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.
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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.