By MARK NEWMAN Courier staff writer
OTTUMWA — Family members were both smiling and crying after getting some of the answers in their loved ones' murder.
The Wapello County Sheriff’s office, Davis County Sheriff’s office and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation revealed in a joint press conference that they have unraveled significant portions of the Davis County 1984 triple homicide of Justin Hook Jr., 20; Sara Link, 41; and Tina Lade, 19.
Justin was said to be engaged to Lade, and Link was Hook's mother.
The evidence with "the highest probability of obtaining DNA evidence," recovered from the inside of the jeans of murder victim Lade, was re-submitted to the DCI lab for analysis in March 2012. The evidence matched a DNA profile previously taken from Andrew Wessel Six when he was tested during his time in prison. The DNA likely came from seminal fluid, Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller said, though the autopsy in the '80s did not reveal evidence of sexual assault.
DCI Special Agent in Charge Michael Motsinger's department has reached the conclusion, via direct evidence, that Six was responsible for the murder of both Link and Lade.
The crime investigation had been re-opened by the DCI "Cold Case" unit in 2011. Though an end to federal funding closed that division, DCI supervisors decided to permit the investigation to continue.
Though the public may assume that Six was also involved in the death of Hook, "there is no direct evidence linking Six to the murder of Justin Hook," Motsinger told reporters Friday at the Wapello County Law Center.
Part of the evidence that helped convince investigators was a set of shoe impressions taken from around the crime scene. Those impressions were later matched to shoe impressions taken from Six. Though that evidence was available in 1984, police acknowledge, it does not appear to have been strong enough probable cause for authorities to take the case to trial. However, previous sheriffs in Wapello and Davis counties had thought enough of the case to hang onto key evidence in the triple murder, Miller said.
"We wouldn't be where we were if it hadn't been for the 1984 work done by DCI, the Wapello County Sheriff's Office and the Davis County Sheriff's Office," Motsinger said.
The current Davis County Sheriff, Dave Davis, said after the press conference that there are still unanswered questions. Miller said he still had questions, as did the family. Those questions may go unresolved. Keep in mind, Davis added, that if anyone has evidence in the case, he is still perfectly willing to review and investigate further.
Investigators suspect the motive may have involved frustration over the sale of a car.
It was on April 13, 1984, that the Davis County Sheriff’s Office requested DCI help with a death investigation in rural Drakesville. A deceased male was discovered, later identified as Hook. It was determined that Hook had been beaten to death.
The following day, Link was reported missing. On April 16, her body was discovered in a farm field off of a rural Eldon road in Wapello County. From the evidence at the scene, the agent said it looked like Link "was taken to the area and subsequently beaten to death."
On April 18, 1984, Lade was found in the same rural Wapello County vicinity where Link’s body had been found.
Six was, Motsinger said, a suspect in the investigation in 1984 but was never charged. However, Six was arrested and charged in 1987 for the abduction and murder of Kathy Allen from the Ottumwa area. Allen’s body was recovered in Schuyler County, Mo.
Six and another man were convicted of murder in the first degree and sentenced to death. Investigators reached out to Six regarding the Hook, Link and Lade murders; he refused to cooperate.
In August 1997, Six was executed by lethal injection in Missouri.
After Friday's press conference, Motsinger told the Courier it's rewarding for him and his agents to help family members achieve some measure of peace. A family member of two victims in the homicide went a step further.
Asked if he wanted a chance to comment, John Crutcher of Keokuk, who is Link's son and Hook's brother, said he had something simple and brief to share.
"The Cold Case Unit of DCI needs [continued] funding so no other family has to wait 30 years for a crime like this to be solved."
— To follow reporter Mark Newman on Twitter, see @CourierMark