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Wanda Jean Morrow
From Cedar Rapids, IA
Found Dead: Mt. Lemmon in Pima County, Arizona, September 6, 1976
Est. Date of Death: late August 1976
Recorded Date of Death: Sept. 6, 1976
NOTE: While this cold case currently falls under the Pima County Sheriff’s Office jurisdiction in Arizona, the victim was from Cedar Rapids and her family continues to reside there. We’ve included Wanda’s case summary here at the family’s request in hopes that someone will come forward with information to help solve Wanda’s murder.
Two days before Wanda Jean Morrow of Cedar Rapids would have celebrated her 15th birthday, a hiker stumbled upon her badly decomposed body in a mountainous region north of Tucson, Arizona.
The young teen — found on Mount Lemmon near a campground 30 miles north of Tucson on Sept. 6, 1976 — had died from multiple stab wounds to the back.
According to an Oct. 29, 1976 story published in the Tucson Daily Citizen, the girl’s body was found Sept. 6 near a Mt. Lemmon campsite by a Bisbee man who told investigators he was picnicking in an area five miles up the Mt. Lemmon highway. He said he found the body face down next to a tree.
Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. William Coen said investigators did not know why Morrow was in Tucson or where she’d been staying. Coen, head of the homicide detail, said the sheriff’s department first learned of the girl’s possible identity when a Washington, D.C. detective recognized the description issued by Arizona authorities. He said the girl’s relatives apparently had reported her missing.
Detective Steve Ross of the Pima County (AZ) Sheriff’s Department said the body was found some 200 yards away from the campground.
Morrow’s identity wasn’t immediately known, though officials said the young female victim had been dead from six days to three weeks when the body was found.
Authorities identified Morrow’s body on Wednesday, Oct. 27, 1976, mainly through dental charts and jewelry.
Cedar Rapids police detective Rolland Achey said Nancy Morrow was notified that same night that her daughter had been murdered.
On June 12, 1976, Mrs. Morrow and her two daughters, Tammi and Wanda, had traveled to Washington, D.C., to visit Larry Goodall, Mrs. Morrow’s brother.
According to a Cedar Rapids Gazette article dated Oct. 26, 1976, Mrs. Morrow returned to Cedar Rapids eight days later, but Wanda, 14, and Tammi, 16, remained in Washington with their uncle.
On Saturday, July 24, the sisters — just 11 months apart in age — met a boy named Joseph.
According to the Gazette, the girls met up with Joseph again the following Tuesday, and Wanda and Joseph seemed to get along well.
Joseph told the girls he’d been kicked out of a military academy and had been on his own since age 12. He told them he’d been thumbing his way around the country.
On Wednesday, July 28, Tammi and Wanda took their uncle’s Great Dane for a walk through Georgetown around noon. Tammi said she turned to say something to Wanda, but she wasn’t there.
Mrs. Morrow said she believed Joseph was a Texas native, though she didn’t know his last name. She also believed he and Wanda had hitchhiked to Tucson.
On Sept. 8 — what should have been Wanda’s 15th birthday — Nancy Morrow waited for the phone to ring at her Cedar Rapids home, but the hoped-for birthday call never came.
Tammi Morrow later told her mother she’d seen Joseph back in the Washington, D.C. area, which prompted the family to file a missing persons report.
After learning about the body discovered in Pima County, Ariz., they’d mailed Wanda’s dental records to the sheriff’s department.
While the family waited for news, Mrs. Morrow spoke to the Gazette about the chain of events leading to Wanda’s disappearance from D.C. and why she felt the body found in Pima County might be her daughter.
“On Sept. 14, I found out Joseph had dumped Wanda and left her in Tucson,” Mrs. Morrow is quoted as saying in the Gazette’s Oct. 26 story.
By the next evening, the Morrow family had their answers when Cedar Rapids police detectives knocked on the door.
“Now I can understand why she didn’t call on her birthday,” Mrs. Morrow said in a Des Moines Register story dated Oct. 30. “She was probably dead.”
Mrs. Morrow told the Register she hoped other teenagers thinking about running away would realize from what happened to Wanda that running away isn’t all pleasure and fun.
“Things like this can happen,” Mrs. Morrow said. “It’s not just living free.”
In a Jan. 8, 2014 interview with KCRG TV-9 in Cedar Rapids, Tammi Morrow said the family is trying to reopen the case with hopes that someone who knows something will come forward.
“She was always cheerful, easy to get along with,” Tammi Morrow told KCRG.
In an email to Iowa Cold Cases on Jan. 14, 2014, Tammi Morrow said the Pima County Sheriff’s Office has a composite drawing of Joseph, which she and her remaining family members would like to have age enhanced.
They believe Joseph had something to do with Wanda’s death.
Tammi said she lost all the paperwork on her sister’s case during the 2008 flood, but had no intentions of giving up.
“Our mother died before seeing this through to the end, and I am going through with what she started,” Tammi said.
Wanda Jean Morrow was born September 8, 1961, to Nancy and Veldon Morrow of Cedar Rapids.
In addition to her parents, Wanda was survived by her sister, Tamara, and a brother, Bart; grandparents, Floyd Goodall of Cedar Rapids, Mrs. Ruby Kamberling of Fairfield Bay, Ark., and Mrs. Henry (Vera) Akers of Cedar Rapids, and great-grandmother, Mrs. Wilbur Young of Marion.
Memorial services were held at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, 1976, in the Chapel of Memories, with the Rev. Hardy J. Powers of First Church of the Nazarene officiating. Burial followed in Cedar Memorial Park Cemetery in Cedar Rapids.
Teenage cross-country love affair ends in murder on Mt. Lemmon — KGUN Channel 9, Tucson, Feb. 6, 2014
If you have any information about Wanda Jean Morrow’s unsolved homicide, please contact the Pima County (AZ) Sheriff’s Office at (520) 351-4689.