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On Monday, November 12, 2001, at approximately 9:30 a.m., two construction workers driving along a slough on South Concord Street in Davenport discovered the body of 32-year-old Yvonne Nicholson of Rock Island, Illinois.
Her body — clothed in a sweatshirt, shorts and socks — lay partially submerged in Mississippi River backwater near Credit Island about 75 feet from the road.
The Davenport Fire Department provided officials with a ladder trick in order to get an overhead look at the scene, and investigators took photos while inside the bucket at the ladder’s tip. Officials constructed a plywood walkway through the mud and shallow water in order to retrieve Nicholson’s body from the river.
She was identified using fingerprints on file in Rock Island County.
An autopsy concluded she had been strangled.
In September 2003, a late-summer drought drained enough water away from the tree-lined shore to enable detectives to sift through the mud in hopes of shaking out some clues. Since Nicholson’s murder, the crime scene had never been dry enough to dig around the area where officials found her body.
The Davenport detectives marked out a 20-foot-by-15-foot area and began digging, shoveling the thick mud into a sifter while looking for clothes, personal effects or anything else that might bring them closer to identifying Nicholson’s killer.
“It has been two years, but nonetheless it’s worth a try,” Lt. Dennis Kern, deputy commander of the criminal investigation division, told the Quad-City Times in a story published Sept. 11, 2003. “If we don’t do it, we know we won’t find anything.”
One detective ran a metal detector inside the marked-off perimeter. It beeped only a few times, but turned up nothing more than an aluminum can.
In a Quad-City Times article dated June 26, 2011, Davenport police Lt. Gene Wall, commander of the criminal investigation division — said detectives were going to take another look at Nicholson’s unsolved homicide as well as that of Agnes Kennedy. The announcement followed the arrest of Chad Michael Lee Welsh in the 2007 slaying of Angeles Hennes.
Hennes’ burned remains were found alongside a road in the 1500 block of 100th Ave. in rural Scott County on January 13, 2007.
Agnes Kennedy’s body was discovered in Davenport on December 22, 2007, in the north alley in the 1800 block of West 8th Street.
Authorities in Scott County announced on June 8, 2011, that they had charged 33-year-old Chad Michael Lee Welsh with Hennes’ murder. The break in the case came after more than four years. Welsh’s DNA matched DNA taken from the 2007 crime scene.
Welsh was brought to the Scott County Jail from a Springfield, Missouri federal prison, where he was serving an eight-year sentence on child pornography charges. A Burlington, Iowa, resident, Welsh was arrested on the pornography charges September 16, 2008, eight months after Kennedy’s death, according to the Times.
On April 17, 2012, the Scott County District Court convicted Welsh of first-degree murder in Hennes’ 2007 death. Welsh will now serve the rest of his life in prison with no possibility of parole.
In an April 23, 2012 story published in the Quad-City Times, Wall said Hennes’ killing resembled in some ways the death of Kennedy and Nicholson because all three had been strangled and the victims were known or convicted prostitutes.
Wall had cited in the June 2011 story the difficulty of solving murders where the victim is a prostitute.
“You never know who they’re with or where they were picked up at,” he said in the Times interview.
Nicholson had been released from prison just 10 days before her body was found.
According to testimony during Welsh’s 2012 trial, he had been to Davenport as early as 2001 and had at least one previous violent encounter with another prostitute.
The Times said Wall had not divulged what specific details investigators were considering with regard to the Kennedy and Nicholson cases.
Yvonne “Bonnie” Nicholson was born Feb. 21, 1969, in Rock Island, Illinois.
She worked in several factories as a laborer, and died Monday, Nov. 12, 2001.
Memorial services were held at 9 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 17, 2001, at the Pentecostal Church of God in Davenport, with burial following at the Chippiannock Cemetery in Rock Island, Ill., in Rock Island County.
Visitation was held from 6–8 p.m. Friday at Orr’s Mortuary in Rock Island.
Survivors included her parents, Allen and Marjorie Nicholson, Rock Island; sisters, Valerie Carr, Bettendorf, Sonya Thomas, Iowa City, and Gloria Smith, Indianapolis; and brothers, Billy Smith and Gerald Nicholson, both of Rock Island, and Gregory Smith, Indianapolis.
Anyone with information regarding the deaths of Yvonne “Bonnie” Nicholson or Agnes McFedries Kennedy is asked to call the Davenport Police Department at 563-326-7979 or Crime Stoppers of the Quad-Cities at 309-762-9500.