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Crime News Serial Killers

Iowa Woman Claims Father Was A Serial Killer Murdering Up To 70 People Over 30 Years

Police are investigating Lucy Studey's claims that her late father Donald Studey was a serial killer with up to 70 victims. Her older sister, Susan Studey, says it isn't true.

By Constance Johnson
A photo of a Rural Road

Law enforcement, including the FBI, are investigating an Iowa woman’s shocking claims that her now-deceased father was a prolific serial killer – murdering dozens of women over 30 years — and he forced his children to help bury the bodies.

Lucy Studey told Newsweek that her father, Donald Studey, killed 50 to 70 women. He had the word “love” tattooed across the knuckles of one hand and “hate” on another, Newsweek reported. Studey died at the age of 75 in 2013.

“I know where the bodies are buried,” Lucy said. “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.”

Studey told the publication that they allegedly put dirt and lye on top of the bodies after dumping them into the well. She also said that when they transported the bodies, they would use a wheelbarrow in the warmer months and a toboggan in the winter.

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Though authorities haven't confirmed Studey's claims, they think most of the victims were sex workers or transients Studey picked up in neighboring Omaha, Nebraska. His daughter said that most of his victims were in their 20s and 30s, and white with dark or darkish hair.

Cadaver dogs have indicated that suspected human remains are in the areas identified by Lucy Studey.

“I believe her 100 percent that there’s bodies in there,” Freemont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope told Newsweek.

He told the Des Moines Register, “We’ve got to go with Lucy. No matter if they say it’s not true, or say she’s crazy or whatever they can say, we have to look into it. We have no other choice.”

Her older sister, Susan Studey, denied that her father was a serial killer, according to Newsweek.

“The first time I ever heard about bodies was when I talked to Lucy about a year ago,” she said. “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 … 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.”

Lucy Studey, now 53, has been trying to share her story for decades, revealing it to teachers, priests and “law enforcement all over Iowa and Nebraska trying to get something done,” she told Newsweek.

She said her pleas fell on deaf ears.

“No one would listen to me,” Studey told Newsweek. “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.”

Residents of the tiny town of Thurman, Iowa are not surprised by the allegation that Studey was a serial killer. Rumors of bodies being dropped in a well near his trailer have circulated for years, according to the Des Moines Register.

“Who knows what could happen up in them woods,” Max Johnson, a former rodeo reporter told the Register. “I’m not surprised.”

The Register found at least 20 police reports dating back to the 1990s of the family’s concerns about Studey’s propensity for violence.

In 2005, he threatened to kill his wife, Anna Tordoff Studey, and his stepson, Dan Tordoff. The son told the newspaper that his mother was afraid of her husband, and he feared for her safety. She died in 2006.

Once, police came to Studey’s home in 2012 after he shot himself in one of several suicide attempts, according to the Register.

The newspaper did point out some inconsistencies in Lucy Studey’s story.

She told Newsweek that her father could have killed as many as 70 women.

But the newspaper notes that last year, she told Deputy Mike Wake she was aware of only five bodies in the well but had “heard stories that there could be up to 15 bodies.”

She also told the deputy that she was sometimes with her father before and after the murders.

Studey told the deputy that around 1980 she was with her father when he picked up a 15-year-old girl on an interstate. Her father allegedly convinced the girl that it was safe to go with him. She believed her father raped and murdered the teenager. She was gone the next day, the Register reported.

Studey told Newsweek she only wants to help bring closure to the victims’ families.

"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."

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