116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Lisa Schenzel gets reminded every year of the favorite memory she holds of her older sister Maureen Brubaker Farley.
Schenzel, who was 4 at the time, was sitting on her sister’s lap in the car while Farley’s husband, David, drove.
“Maureen was teaching me to sing ‘Silver Bells’ and it was on radio,” recalled Schenzel, 54, who now lives in North Sioux City, S.D. “Now every Christmas when the song ‘Silver Bells’ plays on the radio, I always think of that time of sitting on her lap going over the bridge in Sioux City.”
“That's a very good memory that I have of her.”
Farley, who was born and raised in Sioux City, moved to Cedar Rapids in 1971 when she was 17 be closer to David, who was serving time in the Anamosa State Penitentiary. She was last seen alive on Sept. 17, 1971.
Farley’s body was found Sept. 24, 1971, in a wooded ravine off Ely Road SW near a landfill, which is now Tait Cummins Park. Two teenage boys found Farley’s body on the trunk of an abandoned junk car. Police said there was evidence she had been carried and placed there after she died. Her cause of death was found to be a skull fracture after being hit in the head.
Schenzel said her mother sent a letter to Cedar Rapids police six months after Farley’s body was found saying that a man named George Smith was responsible. Smith was an acquaintance of hers at the diner where she worked, and he worked at a liquor store near her apartment.
Police interviewed Smith in 1971 but did not have the evidence to charge him or any other suspect. The case grew cold, and Schenzel and her family waited decades for an answer.
Fifty years after Farley’s body was found, the Cedar Rapids Police Department Cold Case Unit identified and confirmed that George M. Smith was the killer through investigation and use of DNA technology that did not exist then. The case was closed with no prosecution because Smith died in 2013 at age 94, police said this week.
Schenzel said investigator Matt Denlinger gave the news to her and her mother, Mary Brubaker, last week. She said she felt “a lot of emotions,” including relief and some closure. She said her and her family are satisfied with the evidence.
“I still get goose bumps right now,” Schenzel said. “It was very emotional. I cried, and then I had to repeat it to my mom, and she cried. Just a flood of emotions.”
“There was so much collateral damage, heartache, from Maureen’s death,” she added. "Although her life was just one life, it affected so many for so long.“
During the years the case was investigated, Schenzel wanted to keep Farley’s memory alive. A Facebook page was created in 2013 by David’s nephew, Rich Ueding-Lox, and Schenzel is an administrator of the page. Schenzel posted photos and updates about the case to keep the community informed.
“She was gone, not forgotten,” Schenzel said about her sister.
Even though nothing would bring Farley back, Schenzel said the family wanted to see the case solved and to find justice.
“Whenever anybody passed from this world, my mom said, ‘Well, now they're up in heaven with Maureen, and they must be happy, and they know the answers,’” Schenzel said. “I just didn't want to wait that long. I didn't want us to wait until we go on to the next world. I wanted answers in this world.”
Schenzel went into law enforcement in 1991. She’s been a deputy sheriff in South Dakota and Nebraska and a police officer in Nebraska.
She isn’t sure if what happened to her sister and the memory of her parents getting that phone call 50 years ago factored into her pursuing a career in law enforcement but said “maybe that played a role … and then just the stars aligned.”
Schenzel said she called Cedar Rapids police over the years and also asked her bosses to make contact with the department. She was told she could read the police report on her sisters death, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it.
“I've seen a lot in my life, but just getting up the nerve to go over and actually sit down and read a case on your sister — I just never made that leap,” Schenzel said.
Schenzel told The Gazette in 2015 that she never loses hope the case would be solved. Now with the case solved and closed, Schenzel emphasized how important that hope was.
“It wasn't about us,” she said. “It was about hoping that it would get solved, hoping somebody would come forward, hoping that they would get something in the case.”
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