OSKALOOSA — A chilling unsolved homicide that happened in the early 1970s on 506 High Avenue East is all but closed according to law enforcement officials. And like so many cold cases, it’s the internet that keeps it alive.
Iowa Cold Cases, a nonprofit and volunteer service is staffed soley by Jody Ewing (iowacoldcases.org) has dedicated her life to the thousands of cold cases in the state of Iowa. That’s a daunting task for one person working for the lost and forgotten.
Mahaska County has several cold cases. None of which are opened or being investigated by local officials or the DCI. Mahaska County Sheriff Russ Van Renterghem is the only known officer to have looked into one particular case, but the files have gone missing causing a hiccup in an already difficult endeavor.
Edward Arthur Schmidt was an 85-year-old bachelor and local attorney found beaten to death in his basement law office on Thursday, Jan. 13, 1972.
The known details of the case are as follows: Schmidt had been stabbed in the chest four times in what officials believed was an attempted robbery, though police found $166.46 under a pile of papers on Schmidt’s desk and about $21,000 in cash in a safe in the next room.
Iowa Cold Case website described Schmidt has a “life-long introvert and frugal bachelor who practiced law in Oskaloosa for most of his life. He left an estate valued at $1.5 million. Few knew about the wealth he had accumulated over the years by investments in stock, real estate holdings and savings, even oil rights in 33 Oklahoma counties.”
Then there is the mystery of the missing will. According to a Des Moines Register article back in 1975 by Gene Raffensperger the only closest blood relatives were one nephew and niece. An old will from 1917 had Schmidt bequeathing $10,000 to Drake University College.
The only friend of the victim who also worked for him claimed that “Schmidt had drafted another will in 1962 which included Drake receiving the bulk of his estate.”
It was since decided that Schmidt died intestate — having no will since neither document could be found.
The Mahaska County District Court appointed then Oskaloosa attorney Joe P. Crookham as administrator for Schmidt’s Estate and three years later it was all divied out.
Wilmer Breeden, a nephew of Schmidt, received $117,387. Mabel Smith Denham, a niece, received $201,440 and so on down the line to more familial connects with Drake receiving at compromise $250,000.
Upton received $37,500 for his lifetime services to Schmidt a sizeable deduction from his claim for $150,000.
Upton did provide the court with a 46-page journal in which he kept meticulous track of all the errands and work he had provided for Schmidt.
At the time, the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation agent Waye L. Sheston offered his apologies to the public for the unsolved murder and said he would continue to work on it.
Online speculations and theories are the only thing giving this case air. One person wrote that the crime scene had been trampled by everyone and in 1972 forensic science hadn’t made the grade yet.
Multiple off the record sources have claimed that Schmidt kept his updated will in the pocket of his suit jacket. When he was found, the will was gone.
Edward Arthur Schmidt was born September 12, 1886 to Henrietta (Mehlin) Schmidt and Henry David Schmidt in Nira, Iowa. He had two sisters, Julia Schmidt Breeden and Tilla Schmidt and two brothers William and Alexander.
If anyone has any information concerning this unsolved homicide please contact the Oskaloosa Police Department at 641-673-3201.
Herald staff writer Shelly Ragen can be reached at email@example.com.