We’re changing the narrative around cold cases and Iowa murders through collective impact—join us!

We believe the more resources we can provide to digital volunteers and citizen solvers mean more “citizen detective” communities.

Iowa Murders

If you’re fascinated about the information surrounding the number of murders in Iowa by year, several law enforcement agencies’ websites provide reports and statistics. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Investigation publishes a Uniform Crime Report annually which details the crimes, crime levels, and crime areas for every state, county, and city. Another great resource for looking into the numerous unsolved homicides in Iowa is Project: Cold Case, who not only has a page on their website dedicated to homicide statistics per state, but also has a database with nearly 25,000 cold cases included. Finally, another great resource for looking into cold cases in Iowa is called Iowa Cold Cases. Iowa Cold Cases has put together case summaries, articles, and updates regarding the many unsolved murders and missing persons all throughout Iowa.

According to Project: Cold Case, there were roughly 2,870 murders in Iowa between 1980 and 2019. Through the years, around 2,122 of those murders have been solved, unfortunately leaving approximately 748 unsolved murders in Iowa alone. On their website, as well as on the websites of many local, county, and state law enforcement and investigating agencies, you can learn more information about most, if not all, of these unsolved homicides, including those listed below.

Some of the unsolved murders in northern Iowa which can be found on lists of unsolved homicides on various law enforcement websites include the 2004 murder of Gary Lack, the 1976 double murder of Debbie Rose Laubenthal and Raymond Morris Henkins, the 1975 murder of Michael Edward Carr, the 1966 murder of Norma Jean Horgen, and the 1998 murder of Mildred Adaline Clemenson, among others. Other names on these lists include the many unsolved central Iowa murders including the 1986 murder of Ronette Lynn Peterson, the 1968 murder of Sheila Jean Collins, the 2007 murder of Aaron Marr, and the 2000 murder of Cora Ann Okinski, among others.

In addition, other cases included in the lists of unsolved murders in Iowa include some unsolved murders in Des Moines, Iowa, including the 1984 murder of John Clifton Downey, the 1975 murder of Tommy Lee McConkey, the 1995 murder of Connie Jo Choate Bodensteiner, the 1996 murder of Rafael Robinson, and the 1998 murder of Susan Hagen, among many others. Lastly, a few unsolved murders in Polk County, Iowa, include the 1960 murder of Darleen Fitchett, the 1969 murder of Patricia Ann Veach, the 1976 murder of Mary Ann Scovel, the 1987 murder of Jamedia Hines, and the 1995 murder of Martha “Marty” Erickson, among others.

Unsolved Iowa Murders

According to Project: Cold Case, there are currently approximately 748 unsolved murders in Iowa alone. The Iowa State Police have published information regarding many unresolved murders in Iowa on its cold cases website, in addition to the Iowa Cold Cases website, which features summaries of many unsolved homicides and missing persons cases based in Iowa.

Often included on these sites are some of the many northern Iowa unsolved murders, including the 2004 murder of Gary Lack, the 1976 double murder of Debbie Rose Laubenthal and Raymond Morris Henkins, the 1975 murder of Michael Edward Carr, the 1966 murder of Norma Jean Horgen, and the 1998 murder of Mildred Adaline Clemenson, among others.

Some unsolved murders Des Moines, Iowa, can also be found included on these websites, some of which include the 1984 murder of John Clifton Downey, the 1975 murder of Tommy Lee McConkey, the 1995 murder of Connie Jo Choate Bodensteiner, the 1996 murder of Rafael Robinson, and the 1998 murder of Susan Hagen, among countless others. Lastly, other unsolved murders Iowa that are often found included in the lists of cold cases are the numerous east Iowa unsolved murders. These include the 1981 murder of Pamela Hinrichs, the 1997 murder of Terry Johnston, the 1979 murder of Roger Warren, the 1983 murder of Bambi Lynn Dick, the 1995 murder of Scott Tompkins, and the 1987 murder of Kenny Joe Johnson, among others.

Consider this

More than 200,000 unsolved cases have gone cold since 1980, and murder clearance rates continue to drop. With equity for BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other underserved victims not prioritized in the true crime community—together we can do better.

Famous Iowa Murders

When you try to think of some famous Iowa murders, you may not immediately think of many names. Most of the names on the list of murders in Iowa on the websites of law enforcement agencies may sound unfamiliar; however, some of the names listed within the list of all murders in Iowa, list of Iowa murders, and notorious Iowa criminals, have become household names as time passes.

A few of the most infamous Iowa murders which remain unsolved to this day include the 2011 murder of Ashley Okland, the 2012 double murder of cousins Lyric Cook-Morrissey and Elizabeth Collins, the 1962 murder of Edward Kriz, and the 1992 murder of Rhonda Knutson, among many other Iowa famous murders which are either solved or are continuing to be investigated by law enforcement.

Homicide Rate in Iowa

The violent crime rate in Iowa is approximately 266.6 per 100,000 people living in Iowa, according to an archived report released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2019. To further explain, this means that in 2019 alone, approximately 267 out of every 100,000 individuals in Iowa was directly affected by violent crime, which includes burglary, homicide, assault, rape, and sexual assault. According to the same FBI report, in 2019, the homicide rate in Iowa was roughly 1.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. In short, this means that in 2019, about 2 out of every 100,000 people living in Iowa were murdered over the span of a year.

Des Moines, Iowa’s capital, presently boasts a population of more than 522,000 people, a number which grows every year. In 2018, the violent crime rate in Des Moines, Iowa, was at about 670.11 per 100,000 inhabitants, while the Des Moines, Iowa, murders rate was at approximately 12.89 per 100,000 persons, most likely due to the city’s large population. Although we are currently not able to determine how many murders in Iowa 2021, or how many murders in Des Moines, Iowa, 2021 as of yet, we can estimate that based on archival records released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as by local and state law enforcement agencies, the homicide rates in both Des Moines and Iowa as a whole appear to be rising year after year, with no sign of slowing. 

Polk County Murders

Polk County, which is located in central Iowa, now has a population of roughly 398,000 inhabitants. Although there is no definite way to estimate how many Polk County murders have transpired in previous years, it seems as if the number of murders in Polk County is growing year after year, with no sign of slowing, despite law enforcement’s best efforts. In most homicide cases, investigators are able to gather an adequate amount of Polk County murders evidence from the case to charge their suspected offender with the murder, and bring them to the Polk County murders trial. The types or items of evidence that are most commonly included in Polk County homicide trials depends entirely on the nature of the crime itself. For example, DNA evidence such as saliva, skin cells, and semen, along with other forms of evidence such as weapons, cell phone pings, and fingerprints are some of the most common. Homicide trials most commonly include Polk County murders crime scene photos, which are used in court in order to show different aspects of the crime to the jurors.

Des Moines, Iowa Murders

Due to the metropolitan city’s size and population, Des Moines, Iowa, murders are much more common than in most other cities or towns in Iowa. Most of the recent and decades-old murders in Des Moines, Iowa, have been solved; however, law enforcement and investigating agencies continue to use every resource that is available to them in order to solve the few unsolved homicides. As you might expect, Des Moines murder discussion will continue to be a massive topic of conversation on multiple social media platforms, including Reddit, Websleuths, and Facebook. These discussions will often continue until the specific murder in question is solved. A big topic of conversation within these discussions often includes speculation, as well as the sharing of information regarding Des Moines murders crime scene photos, Des Moines murders pictures, and even Des Moines, Iowa, murders autopsy photos, which are almost never released to the general public, even once cases have been resolved.

In recent times, huge advancements in DNA technology have prompted the resolution of hundreds, if not thousands, of both recent and decades-old cold cases, and Iowa is no exception. Among the several incidents in which Des Moines murders DNA, as well as DNA from crimes in other portions of Iowa, was utilized to solve or to contribute additional information to cold cases are the following: the 1979 murder of Michelle Martinko, the 1974 murder of Mary Jayne Jones, the 2003 murder of Nelson “Selena” Alvarez-Hernandez, and the 2007 murder of Angela Marie Hennes, among many others.

Iowa Serial Killers

Over time, Iowa has seen more than a fair number of Iowa killers. Some of the most famous Iowa serial killers may well be found on any top ten or other sort of serial killer list, including list of serial killers in Iowa and Iowa serial killer list. Although there are no documented serial killers who solely operated in Iowa, there are a few serial killers that have links to the state. Some of these Iowa serial killers include John Wayne Gacy, Robert Hansen, Robert Ben Rhoades, Randy Steven Kraft, Robert Spangler, and Carroll Edward Cole, among other notorious Iowa serial killers.

Crimes in Iowa

If you want to know more information about the data surrounding crimes in Iowa, there are several law enforcement and investigating agencies that publish annual reports, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which focuses on sharing data and information regarding the types of crimes committed, the crime rates in each county and city in Iowa, and the location where crimes were committed, including a published report for crime in Iowa.

Unfortunately, there seems to be no end to the number of Iowa homicide and true crime stories in Iowa. According to Project: Cold Case, there have been approximately 2,870 homicides in Iowa from 1980-2019. As of the website’s latest update, roughly 2,122 of these homicides have been resolved over the years, leaving approximately 748 unsolved homicides in Iowa alone. Nevertheless, Iowa’s various law enforcement and investigating agencies never give up their mission to solve every single one of Iowa’s true crimes, no matter how long it takes them.

Citizen Detective Guide Cover

Get Your Free Step-By-Step Citizen Detective Guide