Questions remain in 1982 shooting death of Ireton mother
Gone Cold: Exploring Iowa’s unsolved murders

Questions remain in 1982 shooting death of Ireton mother

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Lisa Vander Esch, 19, was killed by a bullet to the head on Sept. 14, 1982, while playing with her 16-month-old son in her rural Ireton home’s backyard.

Her shooter’s identity was never in question. Lisa’s husband, Darwin Vander Esch — a man well trained in gun safety who’d been hunting and trapping since age 5 — told investigators his rifle accidentally discharged.Not all investigators believed the “accidental shooting” story; evidence suggested the homicide may have been a murder.

Investigation into the incident was likely hampered due to bitter infighting in the county.

The county attorney never received reports from law enforcement, subsequent grand jury records disappeared from the county courthouse, and many questions remain unanswered in the case.

Ireton is a small town about 35 miles north of Sioux City in northwestern Iowa.


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