committed to resolving Iowa’s cold cases. The DCI will continue 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.
If you have any information about Sheila Collins’ unsolved murder, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact the Story County Sheriff’s Office at (515) 382-6566.