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?
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.
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
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.
“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