DUBUQUE, Iowa – Sitting alongside the Mississippi River at the junction of Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin lies Dubuque, a small community with about 60,000 in population.
Dubuque is home to several colleges and two universities. Like most small Midwestern college towns, the city caters to student life and has many bars, restaurants, and shops.
Situated on the corner of 22nd Street and Central Avenue is Knicker’s Saloon, a biker bar and grill established in 1981, the same year Crystal Arensdorf was born, and the exact location of her disappearance 20 years later.
Crystal Ann Arensdorf came into this world on Feb. 1, 1981, the child of Rick Arensdorf and Barb Beam. She has five full and half-siblings.
Arensdorf has been described as a beautiful kind person with an infectious smile. She and her boyfriend, Tim Gerlieb, lived together in Dubuque.
Arensdorf was close to her sister, Jennifer Beam Puetsch.
On Tuesday, July 3, 2001, Arensdorf, 20, and Puetsch watched the local fireworks at a friend’s house. Arensdorf telephoned Gerlieb because she was supposed to pick him up somewhere after the brakes went out in his truck. Gerlieb became upset with her and told her he would walk home.
Her family was unsure of what upset Gerlieb, but Arensdorf contacted a friend, and they went to Knicker’s Saloon. Arensdorf left her car with Puetsch.
According to Puetsch, the friend left Knicker’s, but Arensdorf stayed with a few coworkers of Beth Beam. That group left Arensdorf with bartender Robert F. Mootz because the group had planned to go across the river to East Dubuque, Ill.
Arensdorf telephoned Gerlieb sometime during the evening, but he did not answer. Sometime between 2 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Gierlieb called Knicker’s and asked for Arensdorf. Mootz was cleaning up and closing the bar. He looked around for Arensdorf, but she was not there. However, she had left her keys and money at the pub. Arensdorf was last seen inside Knicker’s at around 2 a.m.
Mootz did not see her leave, which surprised him because they were going to share a cab to East Dubuque. When the taxi arrived, Arensdorf was gone. Police later charged him with serving alcohol to a minor (Arensdorf).
The following day, Arensdorf’s family became worried when she never picked up her car from her sister. They vowed to find her and plastered fliers all over Dubuque. Puetsch became a force to be reckoned with during the first two weeks following her sister’s disappearance. She stayed in constant contact with the police, visiting the police station daily.
Puetsch discovered some people at the bar that night and asked them if they had seen her sister or had any vital information. None of them could recall seeing Arensdorf leave the bar.
Arensdorf’s other sister, Melissa Beam, created a scrapbook to store important newspaper clippings and documents related to the disappearance. Melissa kept a written account of every aspect of the investigation and what the family was doing to find Crystal.
On July 16, 2001, a witness reported seeing a body floating in Leisure Lake in Jackson County and called the police. However, authorities did not find a body or evidence at the scene and chalked the tip to a false alarm.
Police investigated nearly 400 leads within the first two months of the investigation. Police ruled out Gerlieb in October 2001, although the reasons are unknown.
Steven and David Peacock are two brothers from Wisconsin who lived in Dubuque in 2001. Both men were at the bar on July 4, 2001, and police questioned them several times, labeling them “persons of interest” in Arensdorf’s disappearance.
According to Dubuque police, the brothers gave inconsistent stories about their activities on July 4, 2001.
In April 2002, the men agreed to take polygraph exams. David Peacock was 34 at the time, and Stephen Peacock was 27.
For whatever reasons, perhaps he was nervous, Stephen Peacock drank several beers before the test, and the polygraph was deemed invalid. David Peacock’s results showed he might have been lying.
On April 1, 2002, authorities searched Stephen Peacock’s 1997 GMC Jimmy and took vacuum samples and hair and lab swabs. They also searched David Peacock’s vehicle.
“Within two weeks of being contacted by investigators on Aug. 15, the men broke their lease, quit their roofing jobs, and moved to Mount Horeb, Wisconsin,” The Capital Times reported. Mount Horeb is an hour’s drive from Dubuque.
When Arensdorf vanished, David Peacock was on probation for an April 3, 2001, marijuana possession conviction. Police arrested him for violating probation and then questioned him about the disappearance. However, the brothers have never been charged with Arensdorf’s disappearance.
In February 2005, Madison, Wisconsin, police arrested David Peacock, then 37, and charged him with one count of false imprisonment and three charges of battery.
On Jan. 28, 2005, Peacock attacked his girlfriend in a Madison parking lot. He pulled her from the car and forced her into his truck. He then beat the living shit out of her and dumped her in the parking lot on Atlas Avenue.
Peacock reportedly saw her in a vehicle with another man and accused her of cheating. His girlfriend told the police that he also grabbed her neck during the attack and tried to strangle her.
Peacock was released on a $2,000 bail pending further proceedings in the case; Stephen Peacock, residing in Darlington, then posted his bail.
A few years later, Janesville police arrested David Peacock on a fifth OWI (Operating while intoxicated) charge in 2014.
In June 2015, Iowa Cold Cases received a tip saying David Peacock used his own vehicle the night Arensdorf went missing, but had instead borrowed his sister’s pick-up truck. The tipster also provided the current aliases used by the brothers, the names of their respective employers, and identified the location where the brothers allegedly buried Arensdorf’s body. Iowa Cold Cases forwarded the information to Dubuque Police Department investigators.Jody Ewing, IowaColdCases.org
In 2020, cold case investigators from Iowa Major Crime Unit searched the basement of Knicker’s. However, police have never revealed the outcome. The case is still active but remains unsolved.
The family erected a billboard with Arensdorf’s picture and the message, “The time is now! 20 years gone, but not forgotten. There was also a number to call with information.
If you have any information regarding Arensdorf’s disappearance, please call (563) 589-4429.
TRUE CRIME DIVA’S THOUGHTS
I think someone or more than one person killed Crystal after she disappeared from Knicker’s. The consensus on her disappearance is that the Peacock brothers took her somewhere and raped and killed her. If they did, I would wager they buried her body in a desolate location or dumped it in the nearby Mississippi River. It’s unclear if police searched the river.
I could not find any pictures of the brothers, but both still reside in Wisconsin and are now in their 50s.
The brothers could have told Crystal they would give her a ride to East Dubuque. Instead, they took her elsewhere and killed her. There is no doubt that David Peacock is a violent man, and Stephen Peacock likely does anything for him, a puppy on a leash, if you will.
What time did Crystal and her friend arrive at Knicker’s? When did the friend leave the bar? What time did Barb Beam’s coworkers leave to go to the same damn place Crystal wanted to visit? Why didn’t she go with them to East Dubuque?
Bar patrons claim they never saw Crystal leave Knicker’s, and she had left her keys and money behind, suggesting she actually never left the bar or was in a hurry when she did leave.
At first, I didn’t believe that nobody had seen her leave. But then I read how busy Dubuque is during the Fourth of July holiday, so Knicker’s was likely packed that night.
Mootz claimed he and Crystal were going to share a cab to East Dubuque, where bars stay open past 3 a.m. Mootz lived in Dubuque, so he must have been planning to go to a bar or strip club in East Dubuque.
Sinsinawa Street, aka “Sin Street” in East Dubuque, had several bars and strip clubs. I guess that one of the bars, Mulgrew’s, has been around for decades and stays open until 3:30 a.m. Many college students leave Dubuque bars and head to the ones across the river because they are still open after 2 a.m.
Mootz is at least 20 years older than Crystal and had served her alcohol. I’m assuming investigators questioned him because they charged him with serving a minor. But I’m always suspicious of people when they are the last to see a missing person.
Usually, the closer it gets to the last call for alcohol, people start leaving. If Crystal had planned to share a cab with Mootz, why would she have gone with the Peacock brothers? That does not make sense. And why would she leave her keys and money behind? Was she intoxicated? Probably, so she might have forgotten about them.
I want to know what keys she had in her possession, though. Before going to Knicker’s on July 3, Crystal told her sister she could drive her car anytime and left the vehicle with Puetsch. That surprised Puetsch because Crystal had never let her drive the car before. After all, it was “her baby.”
Puetsch later drove the car home because she did not want her sister driving intoxicated. Wouldn’t Crystal’s house keys be on the chain with her car keys?
I find it interesting that Crystal and her boyfriend argued on the night of her disappearance. Over what? Why did the police rule him out? Where was he when Crystal called from Knicker’s? Did she leave a voicemail telling him she was going to East Dubuque? Why did he not return her call until after closing time?
I hope investigators will one day arrest Crystal’s killer(s). With advances in DNA technology, it is very possible.