NEWS

Cedar Rapids Police investigate year's first homicide

Couple found in home Tuesday morning

731 Memorial Drive SE. (Jill Kasparie/KCRG-TV9)
731 Memorial Drive SE. (Jill Kasparie/KCRG-TV9)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Police are investigating the city's first homicide of the year after what appears to have been a murder-suicide Tuesday morning on the southeast side.

According to a city news release, police responded to 731 Memorial Dr. SE at 8:20 a.m. for a welfare check. When officers didn't get an answer at the door, they entered the home and found two victims dead of gunshot wounds.

Now, police are trying to determine what led up to the couple's deaths.

“We don't have a clear picture of A) what happened or B) the victims' lives right now,” Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman said. “That's all part of the investigation. We're going to find out as much as we can.”

While the names and ages of the shooting victims were not released Tuesday, property records show the owner of the house to be Mitch Haferbecker.

The College Community School District announced Tuesday in an email to parents that Cedar Rapids police had confirmed the deaths of Mitch Haferbecker, a building custodian at Prairie Heights Elementary, and Sherry Haferbecker, a building custodian at Prairie Hill Elementary.

“Both Mitch and Sherry were longtime district employees and worked in a variety of school buildings during their tenure,” the school district email said. “There will be a lot of students and staff who will be impacted by this terrible loss.”

Jerman said he could not confirm the Haferbeckers are the victims in the case because he could not confirm the next of kin had been notified.

Police first responded to the residence hours before the bodies were discovered.

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According to the news release, a 911 hang-up call from the residence was received around 4 a.m. Minutes later, the Joint Communications Agency took a phone call from a man on a cellphone who provided the Memorial Drive address and hung up.

Attempts were made to call back the cellphone, but those calls went directly to voice mail, police said.

The news release said officers went to the address given by the caller, but no one answered the door. The residence was “dark and quiet,” the news release said.

Jerman said Tuesday night he couldn't speak to the officers' actions when they first responded or why they entered the home after the welfare check but not after the initial call. Those officers have not yet been interviewed about what they encountered at the home but were to meet with investigators Tuesday evening, Jerman said.

“I don't know the specifics of what the officers encountered earlier in the day with that 911 call,” he said. “That's part of the investigation. That would be speculation for me to guess what they've found.”

Cedar Rapids recorded several domestic homicides last year. On Jan. 30, 2014, 73-year-old Linda Huber and her daughter, 41-year-old Ingrid Huber Livingston, were killed by Livingston's husband, 47-year-old Robert Livingston. Robert Livingston took his own life.

On Feb. 21, 2014, Dennis Koopman of Tama County shot his estranged wife, Luella, in front of her condominium at 6124 Dean Rd. SW.

On June 30, 39-year-old Chantele Crowley was found dead inside her mobile home at 1808 Easter Dr. SW. Police arrested her husband, 43-year-old Shawn Crowley. He faces one count of first-degree murder.

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The police department emphasized decreasing gun violence, but Jerman said predicting domestic homicides is a difficult task.

“I do not have any information of any previous calls or situations there, protective orders or anything along those lines,” Jerman said of the Memorial Drive investigation. “There are no other previous indicators. It's extremely difficult to predict something like this would occur.”

Added Jerman, “There needs to be a heightened awareness of domestic violence.”

School officials will hold brief class meetings Wednesday at the two elementary schools where the Haferbeckers worked to notify students of the deaths.

The district said a crisis team from Grant Wood Area Education Agency also will be available to provide additional support for students on an individual basis as needed.

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