Weekender logo

Terri McCauleyTerri McCauley (Courtesy photo Sioux City Police Department)

Terri McCauley


Teen’s Murder: More Questions than Answers

By Jody Ewing
July 15, 2004

Early Sunday, Sept. 25, 1983

It is a typical Sunday morning in the Warner-McCauley household, a duplex located at 1501 Pierce St. and shared by 18-year-old Terri McCauley, her older brother Harvey and his common-law wife, Yvonne Sheridan. The forecast promises another warm day, temperatures steadily having risen over the past five days. Today will hit the mid-80s.

Fresh from her morning shower, Terri joins the others and announces her plans to visit her mother, Eva Mackey, who lives off Hamilton Blvd. She asks to take her young niece Jackie with her, and Yvonne responds that it will be all right. Terri spends a lot of time at her mother’s these days; she’d recently given Eva temporary custody of her children — a young boy and girl less than two years of age.

Once Terri and Jackie are gone, a feeling of uncertainty settles over Yvonne as she recalls Terri’s comment a few days before.

“Did you hear about that guy who got killed on the reservation or somewhere over there? They cut off his head,” Terri had told Yvonne. Just before leaving she’d added, “Oh, and when I die, I want my casket to be sealed.”

McCauley Weekender photoPhoto by Mike Northrup
Cold Case II: Terri McCauley
One of the last times the 18-year-old woman was seen was near the corner of 14th and Pierce streets. Her partially decomposed body was found near 33rd and Pavonia less than one week later.

They were odd words coming from the spirited young mother, who planned to get her children back once she got on her feet. What kind of nonsense was this talk about planning her own funeral?

Later, Sunday evening

Eva brings Jackie back home to her parents. She says Terri made a phone call from her house, then left and never came back for the child. Though Terri liked to party and had many friends, it seemed unusual she wouldn’t return for her niece.

Monday, Sept. 26

Between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m., Terri is seen walking westbound in the 300 block of 14th Street on the way to her mother’s home. The sun beats down on the pavement, bringing afternoon temperatures to a high of 91.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

At 6:45 p.m., Terri’s mother and stepfather, Leonard Mackey, drop her off a few blocks from her best friend Frealy Garrison’s house. Terri is dressed for evening temps — expected to dip to 52 degrees — in blue jeans, blue and lavender shirtsleeves, a pink velour blouse and brown suede shoes.

Upon her arrival at Frealy’s, the two begin a long evening that takes them to several area bars including Rudy’s Tavern, the Palm Tap, Andre’s, and a trip to Cook Park with friends.

As the night draws to a close, Terri meets up at 2:10 a.m. with friends Richard Thomas and Willie Dillard outside the 7-11 Club in the area of W. 7th & Omaha Street. Five minutes later, Terri tells her friends she is going on a “date,” and gets into a white Chevy Nova parked in the gas station parking lot at the corner. The white male driver heads north on Omaha Street and turns west onto W. 8th Street.

A Daughter, Sister Goes Missing

With Terri often dividing her time between her mother’s and her brother’s homes, her sudden disappearance didn’t immediately sink in as foul play.

“But it was ‘unusual’ for her not to come back,” said Yvonne.

More unusual was discovering Terri hadn’t stopped by her mother’s for several days in a row. On Saturday afternoon, Oct. 1, Eva contacted Sioux City police and filed an ATL — or “attempt to locate” her daughter.

“The kids she ran around with had nicknames and I never knew their real names,” said Yvonne. Checking with friends whose names she knew turned up nothing of Terri’s whereabouts.

Several more days passed with no word on Terri, and at 12:10 p.m. on Oct. 5, Eva filed an official missing person report. In less than 24 hours the search for her missing daughter would reach a heart-wrenching end.

Horrific Discovery Devastates Family

Just after 8 a.m. the next morning, a local resident walking his dog stumbled across Terri’s partially decomposed body in the wooded vicinity of 33rd and Pavonia Street. She lay in a thicket along an unkempt dirt road, naked except for a pair of white panties down around one ankle and white tube socks pulled slightly off her feet. She had been killed point-blank by a 20-gauge shotgun blast to the face.

An immediate search of the area produced the two blue and lavender shirtsleeves and the pair of brown suede shoes. Investigators collected evidence for DNA analysis, though time and the elements were not on their side.

Lisa Claeys

Lt. Lisa Claeys

“The weather was very hot during that entire period, and unfortunately [the body] had been out in the open,” said Lt. Lisa Claeys of the Sioux City Police Department’s Investigative Services Bureau. “We assumed she had been sexually assaulted — based on the fact that the underwear was around the one foot — but she’d been ravaged by the elements and there was quite a bit of decomposition to her body.”

Interviews with Terri’s friends and acquaintances indicated that Terri frequented the 4th Street vicinity, a strip of downtown known at the time for prostitution.

“People called her a prostitute, but she wasn’t a prostitute,” said Yvonne, a shift supervisor at Mercy Medical Center. “But she did have ways of getting money off her dates. I thought maybe that’s what happened.”

It was true that the dark-haired girl with the wire-rimmed glasses never lacked for friends or help. The youngest of five siblings and the only girl, Terri had brothers Harvey, Mike, Jim and Todd to help out in a pinch.

“If she needed a little money to go visit here and there, if I had it I’d give it to her,” said Harvey. “If I didn’t, I’d do what I could.”

Sioux City Police Sgt. Anthony Sunclades, one of several investigators initially assigned to the murder, said Terri’s friend Frealy Garrison, a local prostitute, told police what she knew.

“She said the car that Terri got into that night — the white Chevy Nova — was the exact same kind of car that she and Terri had ridden in a couple of nights before,” Sunclades said. “She remembered seeing fishing tackle, a Bible, and romance novels in the back seat, and told police about them because she thought it was very strange.”

Despite their search for a suspect, the investigation hit a dead end in the weeks following the murder. Claeys said McCauley’s friends had been interviewed and cleared.

Three months later while investigating another case, Sunclades stumbled across a striking detail, and police finally had their first major suspect.

Anthony Sunclades
“Chances are, he’ll screw up. And when he does, we’ll be waiting.” – Sioux City Police Sgt. Anthony Sunclades
‘A Death in the Family’

“We didn’t really have any chief suspects until about three months after it happened,” said Sunclades, a SCPD 32-year veteran who began his law enforcement career as a U.S. Army policeman. “Then one day I was investigating a case where this individual had fired several rounds from a shotgun into a former girlfriend’s house. He drove the exact same kind of car as the one Frealy Garrison said she and Terri had ridden in.”

Though the car was the first connection linking the individual to McCauley, its discovery led detectives to other circumstantial evidence:

  • Upon seizing the suspect’s car, they found a shotgun hole in the dashboard.
  • Fishing tackle, a Bible and romance novels were found in the vehicle.
  • The suspect lived with his father at the Ridge Oaks apartments, and their apartment faced the wooded area where McCauley’s body was found.
  • A search of the apartment produced a 20-gauge shotgun and ammunition.
  • The gun fired into the former girlfriend’s home turned out to be a 20-gauge shotgun.

More incriminating data turned up after a visit with the suspect’s employer.

“The day after the murder, the suspect had reported for work but, according to his supervisor, wasn’t acting like himself at all, like there was something very wrong,” Sunclades said. “The employee told him there had been a death in his family, and he left work after about three hours.”

Investigators checked records and spoke with family members, who said there had been no deaths in the family.

Though circumstantial evidence seemed to point to the Nova’s driver, an exhaustive search of the vehicle produced no proof she’d ever been in it.

“The car was torn apart to the extent that we were looking for any type of physical evidence where we’d be able to identify that Terri was actually in that vehicle,” Claeys said. “We were not able to do that at that time.”

Officials then asked Garrison to have a look at the car. Sunclades says at first she didn’t recognize it because they’d already removed the seat covers, “but once we showed those to her she was absolutely positive it was the same car.”

“I felt we had more than enough evidence to charge the suspect with the crime,” Sunclades said.

“More Questions than Answers”

In 1984, Sunclades took the case to County Attorney Patrick McCormick to discuss possible options. They could charge the suspect, take the case to a grand jury, or wait for more viable evidence. McCormick — uncertain of a successful prosecution with only circumstantial evidence — decided they should wait.

“He wanted more concrete evidence, like a witness or a confession. Or even an earring in the car,” Sunclades said.

McCauley had been missing a “feather-type earring” at the time they discovered her body. Officials couldn’t determine whether the suspect took it as a “trophy” or whether some animal had made off with it.

Another search conducted in spring 1984 had turned up additional clothing items belonging to the victim, including the pair of blue jeans, a pink velour blouse, one white bra and a black coat. The items were partially buried approximately 15 feet from where the shoes had been located the previous fall.

Sunclades acknowledged that charging the suspect without further evidence would eliminate a later conviction should the suspect be found not guilty.

“If they charged him and he was found not guilty, and then later on something surfaced like more evidence or a confession, we wouldn’t be able to do anything about it because of double jeopardy,” he said.

Over the course of the years, other information also has come to light.

“In reference to the original detectives’ main suspect, he is still a suspect, however he is not the only suspect that we are looking at,” said Claeys. “I, personally, don’t like him for this homicide as much as others may. There are more questions than answers as far as I am concerned.”

Claeys admits there is no denying that circumstantial evidence might point to the original suspect, but says there is not enough to drop everything else and focus only on him.

“My experience has taught me that tunnel vision can be a real impediment to a successful investigation,” says the 20-year department veteran. “Having gone down that road in the past, I don’t plan on repeating that mistake anytime soon.”

Two and one-half years ago, Claeys resubmitted all the evidence to the lab in the hope that advances in DNA would find something previously missed. Unfortunately, she said, it didn’t.

The department continues to follow up on leads on another suspect, something Claeys says they are still working on.

“We haven’t dead-ended on it yet,” she said. “We keep running into walls, but we keep finding ways around it.”

In the interim, Woodbury County Attorney Tom Mullin also waits for something more concrete.

“If any new evidence is uncovered, we would certainly take another look at the case,” said Mullin, who took over as county attorney in 1989. Beyond that, he said, he is unable to comment on any of the open cases.

Sunclades says he hopes the family understands how hard they’ve worked this case and how hard they’ve looked for that one piece of evidence that will seal the killer’s conviction.

“Chances are, he’ll eventually screw up,” Sunclades said. “And when he does, we’ll be waiting.”

This article first appeared in the Sioux City, IA, Weekender on July 15, 2004.


About Terri McCauley
Terri McCauley's gravestoneCourtesy photo Dennis Johnson, findagrave.com
Terri McCauley is buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Walthill, Neb.

Terri Rae McCauley was born Jan. 3, 1965, and died Sept. 27, 1983 in Sioux City.

Survivors included a daughter and son, Felicia and Nate McCauley; her mother Eva M. Mackey; stepfather Leonard Edwin Mackey; her siblings and step-siblings, Harvey Warner and his wife, Yvonne; Mike McCauley and his wife, Charmaine; James McCauley, and Todd McCauley and his wife, Brandy.

Terri was laid to rest at Evergreen Cemetery in Walthill, Thurston County, Nebraska.

Her stepfather, Leonard Mackey, passed away May 19, 2002. Her mother, Eva Mackey, died April 18, 2005. They also were buried at Evergreen Cemetery.

Information Needed

If you or anyone you know has information regarding Terri McCauley’s unsolved murder, please contact the Sioux City Police Department at 712-279-6440.

Further Information:


Copyright © 2024  Iowa Cold Cases, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

29 Responses to Terri McCauley

  1. Taryn says:

    Who says it was a male, what about a female that begins with Y

  2. Candy Schott says:

    Was the bullet that killed her ever found? And if it was – was any testing done on his 20-gauge shotgun to see if this bullet could have been fired from his gun? And if she was sexually assaulted – I would guess DNA evidence was found. Was it ever compared to the suspect’s DNA? Any of the suspects for that matter. Scary to think that this individual may have killed again. Maybe another life could have been saved if in fact this was taken to trial. Convicted or not, many more eyes would have been on him and it would be hard to him to get away with anything once his name would have been published.

    • nate says:

      the pellets that they pulled from her face matched the box of ammo they found with the weapon in tom popps possession…
      and the apartments tom popp lived in were very close to where they found her..

  3. Rising Moon says:

    We are now approaching 35 years of an unsolved case. DNA technology and the evidence should be enough to try the monster. If Terri was white, he would have went to trial years ago. She should not be forgotten and this crime should not be forgiven. Take some action and give the family some peace. Native American women are murdered at TEN TIMES the National Average…35 years should be enough time to figure it out. Stating that it is still being treated as an open unsolved case is an insult to the Native community. If this was your daughter, or sister, or cousin; how would you feel about this time warp?
    Frustrated with a Heavy Heart.

    • Nathaniel Mccauley says:

      Tjay Gill is a GooD Guy and from what i Gather from him and a friend whos mom was actually dating the Guy that did this to my mother..
      The scpd knows who did it and im for sure this guy did it to i want to expose this guy on facebook he has a account on there talking about where he lived and what kind of gun he had and that he use to frequent the place they found my mom and he lived within a 5 block radius of the place but i dont want to mess up any legalityz or anything..

      • Tracie says:

        what is the name of the accused??

        • nate says:

          Tom popp

          • Jody Ewing says:

            Nate, Tom Popp has NOT been accused in your mother’s unsolved murder. This conversation is treading on dangerous waters. There are cases that have a considerable amount of circumstantial evidence, and as we’ve seen in the past, that’s often what it comes down to when a completely different person is charged and arrested. Coincidences are bound to exist in any case.

            Jody @ Iowa Cold Cases

            • nate says:

              Well Hopefully EverythinG Vomes To LiGht Soon..
              I respect your opinion Jody Thank You

              • Jody Ewing says:

                Thank you for understanding, Nate. This case means more to me than you know not just because of Terri, but because it was one of the cases I covered for the Weekender series long before ever launching the Iowa Cold Cases website. This is why her case actually has an article title and the same reason the original content has not be edited.

                I understand the frustration of a loved one’s case having been cold for so long, and 35 years is a long time to wait for answers, but I do stay in touch with SCPD and know this case is important to them.

                Most interesting, I think, is the irony in Sunclades’ words about the true perp eventually screwing up and getting caught. In today’s world, the possibility exists that one of the perp’s close or extended relatives may unwittingly help solve the case by having submitted his/her own DNA through a genealogical organization like Ancestry.com or 23AndMe. DNA and genetic genealogy is now solving decades-old cold cases in record numbers across the US. Hopefully, it will catch up with your mom’s killer in the very near future. All my best to you, Nate.

                • michael kennedy says:

                  Terri was my Aunt and her murder deserves to be solved.

                  • nate says:

                    whats up Family..
                    me n my son live down here in omaha now.
                    we went by uncle pats house.Condolences fam..
                    but nobody answered..
                    i would love for you to meet my son and i wanted to catch up with you guys..
                    Love yall..

  4. linda says:

    oh my god e7138@trbvm.com what a terrible thing to say…clear back in 6th grade?think outside the box and realize what nate was probably going thro at that time in his life.grade school was a long time ago…get over it

  5. e7138@trbvm.com says:

    Thats what you get for being mean to me in the 6th grade!

    • nate mccauley says:

      Fuck you piece of shit im her son if you have sonething to say get at me 4024199059 hit me anytime i meet u or youre family whatever u want to do

      • Don shriver says:

        Nathan do not let the shallowness of that individual bother you. I went to school with your mom and she picked on me to. I can’t think of any reason that your mom deserved that! She was rough around the edges, but not bad. I was your counselor once and got to talk with you and your grandmother. I think you are good kid . Keep your head up that sick individual that did that to your mother “will pay” for what he did! My religious beliefs backs that up. If not here, then in eternity. And that’s a mighty long time. My belief also tells me you will meet your mom someday. Head up!hope that puts a lite at the end of the tunnel.

    • Don shriver says:

      I would strongly advise you to reconsider your post. You can’t hurt Terri at this point. Only her loved ones get hurt by your comments. By the way, can I remind you we were at age “12” at that time.

  6. Candy says:

    Thank you for your response but in referrence to your comments, this murderer already has been given a second chance and has been able to live his life for 30 years after killing Terri. I just wonder how “active” her case is? Knowing that both Terri’s mother and step-father have already passed before receiving closure on this case is heart-breaking.

    • felicia says:

      I would like to no more about this case Terri is my mother I never new her but I’m reading this I’m hurt n crying. I hope the people get caught that hurt my mother

      • Kristina says:

        I’m heart goes out to you Felicia, I hope justice will be served to you and your family.

      • Jody Ewing says:

        Felicia, I’m so sorry for your loss and knowing you and your brother had to grow up without your mom. She would have turned 50 years old just a couple of months ago. There are so many who want to see justice served in her case, and that includes the Sioux City police.

        I know as one reads through these different cold cases it might “appear” obvious who did it and people think an arrest should already have been made, but unfortunately, it’s never that simple. It’s up to county attorneys whether or not to charge someone with murder, and as we’ve seen in some recent cold case trials, juries are reluctant to convict unless the prosecution presents undeniable and truly irrefutable rock solid evidence. If the defense evokes even a hint of reasonable doubt (confusing jurors with lots of smoke and mirrors) and the suspect is acquitted, there are no second chances to try them again, even if they later confess to dozens that they did it.

        Seeing this case solved means a lot to SCPD officials, and as we’ve also witnessed, arrests in statewide cold cases often catch the public by surprise because detectives must hold some new leads close to the vest so as not to compromise an investigation about to break wide open. Terri would be so proud that neither you or police have ever given up on finding and successfully prosecuting her killer.

        Meanwhile, please feel free to email me any happy-time photos or favorite memories you’d like to see included on Terri’s page. Thank you, too, for writing and sharing your thoughts. All my best, Jody at ICC

      • Tom Gill says:

        Felicia –

        I have additional information I’d like to share with you in regards to your mother’s case. Feel free to contact me at tjaygill@yahoo.com.

  7. Jody Ewing says:

    Thank you for your comment, Candy. DNA technology is constantly advancing, and it’s possible that a match might yet be made. Juries are often reluctant to convict purely on circumstantial evidence, and there are no second chances to try someone after they’ve been acquitted.

    I know this case is important to the Sioux City PD, and they haven’t forgotten about Terri. Sometimes, too, having witnesses finally ready to come forward with what they know can often lead to charges being filed. It’s not too late for a conviction and closure in Terri’s case.

    All best, and thank you again for taking time to comment!


  8. Candy says:

    After reading this article and knowing that the 30 year anniversary of Terri’s murder is coming up – it sure sounds like this person of interest or suspect could have or should have been charged with her murder. Eye witnesses saw her gettting into his vehicle and other circumstantial evidence goes back to this same individual. I knew Terri when I was a child. I pray for closure for this family. So sad.

    • nate mccauley says:

      that was my mother not a day goes by that i dont think about her.
      my gods granted me the gift of remembering her giving me a bath when i was a babybi just remember looking up at her….
      me and her grandson know that she is with us in spirit..
      if its not to much trouble or a hassle to u can u please contact me i just want to hear about how she was please..4024199059 Nate McCauley

Comment Policy

We encourage thoughtful discussion here but ask that comments remain civilized and constructive … i.e. without personal attacks or name-calling. Be respectful of others and remember that victims' family members visit these pages, too. If you'd like to provide us with information regarding a suspect or have other sensitive details to relay, please email us directly. Thank you in advance.

Share Your Thoughts