"Gone Cold": Dorothy Coon

The death of Dorothy Coon of Des Moines remains unsolved. Her clothed body was found in a ditch alongside a country road north of Chariton in August of 1960. Photo submitted

CHARITON—One of Iowa’s oldest cold cases involves a divorced mother of two found dead in a ditch alongside a county road in Lucas County, about 12 miles north of Chariton.

The body of 38-year-old Dorothy Ruth Coon of Des Moines was discovered Monday evening, Aug. 29, 1960, by a farmer mowing weeds. Coon was clad in a dark green dress and white shoes. Her purse was found one mile away.

The gravel road was a shortcut from Des Moines to Coon’s parents’ farm east of Chariton.

Authorities said Coon had been dead two or three days before her body was found. Her official date of death is listed as Aug. 26.

Preliminary reports showed no wounds on Coon’s body, but authorities noted there were bruises on the throat area and fractured neck bones indicating she may have been strangled.

Officials conducted a careful search of weeds and bushes along a mile of roadside ditches near where Coon’s body was found, but the search failed to provide any significant clues to her murder.

Heavy rains over the weekend may have washed away or covered up footprints, tire tracks or other clues involving in her slaying.

Coon was a department store business office clerk and divorced mother of two teenage children.

She and her ex-husband, Richard Coon, had divorced 10 years earlier after Richard left Dorothy to be with another woman. Richard Coon would not pay child support or alimony, but continued to occasionally meet up with his ex-wife in Des Moines.

Richard eventually married the woman he left Dorothy to be with, and he and his new wife relocated to Albia the year before Dorothy Coon’s murder.

Richard Coon was questioned in his ex-wife’s murder, but said he was home that evening with his new wife and her son. Polygraph test results were inconclusive.

The Coon children were living with Dorothy at the time of her murder but were asleep when she left the house late on Friday night.

“There is no question that this is a murder,” Tillman Thompson, chief of the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation, told a reporter on Aug. 31. He declined to comment on possible motives.


Who: Dorothy Ruth Coon

What happened: The body of the 38-year-old Des Moines woman was found in a gravel road ditch near Chariton on Aug. 29, 1960.

How you can help: Contact the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 515-725-6010 or e-mail dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us or contact the Des Moines Police Department Detective Bureau at 515-283-4864.


“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.