Mystery surrounds the case of an Iowa man, now deceased, whose daughter believes him to be a prolific serial killer who has never been caught. But her older sister says their father was merely a disciplinarian, not a murderer.
Lucy Studey claims her father, Donald Dean Studey, forced her along with her sister to dump bodies of women he killed into a 100-foot well on the family’s farm property in Iowa over the span of decades.
Her sister, Susan Studey, rejected the idea. “My father was not the man she makes him out to be,” she told Newsweek. “He was strict, but he was a protective parent who loved his children… Strict fathers don’t just turn into serial killers.”
For 45 years, Lucy Studey alleged her father abducted and killed up to 70 people, all women except for two men. She would tell teachers, principals and priests as far back as second grade, some of whom told her to keep family secrets within the family. She also contacted law enforcement in Nebraska and Iowa over the years, but she says her claims were dismissed as the imaginings of a precocious child. She was a preteen at the time.
(Video: ABC 7)
About 10 years ago, a deputy sheriff responded to the younger sister’s allegations, but upon surveying the grounds of their 5-acre farm in Thurman, IA, he could not find the well in question. Then Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Wake received a call last year which somehow reignited interest in the case. He recalled hearing stories of Donald Studey and his violent, often inebriated temperament. Chief among his supposed hobbies were gambling and fighting. He died in March 2013 at the age of 75.
Lucy Studey was able to pinpoint the well for Deputy Wake even though the lands had been heavily bulldozed. Two Heeler dogs were used in searching the property and they reportedly found the scent of human remains in several spots.
But Susan believes the dogs were fooled by the remains of Donald Studey’s stillborn sister as well as a golden retriever, both buried on the property.
Lucy Studey has offered to submit to a lie detector test, and she has given two recorded statements to both the FBI and the sheriff’s department. She told authorities their father forced the two sisters to use a wheelbarrow in the warmer months and a toboggan in winter to move the corpses across the farmland and into the well. The women, she said, were typically sex workers her father had picked up in Omaha, Nebraska.
Still, the elder sister maintains her father’s innocence.
“The first time I ever heard about bodies was when I talked to Lucy about a year ago,” Susan Studey said. “My father was not the man she makes him out to be. He was strict, but he was a protective parent who loved his children… Strict fathers don’t just turn into serial killers… I’m two years older than Lucy. I think I would know if my father murdered. I would know if my dad was a serial killer. He was not, and I want my father’s name restored.”
A third sister could not be reached by the outlet and their brother committed suicide at the age of 39. Police records confirmed that Studey’s two wives preceded him in death, both having killed themselves as well.
The FBI and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation are assisting local police in the investigation, but as no remains have been found thus far, the area has not yet been declared a crime scene.
Lucy Studey is searching for closure.
“All I want is to get these sites dug up, and to bring closure for people and to give these women a proper burial. My father was a lifelong criminal and murderer.”
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