Iowa Summer Mystery: What happened to Harry Milligan?

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Harry Dennis Milligan, 21, disappeared on July 1, 1984, after a night out with friends in Albia, Iowa. Those friends said they transported him back to his car and watched him drive away. His family and friends never saw him again.

Who Was Harry Milligan?

Born on October 4, 1962, Harry Milligan never knew his birth parents. Leonard and Vicki Milligan adopted him as an infant. They had four children, who had reached adulthood when Harry came into their family. They also raised Harry’s brother Mark Milligan, officially adopting Mark when he turned 18. 

Harry and Mark were two and a half years apart and were tight knit. The Milligans lived in Avery, Iowa, an unincorporated community 70 miles southeast of Des Moines. Growing up in such a small area, one would think there would only be a few things to do, but the brothers had no problem entertaining themselves.

“Did a lot of fishing, hunting, those types of things,” Mark told Dateline. “We played high school sports.”

When Mark joined the U.S. Marines in 1983 at 17, Harry became interested and subsequently enlisted to further his education. 

“He decided to join the reserve program so he could use the benefits of that to go to college,” Mark said.  

Mark was only 17 and had to wait until 18 to attend boot camp, so Harry headed first to San Diego and returned to Avery that September.

A few months later, in January 1984, Harry started college courses at Northeast Missouri State University, now Truman State University, in Kirksville, Missouri. When the spring semester ended, Harry returned to Avery in June. He planned to enjoy the time off and party with friends.

Unfortunately, following a night out with friends, Harry disappeared without a trace.

The Disappearance of Harry Milligan

On June 30, 1984, Harry headed to nearby Albia to hang out with his friends at Waterworks bar on North Main Street, about a block and a half west of the Carnegie-Evans Public Library.

“Everybody used to park over by the library so the cops wouldn’t think you were at the bar,” Mark told Dateline. Mike Stocker owned and operated the bar for years.

Harry and his friends, Doug Maddy, Jeff Adler, and Steve Rockwell, left the bar at midnight, drove around for a couple of hours in Rockwell’s car, and drank a six-pack of beer. Harry’s friends dropped him off at his vehicle around 3 a.m. (some reports say 4:30 a.m.). They watched Harry start his maroon, two-door 1977 Pontiac Grand Prix with Iowa license plate number EIJ-244 and drive north toward Avery. Harry never made it home.

According to Mark in a 2016 Facebook post, “Raymond Ostermeyer stated that he possibly saw Harry’s vehicle going south in town at some point that early morning.” That would have been the opposite direction of Avery.

Later that morning, Harry had plans to play in a softball game but never showed. His mother thought maybe he had stayed the night at one of his friend’s houses. 

As time passed, she grew more concerned and started making phone calls to see if anyone had heard or seen Harry. When that failed, she reported him missing to the police later that night.

Lazy Police Force

Mark, who was in California, immediately flew home when he heard his brother was missing. He started searching for his brother and asked if people had seen Harry. No one had.

The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) was of little help, thinking Harry took off on his own, which frustrated Harry’s family. Harry did not take any of his belongings with him when he headed to Albia that night, so it made zero sense that police even thought for a second he left voluntarily.

Mark told Dateline, “There was just nothing done,” and officials “pretty much just believed these three guys,” who told them they saw Harry drive off that night. 

“That was the end of it,” Mark said.

Newspapers from that time state that law enforcement did search extensively for Harry but never found his body or clues to his whereabouts.

Family Hires Private Investigator

When Harry disappeared, his mother was caring for his sister, who was dying of cancer. She passed away a month later. That, paired with her son missing, sent Harry’s mother into an emotional hell. But she and Leonard never gave up hope; they believed that Harry had wrecked his car that night and someone would eventually find him.

Around 1995, the family hired a private investigator who knew the family well and began an investigation into Harry’s disappearance. The PI interviewed Adler, Maddy, and Rockwell, and Mark said their version of what happened had changed, which piqued his interest in further pursuing the matter. He believes his brother met with foul play that night. However, nothing came from the PI’s investigation, and the MCSO claimed they had conducted pond and cadaver dog searches over the years but had never found any sign of Harry.

Rumors and Theories

As is the case in any criminal investigation, there have been numerous rumors and theories about Harry’s disappearance. On January 7, 2016, Mark addressed these in a lengthy Facebook post. You can read the entire post, but I pulled some parts here. 

This is one of the hardest things I have ever had to deal with and has completely torn me up for over 30 years. So I will start with what I know as of recent, and hopefully it clarifies the rumors.What I know is that the ex-wife of Jay Owens (I believe Loria) has made claim that she has information regarding Jay Owens being involved in or committing a murder in Albia Iowa approximately 30 years ago. I know that it is being looked into by DCI agents. That is what I know as of now. Could it be my brother, yes. Could it be Tim Earney, yes. If you are familiar with this you know both of these tragic incidents happened within months of each other in Albia. I wish I could tell everyone I had an answer FINALLY, but that is not the case. I am once again left with the same thing I have held on to for years, HOPE, that someday there is an answer. 

He went on to address ridiculous rumors.

#1  My dad (Leonard) killed him and buried him and the car in the house on our property in Avery.

*Absolutely not true, most people don’t understand that Harry was adopted, and the life and soul of my dad’s. Just as most people don’t understand that Leonard (I refer to as dad) is actually my grandfather that raised me absolutely something he would not do.

#2 My mother (Vicki) killed him because they argued on occasion.

*Absolutely not true, most people don’t understand that my dad worked on the railroad and was away from home a lot because of work so mom was the disciplinarian in the house. We were teenagers arguments happened enough said. Did not happen.

#3  Harry decided to just leave. Highly unlikely, if you knew his situation he had it made. He was very intelligent, going to collage [sic] at NMSU in Kirksville, was in the Marine Corps reserve and came home every weekend to party ect with his friends as he was this night.

#4  He was involved in some top secret thing in the military and they moved him away. Really, then I don’t think they would have declared him as a deserter at one point and made us jump through all sorts of hoops in regards to other issues.

Here are theories that “make more sense.”

#1 Harry was mistakenly killed by some unknown person or an individual with the nickname “Flame” that was actually intending to kill Doug Maddy. It was explained to me that there was a serious drug debt owed by Maddy and that this person was sent to collect the debt or kill Maddy and he mistook Harry as being Doug.  My opinion is that this is a possibility and since Doug and Harry were friends. Harry was no angel and partook in some drug use and of course well Doug Maddy… Enough said… Him and I have a history he knows my opinion of him and what he does. However, it should be known he has never been questioned or volunteered any information.

#2 It was rumored that during this supposed card game that night at the bar Harry took a considerable amount of money from Mike Stocker and he was very upset. I have been told that Mike or someone Mike paid was waiting on Harry to return to his car that night and that who is who killed Harry.

I was told that the car was then buried since Stocker had family with the capability and equipment to make that happen.  My Opinion is that this is a possibility. I knew Mike Stocker and I was no Angel at that time and frequented the bars myself I knew that beer was not the only thing being sold out of the bar.

Part of why I question who all worked there or was there after hours is cause years later Steve Townsend made a very clear comment to my wife one night at McGee’s bar as he looked at me. “How much do you think it would cost to make someone disappear?”  She really didn’t reply and he stated something to the effect “I have done it before for less than $500 dollars”. Might not be a cop now if she would have told me that comment at the time and not waited till we were home, but then again… Steve Townsend he also knows my opinion. Enough said.

Mike Stocker was born Michael Francis Clouse on February 2, 1957, to Bill and Pauline (Flanders) Clouse in Albia. Darrell and Pauline Stocker raised him. He died in 2011 from cancer.

2022 Dive Search

To help find his missing brother, Mark created a Facebook group called ‘Harry Dennis Milligan Still Missing,’ which has since changed to’ HARRY DENNIS MILLIGAN:: STILL MISSING (My Brother’s Story). ‘

An Illinois private dive team, Chaos Divers, contacted Mark through the group after learning of Harry’s disappearance. In June 2022, they traveled to Iowa to search for Harry and his car unsuccessfully. Two days later, they returned to Ottumwa based on past tips of Harry’s whereabouts that night. 

“The night my brother disappeared, one of the stories was he was wanted to go to Ottumwa but his friends didn’t want to go,” Mark told KTVO. “We don’t actually know if he did end up going to Ottumwa.”

Chaos Divers scoured the Des Moines River in Ottumwa in August 2022, but only found a Dodge Ram truck reported stolen in 2017.

MCSO claims the investigation is still open; however, they have never named any person of interest or suspects in Harry’s disappearance.

Nearly 40 years later, Harry remains missing. Harry’s parents are now deceased. Mark is a police sergeant with the Ottumwa Police Department.

Anyone with information on Harry Milligan’s whereabouts is asked to call the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office at 641-932-7815.

TCD’s Thoughts

In Mark’s FB post, he listed several questions regarding his brother’s disappearance.

  1. Who saw Harry at the bar that night and was he playing cards?
  2. If he was playing cards who all was playing? 
  3. Was he winning and were there any persons that could have had hard feelings or was upset? 
  4. Who may have seen him leave the bar that night and was he with Steve Rockwell and Jeff Adler? 
  5. Did anyone see them return to the bar and where exactly was his car parked that night? He told Dateline in 2022 that Harry parked at the library.
  6. Did anyone see him leave in his car and was anyone with him? 
  7. Who was the bartender that night and did anyone stay after to clean the bar or continue to drink?

Questions 4 and 6 prove that Mark is unconvinced that Adler, Maddy, and Rockwell told the truth about that night. They were allegedly the last people to see Harry alive.

I’m not convinced that Harry ever entered his car and drove off that night. Raymond probably did see Harry’s car, but someone else was likely driving it. I believe that Harry was already dead at that moment. I think something happened to him at the bar or as he walked out. If Harry did drive away, someone followed him. They might have got him to pull over by flashing their headlights or driving up beside him. Someone he knew. There is no doubt whatsoever that Harry knew his killer(s). That’s obvious.

Mark has never received answers to his questions. That means numerous people have kept their mouths shut for nearly 40 years. Someone should have answered some of them , especially #7. So, I find that strange. Albia is a small town of around 3,700 today. It was a little bit larger in 1984. So, it’s safe to assume SOMEONE, or MORE than ONE, knows what happened. 

I’d lean towards theory #2 regarding Stocker’s possible involvement because of the motive of losing money. It meant he was butt-hurt over losing to Harry. Suppose he killed Harry; what a f*cking sore loser. So, you lost some money. You shouldn’t have played the game. There was a 50-50 chance you’d lose, and you knew this. Local LE might have protected him because he was a well-known business owner, albeit shady. Pair that with the lazy sheriff’s office refusing to investigate initially, which is why Harry’s case is unsolved.

But I also find Harry’s three friends highly suspicious. They were either involved or have vital information they refuse to share for whatever reasons. There is no way they are not somehow connected.

Here’s what Mark finds bizarre about the case:

I need to explain one thing that has always struck me as very strange since this night. First of all after I returned and began to search and ask questions I want everyone to know that Steve Rockwell has spoke with me in regards to what transpired that night. He has also stayed in contact with mom and dad for several years trying to help them out. 

What I find strange is that JEFF ADLER has never spoken to me or my parents in regards to this night nor has he ever made himself available to speak with law enforcement that I am aware of. I know I have a copy of the case file and nothing in regards to that is in there. When I was in Albia looking and talking to people every time I entered a place where he was at he would leave. This I find very strange.

Why would Steve openly communicate with Mark if he had information about Harry or if he was involved? Wouldn’t Steve have witnessed any involvement on Adler’s part? He has to KNOW. So, he could have just been sucking up to the Milligans to convince them he was innocent. 

Harry was an all-around good guy and did not deserve what happened to him. He had a bright future. I know he would have done well in life had those a-holes not robbed him that chance.


Ewing, Jody. “Harry Dennis Milligan.” Iowa Cold Cases, February 24, 2011.

Good, Meaghan. “Harry Dennis Milligan.” The Charley Project.

Reed, Kyani. “Brother Hoping to Reignite Search for Harry Milligan, Who Disappeared 38 Years Ago in Albia, Iowa.”, July 3, 2022.

Santibanez-Molina, Leslie. “Dive Team Comes Across Stolen Vehicle in its Search for Missing Albia Man.”, August 27, 2022.

Turner, Tasha. “Nationally Known Dive Team Returns to Southeast Iowa to Help Find Missing Albia Man.”, August 24, 2022.

Image of Grand Prix can be found here –

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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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