5 Lost Birthdays

We all love celebrating birthdays, especially (these days) on Facebook. We send all sorts of good wishes, emojis of birthday cakes and big “Happy Birthday!” images, and tell our friends and loved ones we wish them another great or exciting or successful next year.

When I last updated the ICC homepage, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the “cold case anniversaries” were actually missed birthdays. I don’t have all the victims’ birthdays listed in my ICC calendar (I started adding the birthdays years after the site had already begun), but always find myself in a quandary whenever a victim’s birthday and date of death are so closely related.

Lisa McCuddin with son Davontrez and daughter Markasia

Lisa McCuddin with son Davontrez and daughter Markasia

One example this month is that of 23-year-old Lisa McCuddin of Fort Dodge, Iowa. I didn’t list her twice — showing both her date of death and her birthday — because both occurred within just four days. Lisa was doing something all of us take for granted all the time … riding in a vehicle, on her way with a companion to go to breakfast at a local business.

Lisa died Saturday, Oct. 2, 2004. She would have celebrated her 24th birthday Wednesday, Oct. 6.

Two shooting incidents took place that same morning at Fort Dodge’s Holiday Inn, but Lisa, a passenger in a vehicle driven by Fred Murray, would be the only one to succumb to her injuries. The 29-year-old Murray also sustained a gunshot wound, as did the first victim, 23-year-old Isaac Givens. Police later determined the two shooting incidents were related and believe the violence erupted after a late evening fight between patrons at the Fort Dodge Eagles Lodge.

Lisa’s murder remains unsolved.

Lyric Cook

Lyric Cook

Also this week on Oct. 2, Lyric Cook would have celebrated her 15th birthday and Jackie Shireman would have turned 63.

Lyric Cook, 10, along with her cousin, Elizabeth Collins, 8, disappeared Friday, July 13, 2012, from Evansdale, Iowa. The girls’ remains were found Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2012, in Seven Bridges Wildlife Park about 25 miles away from Meyers Lake where the girls’ bicycles were found abandoned.

In addition to spending time with her cousin Elizabeth, Lyric loved playing cards with her grandmother in the afternoons or finding some way to be outside whether snow, rain or shine.

Jackie Shireman

Jackie Shireman

Jackie Shireman, a 21-year-old newlywed and Sunday school teacher, was stabbed 30 times with a pair of scissors while working Jan. 4, 1975 at “Marino’s Meal on a Bun” in Dubuque, Iowa. Her killer left her for dead in the restaurant’s walk-in cooler. Steven Moore was charged in her death but acquitted after witnesses reneged on testimony and others refused to testify at all.

The young woman would just now be entering her retirement years.

October 5 marks what would have been Jared Parks‘ 26th birthday. Parks, an 18-year-old from Urbandale, was killed May 11, 2009, when his body was placed or pushed onto Interstate 35/80 near the Beaver Avenue Bridge in Polk County, Iowa. He was hit by at least two semi tractor-trailers.

Jared Parks (Courtesy KCCI)

Jared Parks

Investigators never found Jared’s cell phone, his wallet, earrings, or tennis shoes, and ruled his death suspicious. Parks had recently graduated early from Urbandale High School, but had planned on being a part of the commencement ceremony.

Michelle Martinko, an 18-year-old Kennedy High School senior, was killed late on Dec. 19, 1979, after going to Cedar Rapids’ new Westdale Mall to look at a coat, and would have celebrated her 55th birthday October 6.

Michelle Martinko

Michelle Martinko

Cedar Rapids investigators were able to develop a DNA profile for Michelle’s killer, but have yet to match it with an individual through CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System database program maintained by the FBI.

Within just a few short October days, these unsolved murders span 37 years with birth dates falling across four decades between 1961 and 2001.

For each one of us, our birthday is more important than Thanksgiving or Christmas or even New Year’s Day. These days are our days, and they are days five Iowans will never again celebrate.

Candles mark years as time goes by. Today, we light five candles to celebrate the lives of five magnificent young adults who, if given the opportunity, could have changed so many lives in so many ways.

Happy Birthday wishes to Lisa, Lyric, Jackie, Jared, and Michelle. Your candles will always burn bright. May they light the way as others journey forward in search of answers.

Iowa’s cold cases: Families yearn for the truth

Des Moines Register

Iowa’s cold cases: Families yearn for the truth

Detectives struggle with little money, limited time for investigations

1:03 AM, May 30, 2012

Daniel P. FinneyWritten by
Chad and Tammy Parks
Chad and Tammy Parks’ son, Jared Parks, was found dead on Interstate Highway 35/80 near Merle Hay Road in Urbandale three years ago this month. The Parks keep an urn of his ashes and other mementos of Jared in the living room of their home.

Tammy Parks fears the day her son’s case goes cold.

The body of her son, Jared Parks, was found along Interstate Highway 35/80 three years ago this month. The official cause of death was listed as multiple blunt force trauma consistent with being struck by a vehicle.

She believes her son, then 17, was murdered. The case is officially classified as a suspicious death. Parks worries that one day it will have another classification: cold case.

“They’re still interviewing people, and they’re still ruling people out,” said Parks, of Urbandale. “That’s progress. You want to keep moving, but also know the longer it goes, the harder it will be to come up with leads.”

DMR Article - Website Offers HopeCourtesy Des Moines Register, May 31, 2012

Because police are still following leads, Jared Parks’ death is not yet considered a cold case. But his mother has reason to fear the classification. Iowa has no statewide cold case investigation team, and local police departments and sheriff’s offices pick up old files only during rare lulls in their caseload or when new evidence is presented.

The general definition of a cold case is any unsolved crime, usually involving death, disappearance or a sex crime, that is not the subject of an active investigation because the trail of leads and evidence gathering have hit a dead end.

New evidence can come in the most unlikely forms.

Last week, a man went to New York City police to confess to the kidnapping and murder of Etan Patz, a 6-year-old Manhattan boy who disappeared in 1979 and became one of the most famous missing child cases in American history.

Earlier this month, a man walked into the Waterloo police station and confessed to a pair of homicides that occurred in the city more than 31 years ago. The confession led to the apparent solving of a case dormant since 1981. Only one officer currently on Waterloo’s force — Capt. Tim Pillack — was with the department at the time of the homicides, and he was working in patrol rather than as a detective.

No one was working on the case. The Waterloo department, like most in Iowa, had no active cold case unit at the time of the confession.

“It was completely out of nowhere,” Pillack said.

Little time, money to probe cold cases

But barring a similar bolt-from-the-blue moment, information on many of Iowa’s unsolved crimes — from fatal hit-and-runs to homicide — is left to languish in long-untouched cabinets or computer files because law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the time or money to pursue them.

Des Moines has Iowa’s largest police force, with 379 sworn officers, but doesn’t have a cold case unit. Detectives occasionally try fresh sets of eyes on cold cases as time allows.

“We might assign a detective to take two weeks and go over a cold case and see if there was something that is missed that can be pursued today,” said Sgt. Chris Scott, Des Moines police spokesman. “But it isn’t something we can do on a very regular basis.”

Retired officers have at times volunteered to look at cold cases and try to plumb new leads on specific cases for both Des Moines police and the Polk County sheriff’s office, but there are no such current efforts, officials from both agencies said.

Both the Des Moines police and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have used grant money to pay for cold case teams, but when the money dries up, the units disband.

“It’s just not a luxury we have,” Scott said. “Even with a department our size, the vast majority of our resources are dedicated to current calls for service and criminal cases. If new information comes in, we will certainly go back on a case and look into it more.”

Some states have specialized units

Across the nation, federal, state and local agencies maintain cold case units, as long as there is funding and political will to support them. The Nebraska State Patrol maintains a unit with a supervising sergeant and investigators to work on more than 250 unsolved homicides in the state. The FBI and several other states have cold case units of varying sizes.

However, some units face the same funding struggles as Iowa departments. The New Hampshire state cold case unit could close in 2013 if grant money runs out.

Pop culture representations of cold cases through television programs such as the ongoing “Cold Case Files” on AMC and “Cold Case,” which ran from 2002 to 2010 on CBS-TV, romanticize stale investigations.

“It makes it look like a drop of DNA will solve every case, and that isn’t reality,” Scott said. “Detectives work these cases hard. We apply fresh eyes whenever we can, but sometimes there is only so much you can do.”

A truth about cold cases that is hard for victims to hear: There are reasons they went cold. Sometimes law enforcement officials are certain they’ve identified the right suspect, but not enough evidence exists to make an arrest or get a conviction. In other cases, the flow of information slows to the point where nothing is gained by having detectives continue to pore over the same information.

Mother: ‘I’m never giving up on this’

Tammy Parks, Jared’s mother, understands the constraints, but they offer her no solace. Her boy is dead, and she wants answers.

Jared Parks was last seen alive at about 9:30 p.m. on May 11, 2009.

He visited a friend. He left her house to retrieve something from his car. Jared never returned home.

Shortly before midnight, the Iowa State Patrol was called to a section of I-35/80 near the Merle Hay Road exit in Urbandale. Two semis had struck something that appeared to be a human body.

The body was so badly injured in the collisions that it took several hours for Jared to be identified.

Police finally informed Tammy and Chad Parks their missing son was dead.

Since then, his parents have endured three years of heartache and questions. How did Jared end up on that highway? Who did this to him?

Tammy Parks vows that whatever classification her son’s case gets, she will never let it go cold.

“I talk to the detectives several times a week,” she said. “I know they have other cases. I understand that. But I’m never giving up on this. I have to know what happened to him.”

Copyright 2012 www.DesMoinesRegister.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Website offers hope to victims’ families

Iowa’s cold cases: Website offers hope to victims’ families

Three women run the nonprofit organization from their homes

12:09 AM, May 31, 2012

Written by


Online collection of Iowa cold cases: Jody Ewing started the website iowacoldcases.org. The website has information on hundreds of Iowa cold cases. She hopes it helps people realize the cases have not been forgotten, and it might even help generate a new tip or lead in a case.


The stories kept coming.

The year was 2005. Newspaper reporter Jody Ewing had finished her series on a half-dozen Sioux City-area cold case crimes for the Sioux City Journal magazine, the Weekender.

But months after the last paragraph published, emails and letters continued. Family members of victims, amateur crime historians and retired law enforcement officers wrote and called Ewing with more stories of unsolved crimes from across Iowa.

“They all felt so helpless and forgotten,” Ewing said of survivors and loved ones. “The pain was still so raw for people, whether (the crime) was five years ago or 30 years ago.”

Chad and Tammy ParksCourtesy photo Mary Chind/The Des Moines Register
Jared Parks’ parents Tammy and Chad have little to go on one year after their son’s body was found badly battered on Interstate Highway 35/80. Tammy appreciates knowing that people are still thinking of him and missing him. RELATED: Iowa cold cases: Families yearn for the truth

She collected the stories. She launched the website iowacoldcases.org, starting with a few dozen cases she’d researched.

Still the stories kept coming. Ewing quit her reporting job and focused on Iowa Cold Cases full time for no pay. (She and her longtime partner live on money from renting portions of their Onawa home.)

Then Ewing became part of the story.

In 2007, copper thieves stripped propane gas lines from a home Earl Thelander and his wife owned near Onawa. Thelander, who was Ewing’s stepfather, was preparing the house for a renter.

The propane in the house exploded while Thelander was inside. He suffered burns over 80 percent of his body. He died four days later. No one has been brought to justice in the case. Now Ewing understands all too well the cold case survivors’ feelings of helplessness.

“I learned a lot about the limitations of law enforcement, especially in small communities,” Ewing said. “It made me more dedicated to collecting these stories. It helps people just to know that the story is out there somewhere.”

Eventually, Ewing joined forces with two other women who have an interest in cold cases: English professor and former Ames police record keeper Nancy Bowers, and human rights lawyer Eileen Meier.

Today, Iowa Cold Cases features nearly 600 cases. At least another [two dozen] cases are being researched for potential write-ups.

The website is registered as a not-for-profit company.

The organization has provided solace to victims’ families. The headline for the site is “Where hope is never laid to rest.” It provides an online touchstone — a marker letting people know information about these crimes and that justice is still waiting and wanting.

Intrigued by slaying

Bowers’ path veered toward Iowa Cold Cases when she was working in the records department for Ames police. She became intrigued by the homicide of Sheila Jean Collins, an Iowa State University student who was raped and killed in 1968. Collins’ partially clothed body was found in a ditch beside a gravel road. A nylon cord was knotted tightly around her neck.

Collins had been traveling home to suburban Chicago for a weekend to visit her boyfriend, who planned to propose to her. She found a ride through a board in the campus student center. She never made it home.

Police interviewed a man accused in other Midwest rape-murder cases. At one point, clairvoyants were called in to assist police. The case became a topic in that year’s Story County attorney election. Some people believe politics corrupted the investigation, Bowers said.

The homicide remains unsolved.

Every day while working in Ames, Bowers drove by the spot where Collins’ body was discovered.

It chafed her that the case had gone cold, that a young woman’s life was snuffed out, and the killer apparently got away with it.

Moved by old cases

Bowers saw Ewing’s work online and exchanged messages with her. She became a contributor and eventually co-administrator of Iowa Cold Cases. She loves digging through musty files and yellowed news clippings and reviving stories long faded.

“I really like the older cases. The older, the better,” Bowers said. “Those are the ones that speak to me most. … We need to remember what happened.”

Bowers occasionally interacts with victims’ family members.

In one case, an ancestor contacted her to say her posting on a 1920 homicide in Centerville — a man believed to have been killed by a Mafia-style group called the Black Hand — was the first upfront discussion she had ever heard about how her relative died.

“She said her relatives refused to talk about the victim, and whenever they mentioned his name, it was in very hushed tones,” Bowers recalled. “She said reading it on our site was the first time she got the full story.”

Another main leader of the organization is Meier, an international human rights attorney.

She, too, has a vested interest.

Her 8-year-old sister, Valerie Peterson, was hit and killed by a pickup truck in front of the Manson Augustana Lutheran Church on May 6, 1971.

The driver swerved onto the side of the road, hitting Valerie at least twice before driving away without stopping.

Though state and federal investigators thought they had a strong local suspect, no charges were brought. The case remains unsolved.

Meier works internationally on human rights issues in places such as Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Israel.

She hopes to rally the Iowa Legislature to open a permanent cold case unit to solve crimes such as her sister’s death.

Some scary contacts

Iowa Cold Cases correspondence can be far from cheerful. A reader wrote to Bowers that she was dating a man who had the same name and met the description of a suspect in a homicide. The man was tried three times but acquitted.

Bowers researched the boyfriend’s background and found he was the same man as the suspect. The woman broke off the relationship, and the jilted boyfriend contacted Bowers.

“Suing me was the least of the things he threatened,” Bowers said. “My husband was so upset he bought me a stun gun. It’s still in the box. I wouldn’t know what to do with it.”

Giving people hope

Melody Kirk knows that the murder of her great-great-great-grandfather, William Hurt, Des Moines’ first police chief, likely never will be solved. In September 1893, Hurt, who served in the Union Army in the Civil War, was pushed down a flight of stairs by a robber apparently after his soldier’s pension money.

Kirk is grateful that the Iowa Cold Cases website includes information about her ancestor’s homicide. She believes the site may help to solve cold cases. (Bowers said the staff regularly hands over leads to law enforcement, but hasn’t yet solved a case.)

“It gives people hope,” Kirk said. “It keeps the memories of these victims alive. … I know nothing is going to come up in my great-great-great-grandfather’s case, but a lot of these other ones, you know somebody knows something.”

Copyright 2012 www.DesMoinesRegister.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mystery of son’s death haunts Urbandale couple


May 2, 2010

Mystery of son’s death haunts Urbandale couple

Jared Parks

Jared Parks


A for-sale sign pokes out of the freshly cut grass in front of Chad and Tammy Parks’ Urbandale home.

The gray split-level holds too much anguish for the couple and their daughter Adra, 11, to stay any longer.

Nearly a year has passed since their son, Jared Parks, was found dead along a stretch of Interstate Highway 35/80 near the Merle Hay Road exit.

Despite hundreds of interviews conducted by Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation agents and sleuthing on the side by Jared’s parents, no one is certain how the body of the 18-year-old ended up getting pummeled by fast-moving traffic in the early-morning hours of May 11, 2009.

Chad and Tammy Parks clasped tissues and a framed photograph of Jared in his Urbandale J-Hawk basketball uniform as they spoke about their son and the mystery that has haunted them every moment for a year.

“We just want answers,” Tammy Parks said. “We went to bed one night with every expectation we would see our son the next day. Now, we’ll never see him again. I want to know what happened.

“Who did this? Who killed my son?”

Chad and Tammy ParksCourtesy photo Mary Chind / The Register
Tammy and Chad Parks have little to go on one year after their son’s body was found battered on Interstate Highway 35/80. Tammy appreciates knowing that people are still thinking of him and missing him.

The worst year of Chad and Tammy Parks’ life began about 9:30 p.m. on May 10, 2009.

Tammy sent a text message to Jared, who was visiting a girlfriend at her apartment off of Merle Hay Road. Tammy wanted Jared home by 11 p.m. He wrote back instantly, as he always did. OK, he said. I love you. She replied she loved him, too. They went to sleep expecting to find Jared asleep in his downstairs bedroom the next morning.

Tammy rose about 7 a.m. on May 11 for work. She fussed with her hair. She walked downstairs to check on her son.

He wasn’t home.

Tammy was annoyed but figured he probably fell asleep at somebody’s house or went on a breakfast run with buddies.

She called him. No answer. She sent texts. No reply.

“Jared was always on his phone,” Tammy said. “He always called right back.”

A sick feeling built in her stomach, but Tammy was more ticked off than worried. After all, Jared had always been such a good kid.

When Jared was growing up, other parents would call the Parkses and ask to have him come over to play with their kids. The boy was unfailingly polite and friendly, Tammy remembered.

“He was always so funny,” she said. “He would come up with some one-liner and you would think, ‘Is this coming out of a child’s mouth?'”

Jared played youth basketball and soccer. As a child, he was an emotional competitor.

“Once, in soccer practice, he kicked the ball into his own team’s goal,” Chad Parks said. “Somebody said something to him and he started crying. The next game, he scored a goal for his team. Everybody was cheering and he started crying again. He was sensitive that way.”

Jared Parks

Des Moines Register photo

Jared liked basketball best, but a knee injury when he was a sophomore at Urbandale High School ended his career.

One of Jared’s shortcomings, his parents said, was his attitude toward academics. He wasn’t a bad student; he just didn’t like school. He completed high school a semester early because he just couldn’t stand school anymore.

After Jared finished school, he worked two jobs, one at a theater and another at a West Des Moines video game store. He sneaked his friends into their favorite flicks and even tried to pass a freebie off on his mom a few times.

At the video game store, Jared took full advantage of his employee discount.

“He’d have a Nintendo Wii for a month and then go trade it in on a PlayStation 3,” Chad Parks said.

Wheeling and dealing was Jared’s style. His first car was a dumpy, used economy sedan, and a pal who worked at an electronics store offered to hook him up with the latest audio/ video system for the vehicle if he promised to give the shop some word-of-mouth advertising.

“He sold all that stuff in about six months,” Chad Parks said. “He was always upgrading.”

On the last day of his life, Jared completed another upgrade. He met his mom at a wireless store to buy a snazzy new cell phone. It was late in the afternoon on May 10. He hugged her and thanked her for the new gadget. Then he hustled off to hang out with friends.

It was the last time Tammy Parks saw her son.
In the months after Jared Parks left high school, he found it hard to hook up with his pals. They had school in the day. He worked nights.

Jared told his parents he was excited to get measured for his cap and gown for commencement. The event would give him a chance to see his friends again.

Jared had befriended a teenage girl from Texas who was slightly younger than he was. The young woman lived with her sister in an apartment behind the Dahl’s grocery store on Merle Hay Road.

Jared and the young woman both worked at the movie theater. “I don’t know if Jared would call her a girlfriend, but they spent a lot of time together,” Tammy Parks said.

Jared was hanging out at the young woman’s apartment on the evening of May 10. About 9:30 p.m., he stepped outside. He told the young woman he would be right back. She never saw him again.

Police would later find Jared’s Jeep in front of the apartment, unmoved. Where they found him only deepened the mystery.
Shortly after midnight, while Tammy and Chad Parks slept, Johnston police and the Iowa State Patrol received a call about something being run over by cars on I-35/80 near Merle Hay Road.

When they arrived, they found a body in rough shape, most likely hit by vehicles multiple times. There was no vehicle nearby. State investigators were called in to consult.

Sometime on the afternoon of May 11, Tammy Parks heard a news report about the body. Surely it wasn’t Jared.

Yet the nagging feeling in her gut kept at her. Finally, she called police to set her mind at ease. A detective got on the line.

“Just tell me it’s an old white guy and I’ll leave you alone,” Tammy said.

The officer asked her what her son was wearing. The detective made arrangements to pick up a photo of Jared at the Parkses’ house.

A pair of officers arrived at her door. Tammy handed them the picture. The police didn’t say anything.

“I could tell from their faces,” she said. “It was Jared. I just knew.”

Chad came home from work. Finally, the police came back. They had matched dental records.

Chad and Tammy’s son was the victim.

Investigators told the Parkses they were unable to get much forensic evidence from Jared’s body. This baffled the couple.

“I figured with all the advancements they’ve made, they would have had to be able to get something,” Tammy Parks said.

The parents requested a copy of the autopsy report, which lists the cause of death as “multiple blunt-force traumas consistent with being hit by a motor vehicle.”

The document recorded every cut, bruise, scrape, tear and broken bone. The couple read a few lines, stopped to cry, then kept going until they finished. When they were done, they understood.

The condition of Jared’s body proved more than just an impediment to the investigation. The medical examiner advised Chad and Tammy not to look at Jared in that condition.

Even the most skilled mortician would not be able to restore their son’s handsome face for a funeral. There would be no last hug, kiss on the cheek or final squeeze of their boy’s hand.

“I couldn’t even look at his hair, which was my favorite part of him,” Tammy Parks said. “They cut a lock of it off for me. It was there in a paper towel, but it didn’t seem real. It wasn’t a part of him anymore.”

The brutal condition of their son’s remains burned in their minds.

“Whoever did this,” Chad Parks said, “robbed us of both our son and our chance to say goodbye.”
Chad and Tammy Parks decided to cremate their son’s remains. They didn’t inter the ashes.

“I couldn’t just leave him all in one place,” she said.

Instead, they are letting go of Jared a little bit at a time. When they vacation, they bury some ashes in places they think he’d like. They scattered some outside the Rose Garden Arena, where the National Basketball Association’s Portland Trail Blazers play, and in Daytona Beach, Fla.

At Jared’s memorial service, his grandparents from Oregon recalled a visit he made there one summer, during which he picked up seashells and rocks along the beach. His grandma brought a jar to the service that she had filled with slate rocks in remembrance of Jared.

On one side are his initials, “J.P.,” penned in silver marker. On the other side is a silver heart.

Tammy and Chad Parks take those rocks everywhere, too. They’ve buried them in spots around the Des Moines area – favorite hangouts or places where happy family memories were made.

“We’ll keep doing it, with the rocks and with the ashes, until they’re all gone,” Tammy said. “I may never let go of all of him.”
Jared’s family and friends plan to get together May 11 at Gray’s Lake Park, where Tammy and Chad Parks bought a memorial brick to honor their son.

About 9:30 p.m., the time Jared was last heard from a year ago, they will release special lighted balloons into the night sky.

That won’t be an ending for the Parkses. There will be no peace until they know what happened to their son.

The family plans to move. They’re not sure where. They have family on the West Coast and in northern Iowa. The Des Moines area just hurts too much.

They won’t drive the section of freeway where Jared’s body was found.

When they go to the movies, they see the woman working the concession stand who knew Jared. At the store, they run into his former teachers. The couple can barely stand to eat at home.

“We’ve eaten maybe a dozen meals in this house since it happened,” Chad Parks said.

Even dining out hurts.

“You’re standing there in line and the hostess says, ‘Just the three of you?’ ” Chad said. “You think, ‘No, there’s four.’ But then you realize it’s just three.”

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation classifies Jared Parks’ case as a death investigation.

His parents, however, believe it was homicide – perhaps even murder. Too much doesn’t add up for Chad and Tammy Parks.

Between 9:30 p.m. on May 10 and the time when his body was found, there was no activity on Jared’s cell phone. That seems practically impossible to his parents.

“He couldn’t get through a meal without being on that thing,” Chad Parks said. “He’d have a sandwich in one hand and be texting with his other.”

Also, Jared’s knee still ached from his basketball injury and related surgery. He seldom walked.

“If he came upstairs to get a soda, he’d get two because he didn’t want to make the second trip upstairs,” Chad said. “I just don’t see him going walking in the middle of the night when his Jeep is right there.”

Tammy got a printout of Jared’s cell phone contacts. She called them all. She asked if they knew anything about what happened to him.

Clues have been scarce. DCI agents have no new leads in the investigation, though the case remains active, a spokeswoman said last week.

Every day, Tammy Parks works on theories of the case. She hopes to get that big break that will finally give her resolution.

Each day, she’s met with the same deafening silence. Still, the Parkses persevere.

“We will know,” Tammy Parks said. “We just will.”

Additional Facts

Reward for information

The body of Jared Parks, 18, was found on Interstate Highway 35/80 near the Merle Hay Road exit on May 11, 2009. A spokeswoman for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said the death investigation remains open and unsolved. The Parks’ family has offered a $10,000 reward for information that leads to closure in the case. Tips may be given anonymously to Polk County Crime Stoppers at (515) 223-1400.

© 2010 Des Moines Register


Jared Parks

Jared Parks (Courtesy KCCI)

Jared Parks (Courtesy KCCI)

Jared Andrew Parks


Jared Andrew Parks
18 YOA
Interstate 35/80
Urbandale, IA
Polk County
May 11, 2009


Case Summary compiled by Jody Ewing


Polk County in Iowa
Polk County in Iowa
Urbandale in Polk CountyUrbandale in Polk County

Jared Parks, 18, was found dead on Interstate 35/80 near the Beaver Avenue Bridge in Polk County, Iowa, on Monday, May 11, 2009. He’d been hit by at least two semi tractor-trailers.

Troopers were called to the scene at 11:46 p.m.

The driver of the first big rig said the boy was lying on the roadway and looked unconscious in the moments before he was hit, and the medical examiner ruled out a fall from an overpass.

Two of the tractor-trailer drivers waited for troopers and were questioned at the scene. Troopers believe a third truck may also have run over the teen.

Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Schmunk said that Parks died from blunt force trauma and his injuries were consistent with being hit by a truck. Schmunk said there was nothing to indicate that Parks was injured before the crash or that he might have jumped from the bridge.

Investigators never found Jared’s cell phone, and his wallet, earrings and tennis shoes were also missing. They have ruled the death as suspicious.

Tammy and Chad ParksCourtesy photo Mary Chind/The Register
One year after their son’s death, Chad and Tammy Parks told the Des Moines Register they had little to go on but appreciated knowing people still think of him and miss him.

Jared’s parents, Tammy and Chad Parks of Urbandale, said Jared was with his girlfriend the night of his death but left her house shortly after 9:30 p.m. He didn’t take his car and told his girlfriend he’d be right back. It was the last time anyone heard from him.

Parks had graduated from Urbandale High School early, but was going to be a part of the commencement ceremony.

The Department of Public Safety is trying to put together the final hours of Parks’ life and want help learning where he was between 9:30 p.m. and midnight on May 11.

“As part of any investigation, the more information we have the better we are able to make a determination of cause and manner of death,” said Kevin Winker, DCI assistant director at the time. “Right now, we don’t have that. So any information that we would have that anybody is willing to provide in reference to Jared Parks would be helpful in completing a thorough investigation.”

The Wednesday night following Parks’ death, hundreds gathered at the Bridge Church in Johnston for a vigil and to remember Jared. After several minutes of silence, they lit hundreds of candles. The teen’s funeral was held the following Monday.

Jared’s parents believe there’s someone who knows how their son ended up in the middle of the interstate, and have offered a $10,000 reward for information. They are asking anyone with information about their son’s death to come forward.

Jared ParksCourtesy photo Des Moines Register
Jared Parks graduated high school early but still planned to take part in the commencement ceremony.

A fund also has been set up for donations that can be made at any Wells Fargo bank.

“They did say definitely his injuries were not consistent with coming from the bridge, so he didn’t fall. He didn’t jump. He didn’t get pushed from the bridge, his body was put on the road,” said Tammy Parks.

Jared sent his mom a couple of text messages around 9:30 p.m. that night saying he would be home around 11:30 p.m. The family said from that point on there were few calls or texts to or from Jared’s phone.

Jared’s parents said investigators were able to track the phone from a cell tower near where Jared’s body was found, but it was never recovered. His parents believe someone may have tossed it out.

The Iowa DCI does have at least one theory about what happened to Parks but needs more proof. They continue to work the case and also are asking for the public’s help.

Mother: “I’m never giving up on this.”

In a Des Moines Register article published May 30, 2012, Parks’ mother, Tammy Parks, said she would never let her son’s case go cold.

“I talk to the detectives several times a week,” Tammy Parks said. “I know they have other cases. I understand that. But I’m never giving up on this. I have to know what happened to him.”

Tammy told the Register she believes her son, then 17, was murdered. Although the case is officially classified as a suspicious death, she worries one day it will be classified a cold case.

“They’re still interviewing people, and they’re still ruling people out,” she said. “That’s progress. You want to keep moving, but also know the longer it goes, the harder it will be to come up with leads.”

Chad and Tammy ParksCourtesy photo Des Moines Register
Jared Parks’ parents, Tammy and Chad Parks of Urbandale, said they will never give up on finding answers in their son’s unsolved death. The Parks keep an urn of his ashes and other mementos of Jared in the living room of their home.

Iowa no longer has a state cold case unit, and even the Des Moines Police Department, with 379 sworn officers, has no unit assigned specifically to older unsolved cases. Barring bolt-from-the-blue moments, the Register reported, information on many of Iowa’s unsolved crimes is left to languish in long-untouched cabinets or computer files because law enforcement agencies simply don’t have the time or money to pursue them.

“We might assign a detective to take two weeks and go over a cold case and see if there was something that is missed that can be pursued today,” Sgt. Chris Scott, Des Moines police spokesman, told the Register. “But it isn’t something we can do on a very regular basis.”

Still, Jared Parks’ parents will never give up. Despite the years of heartache and pain since their son’s death, they won’t rest until they have answers.

About Jared

Jared Andrews Parks, the son of Chad and Tammy Halling Parks, was born October 5, 1990, in Webster City.

Jared grew up in the communities of Dows, Clarion, Ankeny and Urbandale. He attended schools in Ankeny, West Des Moines and Urbandale. Having completed his high school education in December 2008, Jared was scheduled to graduate from Urbandale High School within one week.

Jared was an aspiring, well-liked young man who is remembered for his love of basketball and listening to music, particularly Lil’Wayne. Jared liked playing his PS3 and going to the movies.

Memorial services were held at 3 p.m. on Monday, May 18, at New Hope Assembly Church 6800 Townsend in Urbandale, with the Pastor James Weaver officiating. More than 400 family members, friends, classmates, educators and community members attended.

Friends and relatives called on the family from 12 to 2:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, at New Hope Assembly Church. Arrangements were conducted by Dugger Funeral Home, 320 East St. in Latimer.

Jared was survived by his parents, Chad and Tammy; a sister, Adra; maternal grandparents, Ron Halling of Blairsburg, Susie Anliker and husband, Dave, of Hardy; paternal grandparents, Larry and Anita Parks of Latimer; maternal great-grandmother, Dorothy Halling of Boone; paternal great-grandmother, Dorothy Parks of Hampton; aunt and uncles, Micki and Jason, Marc, Brad, Matt; numerous other great-aunts and uncles; cousins; relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his grandparents and great-grandparents.

Parents Want Answers in 2-Year-Old Murder Case | KCCI Channel 8, May 11, 2011

Information Needed

Anyone with information, no matter how small, is urged to call the Iowa State Patrol at 515-323-4360 or Polk County Crime Stoppers at 515-223-1400.



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