DES MOINES—A young woman’s badly decomposed body was found in the trunk of a car in a parking lot near the Des Moines International Airport on Thursday, July 10, 1975.
The body later was determined to be 21-year-old Diane Marie Schofield. An autopsy indicated Schofield died of strangulation.
Her body was found fully clothed in a green halter top and blue jeans, but with no shoes. Her hands were tied behind her back and her feet bound with twine near the ankles.
She had been strangled with a strip of knotted cloth. The body showed no other apparent signs of violence. Based on evidence and witness accounts, investigators think she was killed sometime after 9 p.m. Monday, July 7.
Police said robbery did not appear to be a motive because Schofield still wore her $200 watch and several turquoise rings.
The tan 1966 Rambler in which her body was found was registered to the victim. The car was located in the parking lot of Warren’s Steakhouse at the intersection of Southwest 20th Street and Porter Avenue just east of the airport. A parking lot sweeper for the restaurant noticed an odor coming from a car in the parking lot and alerted authorities.
Schofield was last seen alive shortly after 9 p.m. Monday, July 7, at the Apco Service Station at 2324 Forest Ave., which is near Drake University.
An attendant at the station said Schofield bought cigarettes and mentioned she was going to be late for work.
Schofield had been employed as a waitress and as a masseuse at several massage parlors in Des Moines. Her last place of employment was Dave Salem’s Foozin’ ’n’ Boozin’, a tavern at 1803 Keosauqua Way, at few blocks east of the Apco Service Station where she was last seen.
Police records showed Schofield, a divorced mother of a 5-year-old daughter, was sentenced in January 1975 to five years in the Iowa Women’s Reformatory for carrying a concealed .22-caliber pistol but was placed on probation. She had been arrested on the charge the previous April.
The attorney who represented Schofield in her concealed weapon charge said she told him that she had been asked to be some type of informant relating to drugs. Officers connected with Schofield’s investigation said they had no knowledge of her being an informant.
A longtime friend said he thought more than one person killed Schofield because she was strong and knew karate.
Schofield’s gravestone lists her date of death as July 4 — the day her closest friends last saw her alive. The day also coincides with the medical examiner’s initial findings. He later revised his ruling after Des Moines police said they had interviewed witnesses who saw her alive on July 7. The examiner said he made the original estimate without taking the period’s high temperatures into consideration.
In January 2015, Schofield’s sister, Twyla Johnson, and family friend Amy Sauve launched a public Facebook group, “Justice for Diane Schofield.” The group is hoping to find answers about what happened to Diane more than four decades ago.
COLD CASE BREAKDOWN:
Who: Diane Marie Schofield
What happened: The body of the 21-year-old was found in the trunk of her car in a parking lot near the Des Moines International Airport on July 10, 1975. She had been strangled.
How you can help: Contact detective Matt Towers of the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4981 or the Des Moines Police Department at 515-283-4864.
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.