Life is ephemeral and fragile. We all meet our end somehow, whether it be old age, heart disease, or oncoming traffic. Most of the time, death seems strange and random; as impartial and predictable as a roll of the dice. However, there are varying circumstances. Sometimes a life is not only lost, it is taken, and such savage, deplorable acts leave scars on our culture forever. Whether we like to admit it or not, we find the darkest of events impossible to shake from the back of our minds. These are six homicides Iowa will never forget.
1. The Sueppel Family Murders
On Easter Sunday, March of 2008 in Iowa City, Sheryl Sueppel and her four adopted children were slaughtered by Steven Sueppel, Sheryl's husband and adoptive father of the children. Steven was being charged for embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from his work at Hills Bank and Trust Company. That night, he bludgeoned his wife to death with a baseball bat, and, after failing to kill them with car exhaust fumes, beat all four children to death in the same manner. He dialed the police from his cell phone the next morning, and proceeded to deliberately slam into a cement pillar at high speeds on interstate 80, just outside of Iowa City. He died upon impact.
2. Villisca Axe Murders
The Villisca Axe Murders shocked the nation in 1912 with the brutality and mystery of the crime. Eight people were slain in their sleep, including two adults and six children. They were butchered viscously with an axe by an unidentified assailant, and the crime was never solved. Check out this article if want to read more about the Villisca Axe Murders: https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/iowa/unsolved-mystery-ia.
3. 1973 Gitchie Manitou Murders
Horror struck the Gitchie Manitou State Preserve on November 17, 1973 when a camping party of teens were gunned down. Five teenagers were camping in the area, when they were happened upon by the three Fryer Brothers, who were in the area to poach deer. The Fryers spied on the campers from afar and observed they had cannabis, and they staged an impromptu police-impersonation stunt to steal it, which ended with four of the teens being shot and killed, and the only surviving member being raped.
The perpetrators were Allen, David, and James Fryer. Those slain were 17-year-old Roger Essem, brothers Stewart and Dana Baade, who were 18 and 14 respectively, and 15-year-old Michael Hadrath. 13-year old Sandra Cheskey was the sole survivor, who later went on to identify the Fryer Brothers, and they were all given life sentences.
4. The Polk County John Doe
This one's a bit of a mind bender. A body was found in February of 1984 after months of decay in rural Polk County, Iowa. Nothing is known about this man, save that he died from blunt force trauma to his head, had recently undergone knee surgery, and had several tattoos. Over 30 years later, and still nobody knows who the man was, and it is likely to remain a mystery forever.
5. The Maharishi University Stabbing
This bizarre tragedy shocked the students at Maharishi University, and all those who heard the tale of Shuvender Sem, who stabbed fellow student Levi Butler to death with a pairing knife in the university's dining hall. Earlier that day, he had stabbed another student in the face with a pen. The wounds were far from fatal, and Shuvender was deemed unfit for the university, and was staying with the school's dean of men to be flown back home when he committed the murder. Sem was tried, but found not guilty when he pleaded insanity, and was a diagnosed schizophrenic at the time of the murder.
6. The University Of Iowa School Shooting
In the fall of 1991, a shooter entered the University of Iowa's campus and killed five people; four faculty members and one student. The perpetrator was Gang Lu, a deranged former graduate student at U and I. He studied physics and astronomy, and was awarded his doctoral degree from the institution. However, he was reported to have abusive tantrums when provided with opposition, and was infuriated with the lack of awards his dissertation received. He was also unable to find work because of the recession, and turned his rage violent at his alma mater. After the shooting, he took his own life. Gang Lu was 28 at the time of the event.
These tragic events will certainly live on in infamy. Do you remember any of these tragic occurrences? Did we leave any out? Comment what you think below!
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