A woman has been trying for 45 years to bring what she claims are her father’s horrible crimes to light.
Lucy Studey alleges that her father murdered young women and buried their bodies with the help of his children. No one believed her, she said, but in an ongoing investigation, cadaver dogs have located suspected human remains at the spots she identified in Thurman, Iowa, investigators told Newsweek.
“This is what I’ve been telling people for 45 years. I told you,” she said. “I know where the bodies are buried.”
Studey recounted how her father, Donald Dean Studey, would apparently demand that she and her siblings help him as he transported bodies. He used a wheelbarrow in the warmer months and a toboggan in winter to move the corpses.
“He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant,” Lucy said. “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.”
As he dumped the bodies into the well, they would pile dirt and lye on top, she claims.
It is unclear whether Lucy’s siblings have been cooperative with the authorities. Her brother died by suicide at 39.
Studey believes her father killed 50 to 70 women over three decades. He died in March 2013 at the age of 75. If her estimations are proven to be correct, her father could have more victims than Samuel Little, widely considered the most prolific serial killer in American history, with 60 confirmed victims.
Donald Dean Studey is now suspected by authorities of having lured women, most of them sex workers picked up in Omaha, Nebraska, to his property before killing them. Most of the victims were females with dark or darkish hair, Lucy claims. All were white. She recalled that most, except for a 15-year-old runaway, were in their 20s or 30s.
Donald Studey was easily angered and often drunk, according to Lucy. He would stab and shoot his victims but, she recalled, his preferred method of killing was smashing or kicking in the heads of the women after taking them inside a trailer on the property.
“I believe her 100% that there’s bodies in there,” Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope, who is involved in the investigation, told Newsweek.
Cadaver dog handler Jim Peters, who runs Samaritan Detection Dogs, agreed to do a search on Friday pro bono.
“Today told me there is the odor of human decomposition in the area,” said Peters. “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.”
“I really think there’s bones there,” said Aistrope. “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 Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) was expected at the site on Monday.
In the next phases of the investigation, authorities will use sonar where the land permits and then dig for human remains.
“All I want is to get these sites dug up, and to bring closure for people and to give these women a proper burial,” said Studey.
If Lucy’s father used lye when burying the bodies as she alleges, it may assist authorities in identifying any victims. Lye acts as a preservative of remains, slowing down decomposition.
“My father was a lifelong criminal and murderer,” Studey said. She recalled how her father used multiple aliases and laundered drugs and guns across state lines.
Donald Studey reportedly spent time in prison in Missouri in the 1950s for petty larceny. He was also jailed in Omaha in 1989 for a drunken driving offense.
“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,” said Studey.
The sheriff’s office puts the cost of boring the well at about $25,000. A full excavation could cost upwards of $300,000.
“If I have to, I’m gonna break the county and do it,” Aistrope said of a full dig.
In addition to the Iowa DCI coming out Monday to inspect the area and possibly help in the effort, Aistrope said the Omaha Police Department has offered its expertise since victims may have come from the Omaha area.
The investigation is ongoing.