OTTUMWA — Re-testing of DNA evidence has led law enforcement authorities to tie a former suspect and convicted murder to a 1984 triple homicide in southeast Iowa.
Mike Motsinger, special agent in charge with the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigations, said that DNA evidence recovered from one of the victims matched a previously developed DNA profile of Andrew Wessel Six. Six was convicted of a separate murder of a girl from the Ottumwa area and executed by lethal injection in Missouri in 1997.
The new information stems from a triple homicide involving Justin Hook, Jr. 20, Sara Link, 41, and Tina Lade, 19. All three people died of blunt force trauma and were discovered within a few days of each other in April of 1984, but a murder weapon and motive were never clear. Police have indicated all three were beaten to death with a blunt object.
Motsinger said Hook was found outside his burnt trailer in rural Drakesville, Iowa April 13, 1984, his mother, Link was found April 16 in a farm field off of a gravel road in rural Eldon, Iowa and Lade — who was dating Hook at the time of the homicide — was found in the same vicinity April 18. Police said footprints found near Lade and Link’s bodies appeared to be from the same person.
After the DCI Cold Case Unit, Davis County, and Wapello County Sheriff’s offices started a review of the case in Aug. 2011, they re-submitted evidence recovered from the inside of the jeans of Lade to the DCI lab for analysis in March 2012. Motsinger said the only DNA profile that matched was Six’s. But even with a DNA match, Motsinger said officers had to go back over the whole case to make sure Six was responsible and re-interview people.
“Just because someone’s DNA is there, you can’t just rush to judgement so you have to start over and act like it’s a brand new case,” Motsinger said. “It’s a 30-year-old homicide and people move, change names, get married, pass away, so we had to do our due diligence as law enforcement officers to make sure every one was interviewed and to follow up on every possible rumor out there so we could get to this point today to feel confident that Mr. Six was responsible for it.”
Motsinger said law enforcement has DNA evidence tying Six to the murders of Lade and Link, but not Hook. However, they are confident he is responsible due to the similar cause of death, the fact that they were found around the same time and relation between the victims.
His DNA was likely taken when he was arrested in 1987 for the abduction and murder of Kathy Allen from the Ottumwa area, along with his uncle Donald Petary. Allen’s body was found in Missouri. Motsinger said Six was a suspect in the initial triple homicide investigation because he was involved in burglaries in the area and police had determined Hook and Six had some kind of disagreement over a vehicle purchase around the time of the murders.
Motsinger said Six denied knowing Lade during an interview in 1984, and, though police tried to talk to him about the murders again before his execution, he was uncooperative.
Though the motive remains unclear, Wapello County Sheriff Mark Miller said Friday that the murder likely had something to do with the vehicle purchase.
And now, 30 years after the case, a Coralville woman said she feels she finally has closure for the loving family members she’s missed.
Cindy Moyes, 50, was only 21 when she lost her mother and best friend, Link, and brother, Hook 30 years ago. Moyes said she hadn’t been in touch with law enforcement on the case until they recently got in touch telling her they thought the had a break. She said she didn’t expect the case to be solved.
“It’s been a lot of emotions, it’s been a little roller-coastery,” Moyes said of her reaction to the news. “It’s been almost 30 years but it just brings it all back and it’s good for the closure and to have an idea of what happened to them and to know that this person was only out there another three years and then did it again and spent the rest of his life in prison.”
She said she had no previous indication Six may have been responsible for the murders before hearing information from police.
“My mom was my best friend and when I lost her it was very hard,” Moyes said. “I would really like to thank all the people who helped me through that, mostly because I was 21 and newly out on my own with a small young family and I had really strong support from friends and family,” Moyes said after Friday’s press conference. “My phone has been ringing off the hook.”
Citing the fact that grant funding for the DCI Cold Case Unit was exhausted in Dec. 2011, Moyes added that funding for the unit is important, because it was the only way she was able to get closure in the murder of her family members.