Post by Joanna on Nov 11, 2013 0:44:54 GMT -5
Was Money Motive in Murder of Elderly Iowa Woman?
KENSETT, Iowa – To her neighbors and church community, 81-year-old Mildred Clemenson was a kind-hearted woman. Described as a “good old Norwegian,” Clemenson was a regular attendee at Elk Creek Lutheran Church and liked to offer cookies and coffee when people were at her house, said her former neighbor Julie Gore. To many, she was known simply as Millie.
When authorities taped off Clemenson’s 80-acre property about seven miles west of Kensett on Nov. 11, 1998, and news spread that she had been killed, Gore said the small community of Kensett couldn’t believe it. “We were shocked and devastated when we heard what had happened,” Gore said.
According to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, Clemenson was last seen on Nov. 9, but was found two days later by her adopted daughter, Marcia Patton. Someone attacked Clemenson in her mobile home at 3926 Ironwood Ave., next to the family farmhouse. Clemenson and her husband, Gunder, had previously lived there until Gunder died the year before. Patton, her husband, Ron, and their two children lived there at the time of her murder, authorities stated.
Autopsy showed Clemenson died from cranial cerebral trauma due to blunt trauma injury – or simply put, a blow to the head. “All we know is that she’s dead and she didn’t do it herself,” then Worth County Attorney Doug Krull told the Tribune in 1998.
Gerard Meyers, assistant director of field operations for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, declined to release any information about the alleged weapon but noted Clemenson planned to leave for a winter home in Arizona on November 10 and had already purchased her plane ticket. She was buried November 18, 1998, in the Elk Creek Lutheran Cemetery.
Questions abound. Saturday was the 15th anniversary of Clemenson’s death, and no arrests have been made. The last time someone from the public submitted a tip to police about the case was in 2000, Meyers said.
The DCI official said authorities conducted several interviews with people who had contact with the house and analyzed property from the residence. A handful of people were also re-interviewed, which tends to indicate they may be a person of interest, Meyers added.
Though he declined to give details, Meyers confirmed the Pattons have been investigated. “There’s a whole section in the investigation on her daughter and Ron Patton,” Meyers revealed. Two months after Clemenson’s death, authorities raided the Patton home and vehicle and seized financial records. The Pattons quickly hired criminal defense lawyer Montgomery Brown of Des Moines to represent them.
“No one has told me she’s a suspect, but there are community rumors,” Brown told the Mason City Globe-Gazette in 1999. A call made by the Tribune to Brown for this story wasn’t returned, and the Pattons couldn’t be located.
An inheritance. According to Iowa Cold Cases, an online organization that researches cold cases and seeks to find answers to solve them, Clemenson received some money from the estate for Mable Bitker, her late stepmother, near the time of her death. The Tribune could not confirm the amount of money left to Clemenson, but on November 9, the day before her scheduled trip to Arizona, she allegedly went to the bank to cash in a large bond. Sometime after returning home, she was killed.
According to the website, Clemenson reportedly told a family member the day before her murder that once she got to Arizona she did not want to return to Iowa because all her family wanted was her money. There was also controversy about the land where the farmhouse and trailer were located. After her mother’s death, Marcia Patton reportedly sold the property out from under the leaseholder, though her parents had agreed if they ever sold the land, that particular leaseholder could have the first right to purchase it.
Todd Rothove, who lives two houses north of the former Clemenson property, said he remembers picking corn when he found out about Clemenson’s death. He recalled times when he was younger and would go over to the Clemenson house when Millie’s husband, Gunder, was still alive. Rothove described Gunder as an “ornery character” and Millie as giggly and laughing. “We grew up pretty much all in the same neighborhood,” he said. “The whole thing sounded pretty bizarre. I remember thinking this is not supposed to be happening.”
Though many questions remain, Meyers said cold cases in Iowa are reviewed annually. In the Clemenson murder, there hasn’t been a lot of movement, but if anyone has any information tied to the case, they are asked to contact Meyers at 515-725-6015.
Source: The Austin (Minn.) Daily Herald, November 10, 2013.