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COLD CASES: Iowa woman is seeking answers for the forgotten

Iowa Cold Cases
Iowa Cold Cases
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Ashley Oakland, Layne Schneider, Breighton Ackerman. These are just a few of names of the homicide victims and missing persons whose cases have gone cold.

"People in small communities often know exactly what happen but bodies aren't found," said Jody Ewing, founder of Iowa Cold Cases.

And though the memories of their dark past could have faded away, their stories are saved and documented by Iowa Cold Cases.

It is to be the most trusted database as well as the first of its kind in the state of Iowa, featuring over 600 cold cases in the state.

Cases going as far back to the late 1800s, including a homicide in Sioux City, prohibitionist preacher Reverend George Haddock, shot in the corner of Third and Water Streets on the night of August 3rd, 1886.

Witnesses said John Arensdorf, the head of a brewing company, was responsible. Authorities charged him with first degree murder, but he was later found not guilty. Over a hundred years later, Jody Ewing is still looking for answers.

"It's a real desire to give someone an answer to one of the most important questions of their life," said Ewing.

She's the founder of Iowa Cold Cases. A site providing various victim case summaries, users can search by name, city, county, the year the crime happened and decade.

"I just did the research, go through old news paper articles. Talked to family members, talked to law enforcement, past and present investigators and got the case out there on the Iowa Cold Cases website, and once people started noticing the cases then the law enforcement would start seeing comments, and once they saw there was interest in the case, they would go out and start asking questions, but they were the ones that were knocking on the doors, doing interviews, making the arrests, presenting the information to the county attorney," said Ewing.

Before she launched the website in 2005, she was already writing about cold cases for the Sioux City Weekender.

Her first one in 2004, about a 1974 triple homicide at a Morningside home. A case, that Ewing worked closely with Sioux City Police Captain Lisa Claeys, who was a lieutenant at the time.

"I think that she's a great resource and I admire her passion for what she's doing. It means a lot to her. It really is. Her heart's in the right place," said Cpt. Lisa Claeys, Sioux City Police Department.

And as Ewing continued her efforts, looking for answer, tragedy struck very own her family.

In September 2007, her step-father Earl Thelander died from burns he suffered in an explosion after burglars stole copper water lines from his Onawa property.

His death is now among the unsolved.

"She'll start working on a project with the cold cases earlier in the day," said Dennis Ryan, Ewing's husband.

Ryan said Iowa Cold Case is her life.

"And there's been nights when I'll wake up at 1 or 2 o'clock in the morning and she'll still be sitting there where she hadn't finished up what she wanted to get finished for the day," said Ryan.

Ewing is described as a person who isn't giving up helping families find the voices of their loved ones, a promise she keeps, where hope is never laid to rest.

"I think once you start to understand who the victim is and understand more about their life and what they meant to these family members, it's a passion."

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