50 years later, teen’s cold-case slaying solved in Iowa

Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 8:49 AM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG/Gray News) - The Cedar Rapids Police Department announced on Tuesday it successfully identified the suspect in the homicide cold case of 17-year-old Maureen Brubaker-Farley.

Her body was found in a wooded ravine on Sept. 24, 1971. Investigators said they confirmed the suspect to be George M. Smith using DNA technology exactly 50 years later, on Sept. 24, 2021, KCRG reported.

With that, the case will be closed with no prosecution because the suspect, George M. Smith, died in 2013 at the age of 94.

Officials said Brubaker-Farley was working at a Cedar Rapids diner during the summer of 1971. She was reportedly last seen on Sept. 17, and her employer reported her missing after she didn’t show up at work on Sept. 20.

Her body was found lying on the trunk of an abandoned car in a wooded ravine near a landfill site that is now Tate Cummins Park.

Officials said the autopsy determined Brubaker-Farley had died after being hit in the head, causing a skull fracture, and that she had been sexually assaulted.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department announced on Tuesday the closure of a cold case murder from 1971.

Investigators conducted interviews and collected evidence, but were unable to find enough evidence to charge anyone. So the case went cold.

However, in 2006 Detective Doug Larison found items for DNA analysis after reviewing the case. But no matches were found.

The Cedar Rapids Police Department’s Cold Case Unit began following up on the investigation in 2017. It found and eliminated more than 15 people as suspects using DNA comparison.

George M. Smith was not eliminated as a suspect, but because he had died in 2013, DNA had not been collected. However, investigators were able to collect DNA from a relative of Smith’s.

Officials said the results of the DNA analysis and comparison confirmed George M. Smith as the suspect in the case.

“No matter how much time has passed, our officers are committed to seeking out justice for all victims of violent crime as well as their families,” Chief of Police Wayne Jerman said. “I am extremely proud of the generations of Cedar Rapids officers that contributed to bringing this once cold case to a resolution.”

“DNA was not even a thing in law enforcement in 1971. Fast-forward to the late 90s and DNA is finally becoming something, and that’s when we started sending in,” said Matt Denlinger, the case’s lead detective. “Because detective Larison had the forethought to send it in in 2005, before the flood, that we were able to extract the DNA profile.”

Law enforcement said they were able to notify the victim’s mother Mary Brubaker, 86, of Sioux City, Iowa, that the suspect had been identified.

Brubaker-Farley’s father died in 2002. She has four surviving siblings.

Her mother and sister, Lisa Schenzel, both said that the feeling of closure from this has been overwhelming.

“This new DNA technology that they’ve got now proved it was him. So I’m just so happy for this new DNA that they can go back 50 years and prove it,” Brubaker said.

Schenzel said she’s beyond relieved to finally be able to say her sister is no longer a cold case.

“It’s still pretty new and still pretty fresh, the news and the information, so I don’t know if we’ll sleep any better, but I just keep saying thank you,” she said.

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