The Waverly Killings

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WAVERLY, Iowa — Valerie Lynn Klossowsky was born on March 7, 1957, to Harold and Jeanenne Klossowsky. She has an older sister, Denise, and a younger sister, Michele.

Valerie’s parents divorced and remarried three times before Jeanenne married another man named Larry Wedermeier. In 1971, Valerie Klossowsky and her sisters resided with their father, Harold, and grandmother, Mae Klossowsky, in a white frame house at 217 Fifth Street, N.W. in Waverly, Iowa.

Valerie was quiet but friendly, athletic, and energetic.

On the evening of June 13, 1971, Valerie, 14, and friend Cindy Newgren went to the local swimming pool. Mae told her to be home by 9 pm. 

Outside the pool entrance, Valerie stopped to speak with some people. She told Cindy to go on in, and she would be at the poolside shortly.

Cindy went inside, but Valerie never showed. When Cindy left the pool, she found Valerie’s swimsuit and towel outside the entrance.

Earlier in the day, Valerie and another friend LuAnn Hicks had picnicked together in a Waverly park and then walked around town for the next few hours. The girls parted ways by late afternoon.

Around 8 pm, Valerie went to LuAnn’s home to see if she wanted to hang out for the rest of the evening, but LuAnn’s sister told her LuAnn was not home. Valerie was last seen on a street corner at 8:30 pm.

When Valerie had not returned home by 10 pm, Harold filed a missing person report with the Waverly Police Department. He said he was surprised when Valerie never returned home on the 13th; He thought she might have hitchhiked to Waterloo.

Around 10:30 am on June 15, 1971, a couple of young boys walking along a gravel road near a small creek found the body of a young girl, later identified as that of Valerie Klossowsky, under a bridge.

Valerie was clad only in upper garments that were pushed up around her shoulders.

Bremer County Sheriff J.A. Leemon said the body could have been seen from the bridge if anyone had looked over the railing. But he could not say whether the body was thrown from the bridge or taken down and left there.

The body was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo. An autopsy showed Valerie was strangled with such force that her larynx was fractured. Her estimated time of death was sometime late on the night of June 13.

The Investigation

The Bremer County Sheriff’s Office, five agents from the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Waverly Police Department investigated Valerie Klossowsky’s murder.

Waverly Auxiliary Police interviewed farm families near where the young girl’s body was found and canvassed more than 100 households for more information about Valerie’s last moments before her murder.

There was a report of a motorcycle gang in the area, and at least one person believed she saw Valerie with a biker, although the sighting was never confirmed. However, police were unable to place Valerie in a vehicle or on a motorcycle on the night she disappeared.

On June 14, 1971, the night after Valerie vanished, a Waverly resident reported a prowler in the neighborhood and earlier on Saturday night, June 5.

Harold Klossowsky, Valerie’s father, told a neighbor that he wanted to view the body’s location because, with his military background, he felt he could help authorities investigating the crime (The Courier, June 16, 1971).

Authorities interviewed more than 150 people – some of them as many as five times – and spent several hundreds of working hours investigating in the month following the murder.

Two More Murders

In March 1976, a county maintenance worker found the nude body of 18-year-old Julia “Julie” Ann Benning in a ditch near Shell Rock, Iowa, just a few miles west of Waverly in Butler County and less than a mile from the Bremer County line.

Julie was last seen on November 26, 1975, on her way to work. Like Valerie, Julie resided with her grandmother in Waverly.

Julie worked at Sir Lounge in Waverly, what some called a strip joint, but Julie referred to in her diary as “a fairly classy, plushly carpeted, dark-paneled club with a nice atmosphere.”

Before email and the internet, people wrote letters to one another, and having a pen pal to correspond with was one way of getting to know someone from afar. Julie’s family didn’t know it, but Julie had written to several pen pals in the months leading up to her murder.

In her diary, she wrote of one man in particular, although she never revealed his name. “A sleazy guy offered me $1,500 to go to bed with him and I turned him down. I saw the money and knew he had it, but the idea of it bummed me out. … I just didn’t think I could live with myself later.” (Globe Gazette

On the day after Thanksgiving, 1975, Julie told her mom, JoAnn, she had to go to work. JoAnn begged her to call in sick, but Julie went to work.

The next day, coworkers called JoAnn to inform her that Julie never made it to work. The family searched a full day for her before going to the police to report her missing.

Around 2015, a man contacted Jody Ewing, founder of IowaColdCases.org, and said he had information about Julie. He later met with Julie’s sister Carol King Kean.

According to the man, he was at the Sir Lounge when he saw Julie taking money at the door. This conflicts with the authorities’ statement that Julie was last seen walking to work.

The man said a struggle took place in the bar’s hallway, but men blocked him from seeing when he tried to look back there. (Reminds me of a scene from the 1988 movie, The Accused)

Shortly after, he saw what appeared to be Julie slumped in the passenger seat of a pickup truck. When the truck door opened, he saw a man he knew with his hand near her throat, trying to cover the dome light with his other hand (Powers). He believed Julie’s clothes were later planted in his garage by the acquaintance or his friends. The man threw the clothes away, not yet knowing Julie had disappeared.

The man acknowledged the fact that he is a former felon and had been drinking that night. Carol Kean and Jody Ewing believe the man’s story.

Marie Lisa Peak

Around 10:40 am on September 8, 1976, the nude body of Marie “Lisa” Peak, 19, was found lying face down beneath a large cottonwood tree at the edge of a ditch of a country road a quarter of a mile north of the Waverly city limits. The spot is only six miles from where Julie Benning’s body was found. 

Lisa had been raped and died of suffocation and a broken neck, according to the autopsy report.

Lisa was a journalism student at Waverly’s Wartburg College. Her friends and roommates at her dorm reported her missing at 12:30 am Tuesday, September 7, 1976. They last saw her Monday afternoon when she said she was going to a shopping center several blocks west of the college.

In December 1975, Lisa was one of the victims in a 1975 bizarre sex and extortion scheme operating in the Mason City area that exploited up to 15 women in Iowa. Lisa was the whistleblower on the illegal operation.

John Joseph Carmody, Jr., a used car salesman, forced the women to take nude pics, and then used the photos to blackmail them.

Carmody told his victims that he was a powerful Mafia member and that harm would befall them if they did not submit to his sexual whims, demanding money and demanding that they bring their friends into his “family.” Police said the mafia claims were untrue.

He also threatened to kill the victims if they did not submit to him sexually.

Mason City police officers busted the operation in December 1975 and arrested Joseph Carmody, Jr. on rape and extortion charges. He later pleaded guilty to two counts of rape and two counts of extortion and was later sentenced to 40 years in the Iowa State Penitentiary.

Lisa and Chuck Offenberger of The Des Moines Register was going to write a book together about the illegal operation. On August 23, 1975, they wrote a letter to Carmody in prison, saying they wanted his side of the story for their book. His lawyer wrote a letter in response that said in part, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

Many people believed Carmody had Lisa killed in retaliation. As weird as it sounds, two of the women he exploited fell in love with him, and at least one of them had threatened Lisa before her death.

Authorities said they could rule out any connection between Lisa’s murder and Carmody’s illegal scheme.

Carmody was paroled from prison and now resides in Texas as a registered sex offender.

There has never been an arrest in any of the murders. 

In 2009, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) established a Cold Case Unit. Valerie, Julie, and Lisa were included in the nearly 150 cases listed on the Cold Case Unit’s website. DCI had hoped to solve the murders using new DNA technology. Federal grant funding for the Cold Case Unit was exhausted in 2011. Still, the DCI continues to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence.

Jody Ewing, IowaColdCases.org

Suggested reading and additional info: The Waverly Three by Jody Ewing.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

I want to say all three murders are connected, but I’m not convinced. Why was there a four-year gap between Valerie and Julie’s murders? To me, it sounds like we have different killers in each case.

Valerie Klossowsky

Her friend Cindy said Valerie was talking to “some people” near the pool entrance, but we don’t know who these people were. I want to know. Were they male or female? How old? How many?

If Cindy was telling the truth, did Valerie willingly go with these people somewhere? Why did she leave her swimsuit and towel behind? Did she intend to be gone only for a few minutes? If so, why didn’t she tell Cindy?

We know Valerie was seen on the street corner at 8:30 p.m., so I am assuming this was after she left the pool. If that was her, she must have walked to LuAnn’s home or someone dropped her off. It seems strange to me that she went to LuAnn’s house from the pool and left her swimsuit, towel, and Cindy behind without an explanation. It made no sense when she had plans with Cindy.

Because Valerie had spent most of the day with LuAnn, it does not make sense that she would ditch Cindy (if that story is the correct one) to go spend MORE time with LuAnn.

Or maybe Cindy was part of all of this and made the whole thing up to save her ass. Her story really doesn’t make sense. Was there anyone else at the swimming pool who actually saw Valerie there?

Why wasn’t Cindy worried when she saw the swimsuit and towel? Why didn’t she go tell her parents instead of going directly to Valerie’s house? For that matter, why wasn’t ANYONE worried that Valerie was nowhere to be found when her swimsuit/towel was left behind.

I think she knew her killer or killers. In this case, I’m going with more than one killer, most likely around her age.

Julie and Lisa

I do not think their murders are related to Valerie’s, despite occurring in the same area. For one, Valerie was murdered five years before Julie and Lisa. Second, I think someone at Sir Lounge killed Julie, and Joseph Carmody either ordered a hit on Lisa or one of his crazy-obsessed weirdos murdered her.

If that man was right, and someone abducted Julie from Sir Lounge, then why did the employees say she never showed up for work? I want to believe him, and he does seem legit. He has nothing to lose or gain after 40+ years. If his story is right, the bar owner and the employees know what happened to her and covered it up.

I think it’s a given who killed Lisa. She was the whistleblower on an illegal scheme and was going to write a book on it, so someone silenced her. Carmody either ordered a hit on her or one of those weird women killed her.

I do realize there is a big possibility Julie and Lisa’s cases are related. What do you think?

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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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