DES MOINES, Iowa — Patricia Ann Veach was born on July 29, 1960, to William “Bill” and Etta Veach. She has one older sibling, William “Billy” Veach. The elder Veach met his wife in Northern Ireland in 1954 when he served time in the military. The family resided in a two-bedroom, 768 square-foot home at 805 S.W. Lally Street in Des Moines.
Veach was manager of Veach’s East Side Fish Market on Grand Street, owned by his father, Albert Veach.
Patricia, nicknamed “Trisha” and “Trish” by her family, had recently completed third grade at Maple Grove Elementary School, located on S.W. Ninth Street.
Patricia’s brother told Jody Ewing of IowaColdCases.org that Patricia was “a very bubbly, outgoing child” and loved to make funny faces at the camera when someone took her picture. In late June 1969, Patricia was the flower girl at her Uncle David’s wedding.
Two weeks later, she was dead.
On Thursday, July 10, 1969, Veach awoke around 7:10 a.m. and noticed someone had slashed the screen on the front door near the latch. Thinking an intruder might have robbed the family during the night, he checked around the house, but everything seemed to be in order.
However, when Veach checked on his daughter at 7:25 a.m., he found eight-year-old Patricia dead in her bed, lying face-up without covers clad only in her pajama top. Blood had splashed on her body and the bed.
Patricia’s bedroom was located at the front of the home, next to the front door. Billy, 13, usually slept in the basement; however, he stayed overnight at his paternal grandparents’ house.
The Veaches last saw their daughter around midnight when she went to bed after watching TV with her parents and aunt, Wanda Veach, visiting from Nassau, The Bahamas. The adults went to bed sometime between 1 and 2 a.m.
Veach said they kept the family dog, Fluff, in the basement but never heard the dog bark.
Police confiscated the screen door to test for fingerprints and searched the house and surrounding area for more fingerprints and other evidence. However, they found nothing substantial. They also canvassed the area asking residents if they had seen anyone or anything suspicious near the Veach residence.
Neighbors reported a Peeping Tom in the area a few nights before the murder. However, police found nothing tying that to the murder.
Veach told police that his wife thought she heard a prowler trying to get in the front door during a recent thunderstorm. He did not see anyone upon investigation and could not provide the police with relevant information.
Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Leo Luka conducted the autopsy on Patricia and found she had been “sexually molested” and “smothered to death with either a hand or pillow.” He estimated her time of death between 3 and 4 a.m.
According to Ewing, “Police Detective Capt. Cleatus M. Learning said his men questioned more than 500 persons by Sunday and there were seven detectives and two identification officers assigned to the case.” But investigators failed to find any clues leading to Patricia’s killer.
The police seemed to focus on Veach as a suspect; detectives questioned him daily at the start of the investigation. Community members eyed him with suspicion believing he had harmed his daughter.
The public’s biased opinion was too much for the family, so Veach sent his wife and son to Northern Ireland for the entire month of August. His mother-in-law had flown to Iowa after the murder. Veach bought plane tickets for his wife and son to return with her. When his family later flew back to Des Moines, he told them he had purchased another home while they were overseas.
But blame and suspicion followed; the family’s new neighbors petitioned to keep them out of their neighborhood. Patricia’s brother told Ewing he “lived in fear his father would never be fully cleared.”
On Tuesday, March 8, 2011, Billy Veach learned that familial DNA testing had ruled out himself, his father, and his father’s brothers of Patricia’s murder.
When Billy Veach told his father the good news, father and son broke down in tears, no longer victims of nearly 42 years worth of false accusations and scrutiny. The elder Veach passed away three years later, at age 84.
From Veach’s obituary: “Bill wrote on his birthday in 2007…’ I know that Patricia Ann’s soul is with our Lord today, waiting for ours to be with her. Gee, I sure miss her.'”
Etta Veach still lives in Des Moines. Billy Veach also resides in Des Moines with his wife of 41 years. They have two grown sons and grandchildren.
If you have any info about the Veach murder, please contact the Des Moines PD at (515) 283-4864.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I don’t think this was a random killing. Either Patricia Veach knew her killer, or he had stalked her sometime before the murder. She was the target, no doubt, so he came in contact with her somehow.
We know the adults went to bed between 1 and 2 a.m., and Patricia Veach was murdered between 3 and 4 a.m. That’s not a lot of time to commit a murder. The killer had to make sure the parents were fast asleep before attempting to break into the home and commit the heinous murder.
It takes balls to break into someone’s home and attack a family member while everyone was asleep. The killer was confident and not worried about anyone waking up. Talk about a huge risk! Whoever killed Patricia had done it before and likely after, I bet.
The timing of the killing is interesting. For one, Billy happened to be staying at his grandparents that night, so he wasn’t even home. Second, five days before the girl was killed, her paternal uncle, Roy Veach, then 57, fired his .22-caliber revolver at a prowler who attempted to enter his bedroom. On July 15, Roy reported the gun stolen to the Des Moines police.
Roy lived on Astor Street, about 6 miles north of his brother’s house. I wonder if it’s possible the killer mistook Roy’s home for his brother’s and then went back to steal the gun to mislead police in the murder investigation. Or it’s just one big coincidence.
Patricia’s home is tiny, and, strangely, nobody heard anything. Fluff never barked, which makes me wonder why. The dog was small, but I saw no mention of its breed. Small dogs bark a lot and often over the slightest sound or movement. If he had barked that night, surely the Veaches would have heard him.
I can understand why people pointed the finger at the males in her family. The killing does seem to lean towards someone known to the victim, and it happened in the home. We now know the Veach men did not kill Patricia. So, it could be connected to the Peeping Tom and/or whoever tried getting into the Veach home before the murder. Etta thought she heard someone trying to get in the front door. The person(s) might have seen the girl inside or outside her house or walking to school.
I believe this case is still solvable, even though the chances of the killer still alive are slim.
What are your thought on this shocking murder?