CORNING—Sometimes anniversaries are a joy to celebrate. We gather to acknowledge some sort of togetherness. But not all anniversaries are joyous.
For Jason White, May 21, the day that his brother Chad’s life was cut short, is not only a day to remember the older brother, it brings along a sharp sting.
Twenty-three years after his brother’s murder, Jason still is without answers. He doesn’t know why his brother was killed, or by whom.
“At this point, unfortunately, I don’t think it will ever be solved,” he said. “There wasn’t the kind of evidence collected then. There’s just no real clues. We need people to come forward with what they know.
“I can’t help but think that in such a small town, somebody, somewhere knows what happened,” White said. “My only hope is that they come forward so we can finally put this to rest.”
What happened that night May 21, 1993, one day after their engagement announcement had run in the Adams County Free Press, 21-year-old Chad White and his fiancée, Dixie Kinser, returned to their home on Davis Avenue in Corning, a community of about 1,635 in southwest Iowa. White and Kinser had last been seen riding Chad’s motorcycle around town and visiting friends that evening.
Shortly after they are believed to have arrived at home; a neighbor with an open window reported hearing what sounded like at least one gunshot and seconds later Kinser crying for help.
Chad was shot as he entered their darkened home. Dixie screamed and turned to run back outside. As she was attempting to flee, she was shot once in the back, sustaining serious injuries.
Jason White, who was 18 at the time, remembers driving toward his brother’s home en route to his girlfriend’s house and being passed by a Corning police officer.
“As we came over the hill, I noticed the cop was stopped in front of Chad’s house,” he said. “I pulled up behind him to see the officer run out of the house, gun drawn and run around to the back. I walked into the yard and saw Dixie lying face down with her Casey’s jacket all torn and covered in blood. She was having trouble breathing.
“I tried to go in the house, but a neighbor wouldn’t let me in. The officer came back around and I asked him what had happened,” White said. “All he would tell me was that they had been shot. He wouldn’t tell me if Chad was dead or alive. I watched the ambulance arrive and take Dixie and I noticed that they didn’t take my brother.”
Autopsy reports later showed that Chad had died of a single gunshot wound to the head. The weapon used was a 20-gauge shotgun.
Jason remembers taking his girlfriend home, then going to his aunt’s house to call his parents. His dad, who lived in Illinois, was on his way to Corning for Jason’s high school graduation that coming Sunday. Jason remembers his dad showed up to find out that his oldest son had been murdered.
Suddenly, instead of celebrating a Saturday bridal shower and Sunday graduation, the Whites found themselves planning a funeral while they were in fear for Dixie’s safety. Kinser was later released from an Omaha, NE, hospital.
As the weeks stretched into months, authorities still were at a loss for a motive in the case. Following the murder, Iowa’s Department of Criminal Investigation worked with Corning Police to conduct interviews.
An article in the Aug. 30, 1993, issue of the Creston News Advertiser quotes then Corning police chief Roger Ruchti as saying, “We’ve had 12 officers working on this and we’ve interviewed at least 270 people. Somewhere, sometime it will all fall together.”
At that point, the Adams County Crime Stoppers were offering a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction. By June 1, 1995, more than two years after the attack, the reward had grown to $5,000, yet still no information came forward.
As of June 1995, Ruchti reported that he still was working with DCI on a weekly basis and by that time had interviewed more than 300 individuals. At that time, Ruchti said his biggest frustration was that local residents were not offering any information about the events that could help them narrow the investigation.
Immediately following the attack, early speculation of motive revolved around one of two or three possibilities. There was a possibility that drugs were involved, although neither Kinser nor Chad White were involved in drug use.
Some speculated that there may have been a love triangle, a theory that was ruled out by law enforcement. Finally, it’s possible that it was a case of mistaken address. The assailant was already in the White-Kinser home when the residents returned for the evening. Chad White entered the house without turning on any lights, and it is possible that the shooter did not see Chad’s face.
Jason thinks one possible reason no one came forward with any information regarding his brother’s murder is his own drug-related arrest two months later, while the investigation still was fresh.
“I think people saw that and just assumed that since the brother was arrested for possession, that Chad was also into drugs. I think they just wrote us off, but Chad had nothing to do with my issues. I do think it hurt the case though,” Jason said.
May 27, 1994, just over one year after Chad’s death, Gerald White, Chad and Jason’s father, took his own life.
“Dad had struggled with mental illness, but I think losing his son and having no answers about why was just the last straw,” Jason said. “I feel like not only did I lose my brother that day, but I lost my dad too. He never did recover.”
“That whole night is burned into my brain. I’ve told the story so many times, and I remember it so clearly. It took me several years to feel safe walking into my own home. I would have to psych myself up to walk through my front door and then I would have to check the whole house before I felt at ease,” he said.
Twenty-three years later, Chad White’s murder has gone unsolved for longer than his 21 years alive. And it will remain that way unless someone with information regarding the circumstances of that night contacts the Iowa DCI.
“I spoke with an officer at the DCI a couple of years ago and learned that because they don’t have the money, cold cases don’t get continuously investigated. New information or clues will be investigated, but they don’t actively try to solve cold cases,” Jason said.
“It’s frustrating because in a town the size of Corning, someone has to know something. I can’t help but think that if it had been one of the pillars of society, it would have been solved right away,” he said. “But my brother was just an ordinary, average person. Somebody somewhere knows what happened. My only hope is that they come forward so we can finally put it to rest.”
Jacki Bardole is the editor of The Adams County Free Press in Corning. She may be reached at email@example.com.
COLD CASE BREAKDOWN:
Who: Chad William White
What happened: The 21-year-old was shot to death on Friday, May 21, 1993, in the Corning home he shared with his fiancée. She also was shot but survived.
How you can help: Contact the Adams County Sheriff’s Department at 641-322-4444.
ABOUT THIS SERIES:
“Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s unsolved murders” is a yearlong collaborative effort by Iowa news organizations to revisit some of the most brutal and mystifying homicides in the state’s history. The N’West Iowa REVIEW is presenting some of the unsolved homicides in the hope that they will lead to new tips and potentially help solve cases.