DYERSVILLE—The murder of a Dyersville man has been described as so “flawlessly committed” that it continues to stump investigators more than 30 years later.
Charles “Chuck” Francis Jaeger was found in a pool of blood in his bed at his Dyersville home in the early morning hours of Wednesday, Aug. 29, 1984.
The 37-year-old had been shot in the back of the head with a rifle or a handgun as he had been sleeping.
His wife, Eileen, reportedly found his body, surrounded by splattered blood.
Chuck Jaeger was rushed to the University of Iowa Hospitals in Iowa City, where he died at 8:23 p.m.
Law enforcement officials say the doors were locked and there was no sign of forcible entry and nothing was stolen.
The murder weapon was never found although investigators found multiple loaded weapons in the couple’s bedroom, including one in the headboard of the bed.
Jaeger’s two teenage sons were in a bedroom next to their parents’ room the night of the slaying.
They said they did not hear the shot or the ambulance sirens, and that a train roaring past, practically in the home’s backyard, muffled any sound, although records showed no trains passed during the time of the shooting.
Eileen, who told investigators she was sleeping downstairs, reportedly heard some sounds coming from her bedroom, noises that apparently got her attention. She said she found her husband’s bloody body about 4 a.m. and called for help.
The crime scene was compromised from the beginning, by necessity.
Paramedics moved Jaeger from the waterbed where he was presumed to have been shot.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation was not called in until after Jaeger was flown to Iowa City.
There are conflicting reports about the cooperation of Jaeger’s wife and sons in the investigation.
During a search of the residence, investigators collected 133 items, including numerous personal letters and love letters sent to Jaeger from women in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Memphis, Atlanta, Chicago, New York and small towns in Nebraska, South Carolina, Missouri, Florida, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
Chuck Jaeger’s brother, Ed, said Chuck had asked his wife for a divorce, but she refused.
Ed Jaeger said there was much tension in the house that summer because Eileen had found evidence of Chuck’s affairs.
Chuck had planned to leave Eileen and had moved some of his possessions to a rented apartment and had opened his own checking account, evidence showed. He worked at John Deere and ran a locksmith business out of his garage.
Investigators hold differing theories about who was involved in the murder, but possess little evidence to prove or disprove any theory.
The first step in solving the crime would be finding the gun.
Ballistics tests on the heavily-damaged .22-caliber bullet removed from Chuck’s brain were inconclusive as to the type of gun used.
DNA evidence, which was not commonly used in 1984, also could play a role in solving the crime.
Eileen Jaeger died June 7, 2015, after battling lung cancer. She was 71.
In an interview with the Dyersville Commercial last year, the brothers, Dan and Dennis, said they still live with the stigma of the unsolved case and the fact that, by virtue of their presence in the home that night, they and their mother were suspects.
With no murder weapon, no fingerprints and no eyewitness, Dennis said, “All they could do was point a finger at us.”
COLD CASE BREAKDOWN:
Who: Charles “Chuck” Jaeger
What happened: The 37-year-old was shot to death while asleep in his Dyersville home on Aug. 29, 1984.
How you can help: Contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 515-725-6010 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
ABOUT THIS SERIES:
“Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s unsolved murders” is an ongoing 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.