An Iowa woman is looking to uncover her father’s shocking crimes — and possibly solve dozens of missing persons cases. But could her story about her dad being a serial killer be all in her imagination?!
Lucy Studey, now 53, has apparently tried to tell people for years that her father was a murderer. Now, nearly 10 years after his death, authorities are finally ready to listen. Lucy told the cops she believes Donald Dean Studey, who passed away in March 2013, killed at least 50 to 70 women. And that was just what she knew of.
If this is true, it’s horrifying — not just because of the disturbing nature of the alleged crimes, but because the idea of a monster like this never getting caught, never even being known… We mean, if she’s right, that would make him one of the most prolific serial killers in the history of the US. And he got away with it. Truly haunting stuff.
The poor woman, who goes by her married name these days — and requested authorities keep that private — said her father was “too lazy to farm” the land. She says his drinking and gambling led him to a life as a career criminal who ran guns and drugs across state lines. She says having the children with him was the perfect cover, always allowing him to slip by police inspections. She also says the police were afraid to come to his property.
Newsweek was able to confirm that Studey — who had “LOVE” and “HATE” tattooed across his knuckles by the way — did have some run-ins with the law, but nothing like what she described. He spent time in jail only for petty larceny in the 1950s and for drunk driving in 1989.
But the real problem wasn’t about the smuggling — it was about his personal activities…
Lucy claims her father was a serial killer, murdering almost exclusively women with dark hair, all in their 20s and 30s. The only exceptions, she said, were a runaway who was only 15 years old, and two men — one in his 20s and one in his 40s. The supposed victims are thought to mostly be sex workers he would meet in nearby Omaha. Lucy says he would lure them back to his property and stab or shoot them, but his favorite method was to bash their heads, sometimes stomping them with his feet.
Perhaps even more shocking, Lucy says her father directed her and her siblings to help him dispose of the bodies in a remote piece of land in Thurman, Iowa. She says they would transport them in a wheelbarrow during the warmer months and on a toboggan in the winter — all the way to an unused well he would throw them in. They would pile each woman’s body into the 100-ft deep well, then cover them with dirt and lye — a chemical which can dissolve flesh and also hides the smell of death — and is often used by cartels in their body dumps.
The idea he had his children doing this… Lucy was terrified for her own life for years. She told Newsweek:
“He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant. Every time I went to the well or into the hills, I didn’t think I was coming down. I thought he would kill me because I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut.”
It apparently didn’t matter that she told. No one believed her. She told priests, teachers, and “law enforcement all over Iowa and Nebraska trying to get something done” but nothing happened:
“No one would listen to me. The teacher said family matters should be handled as a family, and law enforcement has said they couldn’t trust the memory of a child. I was just a kid then, but I remember it all.”
Most recently she called the sheriff about ten years ago — presumably right after her father died — and a deputy did go look at the property but couldn’t find a well. So they forgot about it. No one would listen. Until now.
Last year Lucy spoke to Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy Mike Wake, and everything changed. It was easier for Wake and some of the other newer deputies to believe the story because they grew up in the area — and had heard the rumors about Donald being a scary, dangerous guy for years. He told Newsweek:
“Coming up, we just always kind of heard that. Well, then when (Lucy Studey) called me, I just went out there and looked. She kind of told me where she thought (the well) was at… Well, there was a well right there. It was just right where she said it was, no kidding. And her story never, ever changes.”
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office has now officially opened an investigation into Lucy’s claims. And they’ve already gotten evidence that’s led them to continue. They brought cadaver dogs onto her late father’s five-acre property on Green Hollow Road last week and got “multiple hits” — meaning there were dead bodies there. Chilling.
The dogs, without being led, reportedly went right to the spots Lucy had pointed out as burial sites. Lucy, who was present at the site, told officers, “Dig, dig, dig” when the dogs’ noses seemingly backed her story. Dog handler Jim Peters confirmed to Newsweek:
“Today told me there is the odor of human decomposition in the area. More work needs to be done to confirm that… I feel pretty good about what I saw from the dogs, but I’m not going to hang my hat on that.”
If Lucy is right, the bodies are in there, layered on top of one another, still in their clothes and wearing their jewelry. He left them their jewelry but sometimes took gold teeth as trophies, his daughter claimed.
Sheriff Kevin Aistrope spoke about the shocking turn in the investigation as well, saying:
“I really think there’s bones there. It’s hard for me to believe that two dogs would hit in the exact same places and be false. We don’t know what it is. The settlers were up there. There was Indian Country up there as well, but I tend to believe Lucy.”
He explained that the property has not yet been named a crime scene as no actual bodies, or even body parts, have been found… yet:
“Right now, we don’t even have a bone. According to the dogs, this is a very large burial site.”
What about next steps?
Well, everyone is taking this seriously now. The FBI and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation have both joined the investigation.
Speaking to local outlet KETV, the Sheriff said while he does “believe her 100 percent that there’s bodies in there” excavating the apparent burial site will be “big mission.” He estimates the cost of boring the well will be $25,000 — and fully digging it all up would cost more than $300,000.
Surely that would be worth it if it would solve dozens of murders, right? Lucy told reporters she wasn’t doing this to get justice for her father but for all the women he killed:
“I don’t feel anything for my father. Nothing at all. I wanted justice when my father was alive, but he’s gone. I just want for the families some closure and a proper burial.”
Not everyone believes Lucy. Most of her family is gone now. Donald passed, as we said, in March 2013. Before that, he’d had two wives, both of whom — according to police reports — died by suicide. One shot herself in the head. The other strangled herself with a power cord. They weren’t the only ones. Lucy’s brother also committed suicide; he was only 39 years old.
Her sister Susan Studey, however, is still with us. And she’s speaking out against her sister’s claims. She told Newsweek:
“My father was not the man she makes him out to be. He was strict, but he was a protective parent who loved his children… Strict fathers don’t just turn into serial killers.”
She said last week’s search results are wrong and that the dogs must have been fooled by animal carcasses — or possibly the body of Donald’s sister, who was buried on the property after being stillborn. Susan says Lucy is making it all up:
“The first time I ever heard about bodies was when I talked to Lucy about a year ago.”
For what it’s worth, the dog handler says he doesn’t believe his dogs would get confused by animals — he says they smelled human remains. But Susan is dismissing this whole endeavor as a fantasy of a bitter daughter:
“I’m two years older than Lucy. I think I would know if my father murdered. I would know if my dad was a serial killer. He was not, and I want my father’s name restored.”
The two have a third sister who could not be reached. The three women may be the last alive to know the truth. For now.
We’ll keep you up to date on this shocking story as more is uncovered…
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