MAQUOKETA, Iowa -- This week marks the 40th anniversary of one of Iowa's coldest cold cases -- one that appears unlikely to be solved.
Hulda Fischer was found dead in her Maquoketa home on the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1975. The 84-year-old widow had been strangled and stabbed repeatedly.
"It's a cold case, and I don't think it will ever be solved," said Bob Andersen earlier this week.
Andersen spent 40 years with the Maquoketa Police Department, retiring as chief in 2004. He was the investigating officer in the case.
FIFTH STREET MYSTERY
Neighbors said Fischer's home was undisturbed -- nothing appeared out of place, and nothing appeared to have been taken.
However, Maquoketa's collective psyche was left in tatters.
"People were shocked. Elderly people were quite concerned because Hulda Fischer was quite elderly at the time," Andersen said.
A Telegraph Herald story from Feb. 27, 1975, described Fischer as an energetic, active person. She did her own yard work and mowed her own lawn.
The story quoted Ronald Keller, whose business and residence shared a backyard with Fischer. He, his aunt Hattie Petersen and his business partner, Thomas Goodwin, discovered Fischer's body.
"She was an ideal neighbor. Hulda walked to the hospital every Sunday to visit people. She was a very sturdy woman. She could out-walk a lot of people I know, and she just loved talking with people," Keller said in 1975.
Neighbors became suspicious when Fischer did not attend a scheduled meeting of Eastern Star on the night of Feb. 25. Concerned, they went to Fischer's Fifth Street home.
They noticed clean underclothes laid out on her bed and cold water in the bathtub. They then spotted one of Fischer's legs while peering down a basement door.
CLUES POINT NOWHERE
Agents of the Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation, Jackson County Sheriff's Department and Iowa State Patrol joined Maquoketa officers in investigating the killing.
Authorities determined someone had attempted to clean up blood smears in Fischer's kitchen. Tracks in the snow led away from Fischer's back door.
Andersen said the various clues never seemed to combine to make a case.
"It was one of those cases that you had a lot of information that didn't go anywhere and very little information that did," he said.
NEIGHBOR KILLED, TOO
Goodwin himself was killed on Oct. 8, 1984, during the course of a robbery. Mitchell Ronek, of Maquoketa, was convicted of Goodwin's murder.
Police in 1984 said there appeared to be no connection to Goodwin's death and Fischer's unsolved slaying.
The other two neighbors who discovered Fischer's body also have died -- Petersen in 1994 and Keller in 2002.
NO NEW INFORMATION
Andersen said no new information has emerged in the Fischer case.
"We did have a very good suspect who has since passed away and that really put an end to it," he said. "We were never able to make a case. It would have been nice to solve it and find out what the cause was. Maybe with TV doing cold cases now, something will come up."