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A Defrosting Cold Cases Guest Blog Post
By Jody Ewing, November 1, 2014
On Tuesday morning, June 15, 1971, the partially clad body of 14-year-old Valerie Lynn Klossowsky of Waverly, Iowa, was found on a creek bank under a bridge on a lonely country road three miles west of Denver and about 10 miles southeast of Waverly.
An autopsy indicated the Waverly-Shell Rock Junior High School student had been strangled sometime late Sunday or early Monday.
Valerie and her friend LuAnn Hicks had picnicked together Sunday afternoon in a Waverly park and then spent the next few hours strolling around town, the Des Moines Register reported on Thursday, June 17, 1971.
The girls had gone their separate ways by late afternoon, but sometime after 8 p.m., Valerie went to LuAnn’s house, intending to ask her friend to accompany her the remainder of the evening.
LuAnn wasn’t home, and Valerie spoke briefly with an older Hicks girl before walking away. It was one of the last two times the teen was seen alive.
Accounts of Valerie’s last hours, the Register said, were pieced together from interviews with friends and relatives.
Valerie, along with her 16-year-old sister, Denise, and 12-year-old sister, Michele, lived with their father, Harold R. Klossowsky, and paternal widowed grandmother, Mrs. Clarence Klossowsky (Mae Agnes), at 217 Fifth Street N.W. in Waverly in what Register reporter Jack Hovelson called a neatly kept, two-story white frame home in a quiet, well-trimmed neighborhood three blocks east of the Wartburg College campus.
The three girls’ parents had been married and divorced three times, and their mother, Mrs. Larry Wedemeier, lived with her second husband on a farm near Horton, a small community northeast of Waverly.
On Wednesday, June 16, 1971, Hovelson spoke with Valerie’s sister Denise and the grandmother, while Mr. Klossowsky — an active Army Reservist who worked at the Koehring Company’s Shield-Bantam division plant in Waverly — was out of town arranging private funeral services for his middle daughter.
According to the grandmother, one of Valerie’s friends, Cindy Newgren of rural Waverly, had come to the house early Sunday evening and the two girls wanted to go to the Waverly swimming pool located a half-mile away. Mrs. Klossowsky told her granddaughter to be home by 9 p.m., but said Cindy later returned to the Klossowsky home without Valerie.
As reported in the Register’s June 17, 1971 page one story:
“Cindy came back here alone later with Valerie’s swimming suit and towel,” Mrs. Klossowsky recounted.
“She told me that Valerie had stopped to talk to some people outside the swimming pool and told Cindy to go on in — that she would be in shortly.
“Cindy said that Valerie never came inside the pool area. When she (Cindy) came outside later, she found Valerie’s swimming suit and towel nearby, but Valerie was gone,” the grandmother said.
Valerie allegedly had gone back to the Hicks residence, and was last known seen on the street corner around 8:30 p.m. Sunday. When Valerie hadn’t returned home by 10 p.m., her father filed a missing persons report with the Waverly Police Department.
The following night, an area resident reported a neighborhood prowler to police. The prowler also had been reported in the neighborhood on Saturday evening, June 5.
Two days after Valerie went missing, two young boys tramping along a small creek in a rolling area near Denver stumbled upon the young girl’s body under the gravel-road bridge near the water.
The bridge over the unnamed creek had a three-foot-high railing, and investigators said they didn’t know whether the teen was slain elsewhere and carried down to the creek bank or whether she’d been killed near the creek and dropped from the bridge, a fall of about 12 feet.
Her only remaining clothing — the upper garments — had been pulled up around her shoulders.
Though described by relatives as “tall and strong for her age,” an autopsy disclosed Valerie had been strangled with such force it fractured her larynx.
The Bremer County Sheriff’s Office, Waverly police and Bureau of Criminal Investigation agents investigated the murder, and the Waverly Police Department sent out 14 members of its auxiliary force to interview farm families in the area where Valerie’s body was found.
The Waverly Auxiliary Police canvassed more than 100 households in attempts to find more information about Valerie’s activities the night she disappeared, and officials interviewed more than 150 people in the month following the murder.
Neighbors described the young teen as quiet but friendly and said she was a frequent playmate of neighborhood children.
Investigating officers were unable to place the girl either in an automobile or on a motorcycle the Sunday night she disappeared.
Five years later, investigators found themselves investigating two other young women’s homicides in Bremer County and wondered if the three cases might be connected.
Julie Ann Benning, 18, disappeared from Waverly the day after Thanksgiving on November 28, 1975. A Butler County road maintenance worker found her nude and decomposed body in a roadside ditch northeast of Shell Rock on March 18, 1976.
The teen, like Klossowsky, had been strangled.
On Sept. 7, 1976, the nude and beaten body of 19-year-old Marie “Lisa” Peak was found in a ditch under a lone cottonwood tree a quarter mile north of Waverly’s city limits.
Peak had been sexually assaulted and died of suffocation and a broken neck.
When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, all three victims were included in the roughly 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 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 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.
Valerie Lynn Klossowsky was born March 7, 1957, to Mr. and Mrs. Harold R. Klossowsky.
Her family described her as athletic, very active, and always on the go.
She had a natural talent for music, and was a gifted guitarist, pianist and singer. She wrote many songs herself and also wrote poetry. Much of her writing centered around peace and love in the world.
In addition to her parents and two sisters, Valerie was survived by her grandmother, Mrs. Clarence (Mae Agnes) Klossowsky.
Valerie was buried in the New Hampton Cemetery in New Hampton, Iowa, in Chickasaw County.
Mae Agnes Klossowsky would wait for over three more decades for answers in her granddaughter’s unsolved murder. She died two days before Christmas in 2006.
She was 100 years old.
Anyone with information regarding Valerie Klossowsky’s unsolved murder — or that of Julie Benning or Lisa Peak — is encouraged to contact Special Agent Jon Moeller at the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (712) 258-1920, or contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.