Yet another cold case from Wapello County is solved thanks to DNA evidence. It was just over a year ago that the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation announced the arrest of Robert Pilcher in the 1974 homicide of Mary Jayne Jones. Pilcher is scheduled to stand trial for that murder on Tuesday.
Now, a triple homicide, this one 30 years old, has been resolved.
The bodies of Sara Link, Justin Hook and Tina Lade were found within days of each other in April 1984. Special Agent Mike Motsinger said the DCI contacted the Davis and Wapello County Sheriff's Offices in August 2011 to see if they had any testable DNA evidence. The evidence was resubmitted and processed, and in March 2012, DNA from the inside of Lade's jeans was identified as a match to Andrew Six.
The investigation proved Six and Hook had had some sort of disagreement over a vehicle purchase, but in a 1984 interview, Six denied knowing Lade.
Years later, Six was arrested for the abduction and murder of Kathy Allen. He was died in 1997 of lethal injection. He won't go to trial for the crime, but the identification brings closure family and friends never thought they'd get.
"Just knowing that parents and grandparents and cousins have gone to their grave not knowing what happened to their child or to their grandchild, that's heartbreaking," said Cathy Francis, Tina Lade's cousin.
At Friday's press conference, Motsinger and Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller said investigators had footprint evidence from Six in 1984, but it wasn't enough to bring him to trial. With the age of the case, it's impossible to determine the exact timeline of the murders and everything that happened in between, but the preservation of evidence makes it certain that Six is responsible for the crime.
"Probably not [all evidence] does get saved, but the significance of a case like this, I mean, you just never know," said Sheriff Miller. "We really have to hand it to the previous sheriffs for holding onto this, [they] thought it was imperative to hold onto that, so we did get fortunate in that."
Though the DNA connection was made in 2012, the positive identification to Six opened the case all over again, and investigators made sure that everything was done correctly.
"Footwear impressions, the DNA evidence, interviews that we had done, interviews that we did with people Mr.. Six had hung with back then, just the combination of all that put together, sit down meeting with law enforcement and our local partners is what brought us to today's conclusion," said Motsinger.
Though Iowa's Cold Case Unit was shut down several years ago due to a lack of funding, investigators continue to re-open cases as they can. To Francis, the effort is worth it.
"Families never forget," she said. "And if you can help one family, it's worth it."The full press release from the Iowa Department of Safety is as follows:The Wapello County Sheriffâ??s Office, Davis County Sheriffâ??s Office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have resolved the 1984 Triple Homicide of Justin Hook, Jr., 20, Sara Link, 41, and Tina Lade, 19. Link was the mother of Justin Hook. Hook and Lade were dating at the time of the homicide.On April 13, 1984, the Davis County Sheriffâ??s Office requested assistance with a death investigation in rural Drakesville, Iowa. A deceased male was discovered that was later identified as Justin Hook, Jr. It was determined that Hook had been beaten to death.The following day, April 14, 1984, Sara Link was reported missing to law enforcement. On April 16, 1984, Linkâ??s body was discovered in a farm field off of a gravel road in rural Eldon, Iowa in Wapello County. From the evidence at the scene, it appears Link was taken to the area and subsequently beaten to death.On April 18, 1984, Lade was found in the same vicinity where Linkâ??s body had been found. Lade has also been beaten to death. All 3 bodies had been beaten with a blunt object.Footprints found at both scenes appeared to be from the same person. The tread pattern of the footwear impression was made by the same type of shoe. The investigation at the time yielded no arrests.In August of 2011, the DCI Cold Case Unit, Davis County Sheriffâ??s office and the Wapello County Sheriffâ??s Office started a review of the case. The evidence that was located at the sheriffâ??s office was re-examined. The evidence with the highest probability of obtaining DNA evidence was re-submitted to the DCI lab for analysis.In March of 2012, the DCI Criminalistics Laboratory received information that a DNA profile previously developed from the evidence matched that of Andrew Wessel Six. The DNA evidence was recovered from inside the jeans of murder victim Tina Lade.Six was a suspect in the investigation in 1984. The investigation has yielded information indicating Six was involved in burglaries in the Ottumwa area. The investigation also found that Six and Hook had some type of issue over a vehicle purchase. During an interview in 1984, Six denied knowing Lade. Subsequent investigations addressed additional suspects that were involved in criminal activity which included Six. Although some of these individuals are now deceased, the others have been interviewed. Six was arrested in April 1987, along with his uncle Donald Petary. Both individuals were arrested for the abduction and murder of Kathy Allen from the Ottumwa area. Allenâ??s body was recovered in Schuyler County, Mo. Six was convicted of Murder in the First Degree and was given a death sentence. Prior to being executed, investigators attempted to interview Six regarding the Hook, Link, and Lade murders; however he was uncooperative. Six was executed by lethal injection in Missouri in August of 1997. Sixâ??s uncle, Donald Petary, was also convicted of Murder in the First Degree of Kathy Allen. Petary died in prison in 1998.Although Federal grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in December 2011, the DCI remains committed to resolving Iowaâ??s cold cases. The DCI will continue to assign agents to investigate cold cases as new leads develop or as technological advances are made which allow for additional forensic testing of original evidence. The DCI remains committed to the resolution of Iowaâ??s cold cases and will continue to work diligently with our local law enforcement partners to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice for the victims and their families.For questions, contact SAC Mike Motsinger at (515) 729-3706.