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State and local officials investigate claim of a southwest Iowa serial killer

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A woman claims her late father killed between 50 and 70 women over the course of several decades.

Local and state officials are investigating a daughter’s claim that her father was a prolific serial killer in western Iowa, according to a report by Newsweek, who broke the story.

The woman reported to local authorities that her father, the late Donald Dean Studey, forced her and his other children to help in the disposal of at least 50 bodies on his rural property near Thurman, 36 miles south of Council Bluffs.

Newsweek reported that two cadaver detection dogs picked up the scent of human remains on four sites in a search of the property last week. The daughter claims many of the victim’s bodies were buried in and around a 90 to 100 foot well that has since been filled in.

Studey died in 2013, at the age of 75.

Law enforcement authorities suspect Studey killed sex workers or transient women that he picked up from Omaha. The Fremont County sheriff Kevin Aistrope told the Des Moines Register that his department began investigating the claims brought forth by daughter, Lucy Studey – who asked Newsweek to be identified only by her maiden name – in 2021.

Local authorities told Newsweek that they believe the daughter’s story and will continue investigating. They have enlisted the help of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations to put together a plan for moving forward.

The Iowa DCI said information is still preliminary and the division will follow the evidence, according to the Omaha World-Herald. Mitch Mortvedt, assistant director of Iowa DCI, told IPR News that there is no further information it can release on the investigation at this time.

"It is in the infancy stages and we do not have a timeline," Mortvedt said in a statement.

If the allegations by his daughter are true, it would make Studey one of the most prolific serial killers in the United States.

Kendall is Iowa Public Radio’s western Iowa reporter based in Sioux City, IA.