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The Unsolved Murder of Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch

The Unsolved Murder of Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch

 

Case File Overview

 

At around 9:50PM on April 28th, 2008, Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch was murdered in his home in Mystic, Iowa. 52-year-old Chuck was shot and killed by a single bullet that entered the residence through the front window.

After dinner on the evening in question, Chuck worked at the computer while his wife, Liz, enjoyed a book in the living room. After letting the dogs in for night, Liz settled back in to keep reading when a shot rang out. She ran to the kitchen to look outside, and expected Chuck to be following closely behind to investigate.

When Chuck didn’t appear, Liz went to the den and found him lying on the floor. She checked his pulse, realized he was dead, and called 911. Fearing for her safety, terrified Liz hid between the washer and dryer until the police arrived on the scene.

Although the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have conducted a thorough investigation and questioned countless individuals,  Chuck’s murder remains unsolved.

 

Case File Theories

 

The authorities have released little information about this case; therefore, it is difficult to do anything other than speculate as to what happened. Was Chuck killed intentionally? Did a family member have something to do with his death, as is often the case? Or was Chuck killed accidentally by a hunter, or even a local out practicing some nighttime target shooting?

Murder

Was Chuck murdered by someone he knew? First off, there has been zero mention of any family involvement in Chuck’s murder. I expect that the police thoroughly investigated this angle and came up with no reason to be suspicious. By all accounts, Chuck and Liz were happily married and had a wonderful relationship with their two daughters, Katie and Sarah. I also assume that the police investigated and found that Chuck had no enemies who would want him dead.

On the night Chuck was shot, Liz heard their two dogs barking while she was reading. She went to the front door to call them into the house. One of the dogs entered the house, but the other dog went around to the backdoor and waited to be let in there. This was unusual, and shortly afterwards is when Liz heard the shot. The dogs’ strange behaviour seems to suggest that there might have been someone in the yard. This evidence, though, supports both someone purposefully stalking Chuck and a hunter who just happened to be wandering around the farm.

Accidental death

Was Chuck shot accidentally? Soon after the shooting, investigators explained that they were working on determining the trajectory of the bullet. Knowing this information could help them figure out how far away the shooter was when the shot was fired. The police mentioned that a longer distance could suggest an accidental shooting, whereas a trajectory that indicated a shot a few feet or closer from the window could indicate foul play. Neither what these tests revealed nor any forensic evidence about the bullet itself has been released. The police explained they were reluctant to make public any information that could hinder a future court case. A short while later, though, Appanoose County Sheriff Gary Anderson did state that Chuck’s killing appeared to be a random act. I suppose we can assume that this means the testing indicated that the shoot came from quite a distance from the family home and therefore was deemed unintentional.

Would hunters have even been out on the night Chuck was killed? Perhaps. Although it looks like only turkey is usually in season in Iowa in April, not all hunters obey hunting regulations. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, on April 28th, 2008, the night of Chuck’s murder, the moon was a last quarter moon. Research also reveals that the last quarter moon “always rises in the middle of the night, appears at its highest in the sky around dawn, and sets around midday.” This leaves me wondering how bright the night sky was the evening Chuck was killed. Would it have been ideal night hunting conditions? Or enough light for local teens to be out having fun target shooting in local farmers’ fields? I’m no expert, by far, but at first glance it doesn’t seem likely.

One striking piece of evidence from the case, however, does seem to suggest that Chuck’s shooting may be accidental. On the very day he was murdered, Chuck and his wife had removed a fence that divided their house from their 700 acres of farmland, which does lend credence to the fact that a hunter or local out target shooting could have wandered too close to Chuck’s home without even realizing it. It is impossible to be sure, but I am starting to be convinced that Chuck’s tragic death may have been accidental after all.

Who do you think murdered Chuck?

Chuck was a loving husband and father of two daughters, Katie and Sarah, and at the time of his murder Chuck had been married for just over thirty years. The consummate family man was also a passionate farmer and deeply involved in his local community. Chuck was an avid sports fan, and he “enjoyed running, golfing, camping, biking, and spending time with his family and friends.”

Chuck with his daughter Katie and wife Liz

Photo of murder victim Chuck Deatsch and his daughter Katie and wife Liz
Source: Iowa Cold Cases

Even if Chuck’s death was unintentional, his family deserves answers and some sense of closure. The authorities insist that someone out there knows what happened, and that person likely has or will tell someone about their involvement. It was last reported that a $40,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for Chuck’s death.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Appanoose County Sheriff’s Office at (641) 437-7100, or call Crime Stoppers at (641) 856-3134. You can also contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at (515) 725-6010.

Related Reading

“Unsolved Murder: Elmer “Chuck” Deatsch, Jr.”Daily Times Herald article 

“Gone Cold: Chuck Deatsch, Killed In 2008”Des Moines Register article

“Appanoose County Sheriff Urges Public Help With Mystic Shooting Investigation”Ottumwa Courier article

“Elmer Charles “Chuck” Deatsch Jr.”Iowa Cold Cases article

Interested in unsolved murders? Check out the murder of Lisa Leckie and the slaying of Amber Hagerman.

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4 Comments

  1. Grace Patterson Grace Patterson

    This case will most likely never be solved unless the person who committed the killing has loose lips or if there where 2 assailants and the second person reveals the crime. Even if it was an accidental shooting, the perpetrator was trespassing. I guess you are not even safe in your own home anymore. I can just imagine the shock of Chuck’s wife, Liz when she realized he had been shot. What a tragedy!

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Grace – I know, right?! It breaks my heart to think that Chuck was within the safety of his own home enjoying his evening when this tragedy occurred. I do have a feeling it was an accident, but still hope the person has the courage to come forward one day and deal with consequences of their careless use of a firearm.

  2. Alex Alex

    Out of curiosity was there any mention of bullets? If this was accident and indeed perhaps by local hunters would the bullet give perhaps enough evidence towards this. Are there particular bullets that would be associated with hunting rifles for example and if so was the bullet that killed Chuck similar? If the weapons are liscensed then there could be an angle there. Maybe they have all gone down that route. Very tragic and I hope one day they can find the truth.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Alex. Sadly, no. There was no mention that I saw of the type of bullets. I agree with you that the type of bullet could help determine if the weapon that killed Chuck might be used for hunting. And maybe there could have been casings with fingerprints or homemade bullets with fingerprints or something? Sadly, the police are being pretty tight-lipped about this case. Maybe as time passes they will open up more. All I hope is that one day his loved ones can get some answers. I do have a feeling it was an accident, but still I know if that happened to someone in my family I would not want to wander around town wondering constantly if the people I bumped into had accidentally killed my family member. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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