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MASON CITY | Forty-seven years ago, Mason City grocer Andrew "Andy" Hatges, who was known for his hard work and generosity, was found dead in his home.

His face had been beaten and his throat cut.

Hundreds of people were interviewed and the investigation went all the way to Greece, where Hatges, 75, was born and spent his youth.

However, his murder remains unsolved.

“That's always been a hard one," said Duane Jewell, a retired Mason City police officer who worked on the case.

He said they had several strong suspects, but were never able to "turn the page" on them.

Hatges, the owner of West Vu Market at 2601 Fourth St. S.W., was killed sometime around midnight on March 8, 1968, in his home at 108 S. Virginia Ave. 

"It was not a robbery," Jewell said, noting the house wasn't ransacked and Hatges had money on him when his body was found.

Hatges was a widower who lived alone. His two grown daughters had moved to Florida.

"He was a wonderful man, generous and hard-working," his nephew, Ioannis "John" Hatzis, 74, told the Globe Gazette via e-mail.

Hatzis, who now lives in Pennsylvania, said when he and his four brothers were young and still living in a village in Greece, Hatges would send them clothing, shoes and other items from the U.S. 

The first and only time Hatzis spoke to the man he and his brothers called "Theo (Uncle) Andreas" was in late 1967. Hatzis, who was 26, had just arrived in the United States and was staying temporarily with a family friend in Manhattan before settling in East Orange, New Jersey.

Hatzis called his uncle and told him "he has good tidings from his family, his brothers back in Greece and that I would visit him in the spring when the weather cleared," he said. "However, I was never able to see him because three months after the phone call he was murdered."

He said the family was "shocked and distraught" at the news.

Hatzes said his oldest brother, Aristides, was 14 when he left Greece and came to Mason City. He lived and worked with Hatges.

Hatzis said "Theo Andreas" was the first of their relatives to come to the United States from Greece.

“Had it not been for him, neither my brother nor I would be here," Hatzis said.

Jewell said the crime scene was one he will never be able to forget.

The assailant beat Hatges in the face with a small crescent wrench found at the scene and then got a knife from the kitchen and cut his throat, he said. 

Jewell said it was a foggy night, which would have made it difficult for neighbors to notice anything unusual.

A red pickup truck was parked on a side street near the house the night of the murder, but there were thousands of trucks that matched the description, so nothing ever came of that lead, according to Jewell.

He said police were able to determine the assailant was standing outside the back of the house "waiting for Andy to come home."

Hundreds of people were interviewed in the case. Jewell said Hatges "helped a lot of young people" and employed them in his store, so they had to be found and questioned.

The FBI and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation even interviewed people in Greece.

One suspect in the case passed a polygraph test, according to Jewell. 

The Police Department later got another lead through an anonymous letter asking if they had investigated a young man living in Davenport. However, Jewell said, they were never able to find evidence placing him in Mason City the night of the murder.

Hatges was 18 when he left Greece. He became a U.S. citizen in 1918 and served with the 163rd Iowa Depot Brigade during World War I.

He opened his first grocery store, the Mason City Fruit Store, in 1926. He later opened the West Vu Market and eventually sold his first store.

Kalliope Jolas of Clear Lake, who grew up in Mason City, said she and her parents were good friends with the Hatges family.

She said Hatges' wife, Maria, died giving birth to their second daughter and a lot of people in the community would take care of the baby while Hatges worked.

She said Hatges was well-liked in the community and the murder was "an awful thing."

Her former husband, Tom Jolas of Mason City, said Hatges was "just a very kind-hearted person."

"He had a fabulous grocery store," he said, noting Hatges would drive to places like Chicago to get the best fruits and vegetables. "He took great pride in what he did."

Hatzis said he does not believe robbery was a motive in his uncle's murder. He also thinks the murderer did not act alone.

"Whoever it was knew the time that Theo Andreas closed the grocery store and when he was expected home," he said. "The assailant was waiting for him when he got home."

Hatzis said whoever committed the crime is probably no longer alive.

"I don't think we'll ever know," he said.

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