10 years later, murder remains unsolved

10 years later, murder remains unsolved

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WEST LIBERTY, Iowa - Somebody out there knows who killed Corey Wieneke.

Ten years ago tomorrow, Wieneke was killed - possibly beaten to his death with an aluminum baseball bat - in his rural West Liberty home at 1191 120 St.

A decade later, Muscatine County sheriff's officials have not caught the killer or killers.

They keep looking.

After work, just before 6 p.m. Oct. 13, 1992, Wieneke's fiancee, Jody Hotz, who has since moved out of state, came home to find Wieneke's lifeless body lying on the bedroom floor near the door to the living room.

The 22-year-old died from blunt trauma to the head. A baseball bat was later found nearby by an area television reporter.

"The theory is that's the murder weapon," Muscatine County sheriff's Sgt. Mark Kopf said.

"I think my fiance is dead," Hotz said during a 911 call with Muscatine County sheriff's dispatcher Sue Ryan.

"How do you know he is dead?" Ryan eventually asked her.

"Because he is all bloody … and cold," Hotz replied.

Wieneke was killed sometime between 6 and 7 a.m., when Hotz went to work, and just before 6 p.m., when she returned, said Kopf.

"It was common for him to sleep late," said Kopf, who works in the office's detective bureau. "He was sleeping when she left."

Wieneke worked at the family-owned Wink's Tap, on the main business strip in West Liberty, as a bartender, oftentimes until the early morning hours.

Investigators interviewed more than 400 people in the months after the killing.

"We don't know what motive they could have had," Kopf said. "Nobody could say this guy did it.

"We just have to get some good information," he said. "Somebody out there knows something about this case and they need to come forward."

Not forgotten

Wieneke's mother, Susie Wieneke, and husband Jim still live in their only son's childhood home on the northwest side of town.

"We never forget about it," she said during a recent conversation at her home. "It's getting easier just because time has passed and not having any closure on it is hard."

Finding the person or persons responsible would help, she said.

Every year on Oct. 13, people start talking about the case, she said. Many rumors circulate through town, but none have been substantiated.

"I'd like to know why," she said. "That's the biggest question. I can't imagine that somebody had something as awful against him. We didn't know he had any enemies at all."

Susie Wieneke remembers her son was never alone, always had friends over at the house and was respectful to his elders.

He liked to celebrate Independence Day and St. Patrick's Day, because all the Wienekes do. The family has Irish ties.

"He lived every day to its fullest," she said.

The 51-year-old woman has no idea who killed her son, she said.

No stranger?

She said she suspects the person or persons who done it might have known him or his yellow lab, Casy.

"She was always very protective of him," Susie Wieneke said.

When investigators arrived at the scene the dog was running loose. Corey Wieneke never let the dog out of the house without tying it up.

A prosecutor from the West Coast said that theory could be correct.

John Lewin, of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office in California, has had experience with similar cold cases.

He has just successfully prosecuted a 14-year-old murder case. In the case, a local engineer killed his wife in 1988.

Currently, he is working on a 13-year-old murder case.

"People don't go into somebody's house and beat them to death for not knowing them," Lewin said. "People are killed usually for reasons, whether it's something we agree with or not. Murderers have reasons and they kill for reasons the rest of us would not."

He added the Muscatine County case represents the kind of case that are the hardest to solve and prosecute.

First of all, investigators don't know who did it.

"Either that person talks or at some later point the killer is arrested for a similar case," Lewin said.

Sometimes, people get killed when they surprise a burglar in their home. Officials said this was not a robbery or burglary. Plus, it appeared Wieneke was killed in his sleep.

"In the case where somebody is sleeping, you are not hitting them because they are a threat to you," Lewin said. "What was the killer after? Burglary? No evidence of that. Sex crime? No evidence of that."

Although cases get harder to solve as more time passes, sheriff's officials hope somebody will come forward.

"The toughest part is in the 72 hours right after," said sheriff's Capt. C.J. Ryan, who was one of the investigators in the case. "If you don't have a good lead you are in it for the long haul."

New technology, like DNA testing, could also help the investigation.

"We don't have a lot of physical evidence that could assist us, but you never know what might come down," Kopf said.

Murder charges, which would be applicable in this case, can be filed at any time. The crime of murder has no statute of limitation.

"You just figure somebody got by with it and they got to live with it," said Ken Wieneke, Corey Wieneke's uncle who now owns and runs Wink's Tap. "Somebody will come forward? No, I don't think so."

Christoph Trappe can be reached at 563-263-2331 (ext. 323) or mailto:christoph.trappe@muscatinejournal.com

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