Search Underway After Woman Claims Dad Hid Dozens Of Bodies On Property

Lucy Studey said her late father killed 50 to 70 people and buried them on his rural Iowa property with his children's help.
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Cadaver dogs are reportedly helping comb through the rural southwest Iowa property after Lucy Studey said her father buried 50 to 70 women decades before his death.
Cadaver dogs are reportedly helping comb through the rural southwest Iowa property after Lucy Studey said her father buried 50 to 70 women decades before his death.
Douglas Sacha via Getty Images

Law enforcement officials are combing through a rural stretch of land in southwest Iowa with cadaver dogs, investigating a woman’s claim that her father murdered dozens of women and buried them on his property decades before his death.

“I know where the bodies are buried,” Lucy Studey told Newsweek of her efforts to help law enforcement locate what she said could be 50 to 70 victims of her father, Donald Dean Studey, who died in 2013 at the age of 75.

Studey, speaking to Newsweek, said that as a child, she and her siblings were forced to help dispose of her father’s victims at his property in Thurman, with many of the women dropped down a 90-to-100-foot well. She said most of his victims were sex workers or transients he picked up in nearby Omaha, Nebraska, over three decades.

“He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant,” she said. “All I want is to get these sites dug up, and to bring closure for people and to give these women a proper burial.”

Studey said that for years she’s spoken out about the horrors she witnessed, but no one took her seriously. Things changed when a local Fremont County deputy said he had heard rumors about her father growing up and agreed to go to the five-acre property with her.

“She said, ‘It should be right here somewhere,’ and I went out and found it,” Fremont Deputy Mike Wake told Newsweek of the moment they found the well, which had been filled in.

Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope, who did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment Wednesday, confirmed to the Des Moines Register that they are investigating the property after spending much of last year working on getting permission from the current owners and neighbors to search the area.

“She’s got a hell of a story, but we don’t have any proof of anything other than we had a cadaver dog hit,” Aistrope told the Register. “We’ve got to have more proof than that.”

Jim Peters, the owner and operator of Samaritan Detection Dogs, whose dogs alerted deputies to the smell of potential human remains on the property, agreed that it’s too soon to say anything nefarious occurred.

“If she is making all of this up and wanting people to believe her, she’s doing a really good job.”

“In this case, it could be odor related to this woman’s claims or it was kind of towards the top of the hill, so it could be related to a pioneer burial site, or it could be related to a Native American site,” Peters told HuffPost. “I can’t say because I don’t know.”

But based on his assessment so far, and his roughly 10 years working with law enforcement, he said that Studey appears to be a credible witness.

“What I’ve learned is to keep an open mind, particularly when it comes to crime work, and if she is making all of this up and wanting people to believe her, she’s doing a really good job. At this point, I don’t have anything that raises a red flag with me,” he said.

According to Newsweek, which had a reporter at the scene, Studey pointed out various locations on the property where she said people had been buried. The dogs went on their own to the exact locations, signaling their detection of human remains.

Peters said he was told the FBI would get more involved in the coming weeks and may have their dogs brought in to help the search. An FBI representative told HuffPost that they could neither confirm nor deny the investigation and their involvement.

Studey’s older sister, Susan Studey, denied that their father was a murderer, telling Newsweek that she believes any remains detected by the dogs belong to animals or her father’s stillborn sister, who was buried on the property.

Attempts to reach Susan and Lucy Studey for comment Wednesday were not immediately successful.

The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation confirmed to HuffPost that it is assisting the sheriff’s office with the investigation. Assistant Director Mitch Mortvedt described it as “in the infancy stages with a lot of work to be completed” and said there was no other information available at this time.

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