Public Safety

Manchester man arrested in 16-year-old Keokuk homicide

74-year-old woman was beaten to death, dumped in Mississippi River

A Manchester man has been arrested in a 16-year-old homicide where a 74-year-old woman was beaten to death and dumped along the Mississippi riverfront in Keokuk in southeast Iowa.

Nathanial L. Ridnour, 34, was arrested Tuesday on a charge of first-degree murder.

Ridnour was 17 when Bonnie Callahan was reported missing on June 15, 2004, after a relative stopped by her apartment at Mississippi Terrace Apartments, 111 Couth Second St., and could not find her.

Callahan had just undergone knee surgery and was unable to walk without the aid of a walker, according to an affidavit filed April 30 in Lee County District Court. It said Callahan’s walker, keys and other personal effects were found in the apartment.

A fisherman discovered Callahan’s body later that afternoon in the Mississippi River, floating in a small cove near the Southside Boat Club. An autopsy showed she had suffered multiple blunt force injuries.

Court documents show police identified Ridnour as a suspect early in the investigation.

The criminal complaint states Ridnour lived with his father in the same apartment complex as Callahan and was pursuing a relationship with Callahan’s then 15-year-old granddaughter, and that Callahan did not approve.

Investigators interviewed Ridnour on several occasions in 2004 and gave investigators varying statements, according to the affidavit.

Initially, Ridnour told police he had gone out walking around the area the night Callahan was reported missing. Later, police said, he amended his statement, saying he was at his dad’s apartment watching TV that night and never left.

Police said Callahan was upset with Ridnour and his relationship with her granddaughter because the granddaughter “was shutting her out.”

In his statements, Ridnour had denied having an argument with Callahan regarding the granddaughter, then later told police he’d had a conversation with the grandmother but denied any involvement in her death.

In the months that followed, the case went cold, according to an August 13, 2004, report in the Daily Gate City newspaper. Investigators reopened the case in 2017.

The following year, an affidavit shows investigators spoke with two witnesses, both of whom told police Ridnour had made suspicious comments about Callahan’s death shortly after the body was found.

One witness told police Ridnour claimed to be a suspect in the murder before police had even approached or spoken to him.

Ridnour later told that same witness he needed to “get out of town” because he was a suspect in Callahan’s murder, and the police were going to “blame Callahan’s death on him,” according to the affidavit.

Ridnour then left Iowa and moved to Coal Valley, Ill., police said.

A second witness told police Ridnour had made comments indicating he was concerned his fingerprints would be found in Callahan’s apartment. Ridnour also told the witness he had gone to Callahan’s apartment to talk with her and they argued about her granddaughter, according to the affidavit.

Court documents show Ridnour was re-interviewed in 2019, during which he told police “he knew for a fact he went down to (Callahan’s) apartment to ‘make things right,’ ” after they had argued. The affidavit states Ridnour also claimed he didn’t remember what happened, telling investigators “just could not remember killing her,” and “I didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”

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In a comment posted on the Iowa Cold Cases website, Callahan’s great-granddaughter Skyler Gallup said: “I know I was probably only 4 and I don’t remember you, but I grew up knowing your story, (great-) grandma. I love you and they got him! I hope you can lay peacefully now, much love.”

Comments: (319) 398-8238; kat.russell@thegazette.com

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