The Sleeping Lady of Cedar Rapids
Maureen Brubaker Farley’s murderer has been identified after 50 years of hiding in plain sight.
The autumn season hadn’t yet hit Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and teenagers Kevin Coppess and Danny Lineweaver had one thing on their minds; they wanted to hunt. They’d taken their guns down to the woods and come across a woman asleep on top of a car in the ravine just off Ely Road. They didn’t want to disturb her, so they slung their rifles over their shoulders and continued on their way, not giving the sleeping woman another thought. However, later that day, they headed back the way they came, not realising what they were about to discover.
The sleeping lady hadn’t moved in the hours they’d been gone, and the two boys decided to take a closer look. The colour of the woman’s skin likely gave away her condition, and the boys ran home, returning later, dragging Danny’s mother back to the car.
Maureen via Lisa Schenzel on Facebook
Maureen Brubaker Farley was a vivacious 17-year-old, originally from Sioux City, Iowa. The oldest of seven, Maureen would often look after her siblings while her parents went out in the evenings. Promises of monetary gain meant the children liked their sister looking after them, and they were devastated when Maureen announced she was moving to Cedar Rapids, over four hours away.
“She was born on July 4th. Everybody said she’d be a firecracker. She was. She was a wild child out of all of our 7 kids,” Maureen’s mother, Anne Brubaker, said.
At 15 years old, Maureen had married David Farley and moved to California. More recently, however, David was serving a prison sentence in Anamosa State Penitentiary. Maureen had decided to move closer to her new husband and set up residency in a rented room just outside the main streets. Maureen also got a job as a waitress at Weida’s restaurant in the town, to pay rent and fuel money to visit David.
When Maureen didn’t turn up to her shift at the diner on the 20th of September, her manager called the police. The young woman was dependable, and it wasn’t like her to miss work. Four days later, she was found by the boys.
The missing person report and the unidentified body soon took on a single investigation, with detectives quickly realising they were one and the same. Investigators initially believed that the teenager had been thrown out of a moving car, landing on the bonnet of the wreckage, but the autopsy gave an alternative answer.
The examination showed a large skull fracture and possible rape. Maureen’s clothes weren’t torn, nor did she bear any defensive wounds, so it was unlikely that she’d seen her attacker coming. She also had clean feet, so had been wearing shoes that weren’t found at the scene, and there was DNA left at the scene and on Maureen. It was still only 1971, so the sample was stored away.
Maureen’s handbag was also missing from the scene, along with its contents, and a plea was made in the Gazette to anyone who may have seen the young woman in the days before she was found.
Small details were revealed in the press soon after, and Police Chief Kenneth Vanous claimed multiple pairs of shoes were missing from Maureen’s apartment. Her car was also still at the building with a full tank of gas, and a pack of cigarettes she’d bought on the 17th of September were in her room, partially smoked.
Years of investigation ensued, with suspects given polygraph tests and hours of questioning by the desperate police force. Still, no one was ever charged with Maureen’s murder, and the case eventually went cold.
Over the years, the case was re-examined, and Maureen’s family never gave up hope. Her grown-up siblings and their mother still advocated for justice for their Maureen, and were always on hand to help the police with their enquiries.
In 2006, the DNA sample taken from Maureen was developed into a complete profile, but no matches were found on the database. In 2010, the Brubaker family offered $5,000 for any information leading to an arrest in the case, but no one ever came forward.
However, five years later, the investigation finally got a new lease of life when lead Detective Matt Denlinger was assigned the cold case.
“We kind of started all over from scratch in 2015. This was a new case with us, so we had to familiarize ourselves with all of the details of the case and make a plan going forward,” said Denlinger.
The detectives on the case began to go through the sixteen suspects and started to eliminate them until they were left with just one. Under warrant, a DNA sample was taken from the suspect’s daughter, and a match was confirmed.
George Merlin Smith was a local who frequented the diner where Maureen worked and was reportedly a friend. He’d inserted himself into the investigation, asking police on multiple occasions how the case was progressing. The 53-year-old had been questioned at the time but had refused to partake in a polygraph test, and he was never charged.
“As I dove into it a little more, I realized that in 1971, they had really honed in [sic] on it a little bit on George being one of the suspects. Some of his behavior at the police department and his suspiciously inquiring about the status of this case. Those are things that led them to suspect that he might be a good candidate for this,” lead Detective Matt Denlinger told KWWL.
According to reports, Smith worked at a haulage company and at the liquor store next to the building where Maureen lived. Unfortunately, in 2013, Smith died at the age of 94 years old, so no one will be charged with Maureen’s murder, and the case will now be closed.
Fifty years after Maureen’s death, her family can now have some closure to the mystery that’s overshadowed them for so long. Maureen’s sibling took to the Facebook page created, solely to remember her sister, to thank everyone involved in the case.
“…We realize that nothing can bring Maureen back and ‘justice’ in this world may not seem like justice at all but maybe now, maybe now we can find some kind of peace. Whenever a family member would pass from this world, my mom said, ‘Well, now they are up there with Maureen and they are all together and they know the answers and how happy they must be to see each other again.’ God bless my mother, strongest woman I have ever known.”
https://iowacoldcases.org/case-summaries/maureen-farley/ https://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/cedar-rapids-police-solve-50-year-old-murder-of-sioux-city-native/article_70982a25-efdb-5e23-a583-1721e112174d.html https://www.kwwl.com/news/cedar-rapids/cedar-rapids-police-solve-50-year-cold-case-of-maureen-brubaker-farley/article_c3e483ca-2631-11ec-b685-abf3a6ef8900.html https://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/crime-and-courts/2015/09/26/gone-cold-maureen-farley/72897082/?from=global&sessionKey=&autologin=