Cadaver dogs deployed after Iowa woman claims her 'serial killer' father buried scores of young women

Cadaver dogs deployed after Iowa woman claims her 'serial killer' father buried scores of young women
Cadaver dogs have pinpointed suspected human remains at the spots Lucy Studey identified in a remote field in Iowa (Heather Paul/Getty Images/Creative)

THURMAN, IOWA: A woman has claimed her father was a serial killer and used his children's help to bury his victims, sparking an investigation using cadaver dogs.

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Lucy Studey says she spent 45 years trying to convince anyone who would listen that her father Donald Dean Studey had murdered scores of young women and buried them with the help of his children, but no one would believe her. Now, per a new report, cadaver dogs have pinpointed suspected human remains at the spots Studey identified in a remote field in western Iowa. If her story is confirmed by further investigation, it would mean her father was one of the most prolific serial killers in US history. 

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According to Studey, her father killed at least 50 to 70 women over a span of three decades. He reportedly died in March 2013 at the age of 75. "I know where the bodies are buried," she told Newsweek, whose reporters were at the scene of the investigation in the remote stretch outside Thurman, Iowa. Studey recalled how her father would direct her and her siblings to help him as he transported bodies. She said he would use a wheelbarrow in the warmer months and a toboggan in winter. "He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant," Studey remembered, according to the outlet. "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." After dumping the bodies into the well, the siblings would pile dirt and lye on top to prevent odor, she said.

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Studey was joined at the scene by Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope, who was accompanied by two deputies, a dog handler, and his two dogs. "I believe her 100 percent that there's bodies in there," Aistrope told Newsweek. Authorities suspect Donald lured women to his five acres of forested hills and farmland before ultimately killing them. Most of his alleged victims were sex workers or transients picked up in nearby Omaha, Nebraska. Studey said her father ensured his children knew what he was doing and forced them to help with the burials. She remembered him saying about one victim, "The b**** deserved it." Lucy, who now lives under her married name that was withheld by Newsweek, said all of the victims were white and most of them had darkish hair. She also guessed that most were in their 20s over 30s, except for a 15-year-old runaway.

Cadaver dogs deployed at the scene signaled likely human remains by barking or by sitting still where remains were potentially located. "I really think there's bones there," Aistrope told the outlet. "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 settlers were up there. There was Indian Country up there as well, but I tend to believe Lucy." Aistrope said. "Right now, we don't even have a bone. According to the dogs, this is a very large burial site." Studey said many of the victims were buried in the 90-to-100-foot well, clothed and wearing jewelry, adding that her father would keep gold teeth as trophies. She said the lye used for burying the bodies would act as a preservative and slow down decomposition while also hiding the smell.

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"All I want is to get these sites dug up, and to bring closure for people and to give these women a proper burial," Studey continued. She said she tried to tell her story to many people over the years, including teachers, priests, and "law enforcement all over Iowa and Nebraska trying to get something done." According to her, the trauma of an abusive upbringing and being forced to take part in the burials won't be mitigated until the truth is established. "No one would listen to me," Studey said. "The teacher said family matters should be handled as a family, and law enforcement has said they couldn't trust the memory of a child. I was just a kid then, but I remember it all." The sheriff told Newsweek that Studey was being treated as a witness and was not a suspect in any crime.

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