Willard Woodring (Courtesy Keokuk, Iowa Historians)

Double Homicide

Willard Charles Woodring, 42
Richard G. Buchanan, 49

Richard Buchanan

Richard Buchanan (Courtesy Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Hawkeye Hotel
100 Johnson
Keokuk, Iowa
Lee County
DCI Case # 60-00902
October 9, 1960


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing

Willard C. Woodring, the 42-year-old owner of the former Hawkeye Hotel in Keokuk, Iowa, and Richard G. Buchanan, 42, of Colona, Illinois, were taken into the hotel’s kitchen on Sunday, October 9, 1960, where they were bound, gagged, and then shot in the back of the head when they tried to flee.

Keokuk police discovered the bodies that evening after someone phoned authorities to report a shooting at the well-known house of prostitution.

Lee County in Iowa
Lee County in Iowa
Keokuk in Lee CountyKeokuk in Lee County

Police Chief George Jones said police immediately launched a 3-state search for a youthful-looking man and woman.

In a Cedar Rapids Gazette article published October 10, 1960, Jones said an alarm for a young couple had been issued after witnesses reported seeing them leave the building shortly before the double slaying was reported.

Witnesses described the man as about 25 years old with black hair and clad in a black leather jacket. The woman, about 22-23 years old, was described as having short red hair and wearing a lavender dress.

According to The Gazette, authorities said they thought the pair were armed with an automatic pistol and driving a car with Illinois license plates.

Motive: Robbery

“We are satisfied robbery was the motive,” Jones said, although $600 was found in one of Woodring’s pockets. Officials believed around $200 had been taken from Woodring’s desk.

Jones said there were “few signs of a struggle” in the room where Woodring and Buchanan were shot and that the murderers “seemed to know what they were doing.”

The slayers may have panicked after shooting the victims, Jones said, and overlooked searching the bodies for more money before fleeing.

Buchanan, who operated a service station in Moline, Illinois, was visiting Woodring when the shootings occurred.

Police held four women from the brothel for questioning, but Jones said authorities didn’t believe the women knew anything about the crime.

The day after the murders, police found $44,500 in a strong box in the trunk of Woodring’s car and another $1,000 in his room at the hotel, The Gazette reported Oct. 11, 1960. (Later reports describe the latter amount as $1,500.)

BCI called into investigation

Police called state officials into the investigation two days after the killings.

Courtesy The Gazette/AP, Oct. 12, 1960

“We were called in by Keokuk police,” said a spokesman for the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “We consider it a routine homicide investigation.”

Also on Tuesday, authorities altered some of the slaying’s details for further clarification.

Jones said it appeared as if both men had been tied up and gagged, but worked loose and were shot as they tried to run or during a fight with their assailants.

Woodring had been shot twice.

The finding of the $44,500 — in $50 and $100 bills — made the motive “seem even more like robbery,” Jones said. “We don’t know what the money represents or whether it was collected over a long period of time.”

The Gazette reported that Woodring had a record in both Peoria and Quincy, Illinois.

Woodring’s three Peoria arrests included:

  • A 1948 arrest for disorderly conduct; the charge was later dismissed;
  • A 1951 arrest during the investigation of a murder; he was released by a coroner’s inquest;
  • A 1953 arrest in another investigation; Woodring again was released.

On Oct. 6, 1957, Woodring was charged with being the keeper of a disorderly house (of prostitution) in Quincy. He was fined $200 and cost, said The Gazette. Quincy police officials said Woodring left Quincy after that time.

Officials said they’d found no records on Buchanan.

Four women tell story of Sunday night incident

In a Gazette article dated Oct. 12, 1960, police said they were working on the theory that the slayer was an acquaintance of the 42-year-old Woodring, who’d kept the vast amount of cash in a strongbox.

Four women who stayed in the former hotel-turned-brothel were held Wednesday, Oct. 12, under a $2,000 bond each on charges of inhabiting a “disorderly house.” After their Tuesday arraignment, the women waived a preliminary hearing and were bound over to the grand jury, The Gazette reported.

The Oct. 12 article identified the four women as:

  • Betty Anders, 22, of St. Louis;
  • Dorothy Madison, 27, of Peoria, Ill.;
  • Barbara Sullivan, 31, of Phoenix;
  • Jean Lee, 21, of Bloomington, Ill.

Police said the four women told this story of the Sunday night incident:

A man and woman came to the house, asked for Woodring, and were admitted. Woodring invited the couple to the kitchen, where the man drew a pistol.

Buchanan and the 4 women were rounded up by the gunman, who asked where they kept their money.

A cigar box on the kitchen table contained $200 and was taken by the man.

Woodring, Buchanan and one of the women were bound and the gunman then left the kitchen to go to the front of the house.

Woodring was able to free himself and attacked the man when he reappeared. Buchanan also worked himself free and apparently was shot as he tried to run out a kitchen door.

~ The Cedar Rapids Gazette, Oct. 12, 1960

Two .38 caliber slugs were removed from Woodring’s head during an autopsy; one bullet was found in Buchanan’s head.

The women were not hurt.

When Keokuk police learned of a service station holdup-killing in Indianapolis, they asked authorities for pictures of the man and woman being sought there in connection with the crime. The couple had been identified as Michael W. Layton, 21, and Nancy Fordyce, 19, both of Indianapolis, and a murder warrant had been issued for Layton’s arrest.

When Keokuk police received a photo of Layton, they showed the picture to the four women from the Hawkeye hotel, but they all said the man in the photo was not the one who shot Woodring and Buchanan, the Ames Daily Tribune reported on Oct. 14, 1960.

No one was ever charged in the Keokuk double homicide.

When the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit in 2009, Woodring and Buchanan’s murders were included in approximately 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s website as those the DCI hoped to solve using latest advancements in DNA forensic 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 resolving Iowa’s unsolved murders 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 Richard G. Buchanan

Richard G. Buchanan, a Love [?], Ohio native, was born Aug. 18, 1911, and died Oct. 9, 1960 in Keokuk, Iowa, after being shot during an attempted robbery at the Hawkeye Hotel. 

richard-buchanan-headstone-billiongravesCourtesy photo billiongraves.com
Richard Buchanan was laid to rest in Riverside Cemetery in Moline, Rock Island County, Illinois.

Following the double homicide investigation, Buchanan’s body was taken to the Esterdahl Funeral Home in Moline, IL, where he operated a service station.

Buchanan had held a lease on the Moline filling station for three or four years and had been associated with another oil firm there earlier.

In 1956 he married Jacqueline Shaffer in Geneseo, IL, and the couple had a young son, Steven.

In addition to his wife and son, Buchanan’s survivors included two daughters by a previous marriage, Patricia Ann and Miriam Kay Buchanan, both of Galesburg; and sister Mrs. Alice Stoddard of Friendship, WI. 

Obituary published in The Daily Gate City newspaper (Keokuk, IA), Oct. 11, 1960, P. 5.

(Many thanks to contributor #46780111 for providing the obituary information.)

About Willard Charles Woodring

Published in The Daily Gate City newspaper (Keokuk, IA), Oct. 11, 1960, p. 5
Courtesy Keokuk, Iowa Historians Facebook page


Photo: The Old Hawkeye Hotel Building at 100 Johnson Street, believed to have been built in the early 1850s, operated as the IVINS HOUSE HOTEL by 1854 for many years. It was here that historians believe that young Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) boarded while working for his brother Orion in the printing business at 50 Main Street, now 200 Main, and that he gave his first public address in the hotel dining room during a meeting of printers gathered there. The building was razed in the early 1970s when construction of the Mississippi Terrace began. Inset Photos: Left, Willard Woodring; Right, Richard B. Buchanan
Courtesy Keokuk, Iowa Historians on Facebook @KEOKUK1847

Information Needed

If you have any information regarding the unsolved murders of Willard Woodring or Richard Buchanan, please contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010, email dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us, or contact the Keokuk Police Department at (319) 524-3131.



6 Responses to Willard Woodring and Richard Buchanan

  1. Patrick Kerrigan says:

    I wonder if the woman involved in the crime might have worked at the brothel, and may have thought that would have been a large sum of money on the premises. So, she gets her boyfriend or someone else to help steal the money. It seems to appear that the victims may have known one or both offenders. I find it interesting that a large sum of money, was actually found in the trunk of Woodring’s car.

    The other thought as that it was someone that had been involved in any of Woodring’s previous criminal activities, and felt he was owed some money.

  2. Jim john says:

    So ….. 🤔 46000 n they only took 200 hmmmm

  3. Steve Buchanan says:

    Richard Buchanan was my father and to this day I have never heard any details on his murder. I was three years old at the time. Because of his death I have no idea of any relatives on his side of my family.

    • Jody Ewing says:

      Steve, I can’t imagine what it must be like not knowing your paternal relatives. In the 1930 Census (your father was about 18) it shows here https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XS11-VZ8 that the household consisted of his mother, Josephine Buchanan, her two sons (Thomas R. Buchanan, 32, and your dad), along with daughter Alice Hartzman (27 years old then) and Alice’s husband, Harold Hartzman (36).

      With your dad being the youngest in the household, the others are likely all deceased, but their children and grandchildren are probably out there somewhere. It would be wonderful if you could end up touching base with some of them. I’m sorry, too, you had to grow up without your father. He was simply in the wrong place (visiting a friend) at the wrong time.

      In the “Sources” section, I’ve been adding links to the PDF newspaper archives I’ve saved over the years, so you might also find something useful in one of the articles. Let me know if I can be of assistance in any way.

      All best, Jody

      • Steve Buchanan says:

        Thank You Jody. In 1967 my mother remarried to a wonderful man and was the best father I could have ever asked for. Recently my Niece has showed an interest in finding lost relatives (I have not) so I passed on your informationto her. Thank You again.

        • Jody Ewing says:

          Steve, I’m so pleased to hear your mother eventually found love again and that this man ended up being such a wonderful father to you. You all deserved to be happy and feel the joy that comes with being part of a family. Thank you, too, for passing along my info to your niece. I’ll do what I can to assist her with any questions she might have. All my very best to you and your family.

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