OTTUMWA, Iowa (AP) — A killer who was executed in Missouri for the 1987 murder of a 12-year-old girl was also responsible for a long-unsolved triple homicide in Iowa three years earlier, investigators announced Friday.
New DNA evidence implicates Andrew W. Six in the 1984 bludgeoning deaths of 20-year-old Justin Hook Jr.; Hook's fiancee, 19-year-old Tina Lade; and Hook's mother, 41-year-old Sara Link, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller announced.
"What we know for sure is that Andy Six is responsible," Miller said at a news conference at his office in Ottumwa, in southeast Iowa.
Missouri authorities executed Six, then 32, by lethal injection in 1997 for the kidnapping and murder of 12-year-old Kathy Allen. Six and his uncle kidnapped the girl from her family's trailer in Ottumwa, then slit her throat and dumped her in northern Missouri.
Retired DCI supervisor Sam Swaim said that Six was always a suspect in the 1984 triple homicide, but that investigators could not come up with enough evidence to charge him. He said that he was happy that scientific evidence has linked Six to the crime but wishes Six had been caught earlier.
"I regret that we didn't get that case solved. That would have saved Kathy Allen's life," he told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Hook's body was found one day after his trailer was burnt down in rural Drakesville, a sleepy town of 200 people near the Missouri border, in April 1984. When authorities tried to notify Hook's mother, they learned that she was missing.
Days later, a farmer found her body on a hilly, wooded section of his property near Eldon, about 15 miles northeast of Drakesville. Two days later, police dogs found the body of Lade in a ravine a half-mile from where Link's body was recovered. Investigators said all three had been killed by blows to the head.
The discovery of the bodies shook the rural area with little violent crime. Hook had given Lade, of Ottumwa, an engagement ring days before their deaths on the birthday they shared, when she turned 19 and he turned 20.
Several relatives of the victims attended the Friday news conference where investigators announced their conclusion. Among them was 32-year-old Justin David Hook, Hook's son, who was 2 years old at the time his father was murdered. Now a mechanic in St. Louis, he said that he doesn't remember his father and thought he would go his whole life not knowing how he was killed.
"I've been waiting my whole life to come up here and do this," he told AP. "At least it's something."
Investigators said they believe that Six killed the three after a dispute over payment for a used car he sold Hook and that he burnt down the trailer to conceal evidence.
No murder weapon was ever found, and no arrests were made.
A DCI cold case unit re-examined the case in 2011, sending DNA material believed to be sperm that was recovered from Lade's jeans to a laboratory for testing. A DNA profile was developed and matched that of Six, who had given his DNA to Missouri authorities while he was incarcerated. Six had denied during an interview in 1984 that he ever met Lade.
DCI supervisor Mike Motsinger said solid evidence, including the DNA and matching footwear impressions discovered near both bodies, ties Six to the deaths of Lade and Link. The footwear evidence had led authorities to focus on Six in 1984. Similar footwear impressions were taken from a car that Six sold after the homicides, but that wasn't enough to make an arrest, Motsinger said.
Investigators concluded that Six was also responsible for Hook's death at the trailer, but acknowledged there was no physical evidence putting him there. They believe that he acted alone, Motsinger said.
Three years after Six apparently got away with those murders, he terrorized the Allen family.
Six and his uncle, Donald Petary, went to the family's trailer under the pretense of buying a used pickup truck from the Allens. In reality, they had planned to rob the family and rape their oldest daughter, who was a pregnant teenager at the time. Six raped the teen, then slit her mother's throat with a butcher knife. The men then grabbed Kathy Allen and headed south.
They were arrested in Texas the next day. Petary led police to Kathy's body — in a muddy ditch along a gravel road about 20 miles south of the Iowa border. She had bled to death after her throat was slashed. Petary died in prison in 1998 while awaiting execution.
Investigators tried to re-interview Six about the triple homicide before his execution, but he "was uncooperative," Motsinger said.
Cynthia Moyes, Link's daughter and Hook's sister, said the deaths have been hard to live with. She said Friday's news finally brought some closure but also makes her miss her once tight-knit family.
"My mom was my best friend, and I lost her at age 21," she said.