OSKALOOSA–– It’s been over thirty years since a lady out for her morning stroll came across a body lying in a creek bed near her farm in Rose Hill, Iowa.
It had been a moonless night on Oct. 5, 1986 and down a gravel road a bicycle lay near the middle of the bridge. Underneath the bridge, in a two feet-deep swell in the creek lay Denease Latham from What Cheer.
For all intents and purposes, it looked as if the 24-year-old mother of three had a bicycle accident and wrecked an over a bridge into a creek bed. In the last few years, the death of Denease Latham has appeared on the Iowa Cold Case’s website even though the autopsy report ruled the death as an accidental drowning — leading some to wonder this might not have been accident.
Retired Sheriff Paul DeGeest received a call that Sunday morning in 1986.
“A lady out walking came across a body lying in a pool of water under a small bridge around 8 a.m.," he said.
DeGeest said he arrived on scene shortly thereafter and he saw a bicycle on the bridge and a female lying face down in two feet of water. Then-Sheriff Joe Beal also came out.
“We took lots of photos,” DeGeest said.
From first impressions, DeGeest and Beal believed it was a terrible accident. They didn’t know who it was until later on when she was identified.
According to law enforcement reports, the Saturday night before, Latham had been at Rose Hill at the West End Tavern. Then she went with her husband Robin and a few others to an after party at the tavern owner’s house.
There were reports of a verbal argument between them and Latham left the house and was allegedly not seen again until the next day when local law enforcement found her at the scene.
It has been reported that Denease took a bicycle from a yard and rode toward the bridge on Ventura Ave. in Rose Hill.
DeGeest has since retired but still feels the impact of what he called the “suspicious circumstances” involved.
“This case has haunted me. I have been able unlike many law enforcement to ‘not take things home with me at night.’ But this case… I would like to see it solved,” said DeGeest.
Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem said he is taking a look at the case too.
“We are actively looking into the case among others,” he said.
Whether it was an accident or something else, there are still people looking for answers.
Local law enforcement, retired and active, and especially the family are looking to resolve this case.
“The family really needs closure,” said Van Renterghem. He said there are currently no suspects but there are possible persons of interest.
If anyone has any information, please contact Sheriff Russell Van Renterghem at (641) 673-4322.
The Oskaloosa Herald will continue to explore this story.
Staff Writer Shelly Ragen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.