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Cold Case Update: More details on death of Helen Mae Bown near Montour

August 17, 2015
By John Speer - Editor ( , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa's unsolved murders is a year-long collaborative effort by Iowa news organizations to revisit some of the most brutal and mystifying homicides in Iowa's history.

We are sharing information about many of the state's 438 unsolved homicides.

It is our hope that by sharing these stories with a broad audience, justice will come for some of these victims.

Article Photos

Marshalltown Police Chief Michael Tupper

Each week for the next year, Iowa news organizations will explore cold cases those that law enforcement no longer has any clues on which to follow up. A case can go cold weeks, months or even years after the death.

And it can be reopened if new evidence is introduced. There is no statute of limitations on murder.

The body of Helen Mae Bown, a 61-year-old Marshalltown resident was found on the bank of the Iowa River north of Montour in Tama County on Halloween Day, Oct. 31, 1973. The discovery was made by Iowa Bureau of Criminal investigation agents.

It was reported in the initial story in The Chronicle's Cold Case series on July 29 of this year, Bown had been reported missing on Oct. 7. The state medical examiner had ruled Bown was likely a downing victim.

No one was ever arrested nor the case of her death ever officially closed. (Search Bown on this website for hte earlier information.)

Last week, Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper reviewed the Bown case file which he termed "interesting to read."

"I believe it is one of those cases which could be resolved with a piece of information here and a piece of information there," Tupper said.

Some details of the investigation are not public because the case does remain technically active, Tupper told The Chronicle. He did admit, "I asked around some of long-tenured police department employees and they were completely unfamiliar (with it.)"

Tupper filled in some details not initially reported - Bown was reported missing by a visiting county health nurse who apparently had been caring for Bown at the time. County health nurses then and now often call upon patients who are in their own homes.

In response to rumors which reportedly circulated in Marshalltown taverns at the time, Tupper said, "From some of the details it does look like officers did investigate multiple possibilities and did review comments people made."

He said he was uncertain why the then-termed Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation (now Iowa Division of Criminal investigation) was called into the case. But he said protocol then may have been similar to today - "What we would now do." He said asking for assistance from the DCI "doubles the workforce we have on a daily basis."

He said the case file pointed to "nothing specific" on why then-Marshall County Attorney Ron Kaiser convened a Grand Jury on Nov. 7, 1973. At the time Kaiser would not comment to The Marshalltown Times-Republican why the jury was impaneled.



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