The Waverly Three

By Morgan

Fourteen year old Valerie Klossowsky

Waverly is a small, upper-middle class town in northeast Iowa. On June 13th, 1971, the first murder of what is now referred to as the Waverly Three is committed. Valerie Klossowsky, age 14, goes to the pool with a friend and never comes home. Her body was found nude from the waist down, shirt pulled up over her head, raped and strangled.

Eighteen year old Julie Benning

November 28th, 1975, eighteen year old Julie Benning goes missing. Some people in town claim to have seen her briefly working at the strip club, taking money at the door. There are rumors of a little scuffle at the front door and then, no more Julie. Fast forward to March of ’76. It rains a ton and Julie’s body is found. She had been stuffed in a culvert in a ditch. She was naked, mutilated, strangled and presumably raped though she was in a bad, bad state of decomposition by that time.

Nineteen year old Marie “Lisa” Peak.

On September 4th, 1976, Marie “Lisa” Peak is found naked, mutilated, strangled, and raped by a tree on a gravel road north of town. Lisa Peak had been abducted and held captive and raped about a year earlier and helped put that guy in prison.

My father was actually a person of interest in Julie Benning’s death, though I don’t know why or what led to him not being of interest any longer. My mother grew up here and remembers that people didn’t really think Valerie was killed by the same person as Julie and Lisa, and she says no one really talked about the murders. Which isn’t surprising, because Waverly is like a real life Pleasantville. We’re REALLY good at sweeping things under the rug in order to maintain that reputation. AND, if you find Julie’s sisters’ blog, she talks about a guy finding her a couple years ago and telling her he witnessed drama at the strip club that Julie allegedly worked at the night she disappeared and knows who killed Julie. The guy with the details opted not to meet with Julie’s sister though, so what he saw is still a mystery.

Much speculation has been made over the years and many persons of interest. In 2010, law enforcement exhumed Lisa Peak’s body to look for missed DNA evidence. There was a man in Minnesota that they thought could have fit the crime, but nothing panned out. There’s still plenty of people living in Waverly that were living here when the murders took place. A detective from the initial investigation made a public plea for anyone with info to please come forward because it has been so long and the families deserve closure.

Please turn tips into Special Agent Jon Moeller at the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (712)-258-1920 or Waverly Police at (319)-352-5400.

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7 thoughts on “The Waverly Three

  • Thank you for this summary of the three cases. I’m curious about your dad (“My father was actually a person of interest in Julie Benning’s death, though I don’t know why or what led to him not being of interest any longer.”) I have heard this as well: “people didn’t really think Valerie was killed by the same person as Julie and Lisa.” And this has too much authenticity: “We’re REALLY good at sweeping things under the rug in order to maintain that reputation” (wholesome small-town myth). Here, I wonder where you heard that “Denmark” (the lone witness who came forward 40 years later) “opted not to meet with Julie’s sister…so what he saw is still a mystery.” He met with two of Julie’s sisters. The first one believes none of it. The second one was me, and I find him very credible and plausible and persuasive. (Carol, assisting Jody for the past year at Iowa Cold Cases)
    #DNA under the fingernails should have been collected in 1976 (and even 1970) – but it wasn’t. When Lisa was exhumed, “water damage” to the casket allegedly had compromised any DNA, but a crime lab in Denver, CO, specializes in old and “degraded” DNA, and even contacted Waverly LE for an autopsy report but was told that Julie’s case file was stored in Butler County, where the courthouse in Alison had suffered basement flooding, and nobody ever did produce Julie’s case file for the crime lab in Denver. There is no reason Lisa’s case file should be lost, or for any DNA evidence to have been dismissed in 2010. Who’s interfering with these cases, tampering with evidence, and misleading witnesses? Some have said it could be the police officer who became a minister and fled to Uganda when Lisa was exhumed, returning after the usual “nothing to see here, folks.”

    I’ve heard nothing about “a man in Minnesota” who ‘could have fit the crime, but nothing panned out.”

    Another question for you: where did you hear Julie was “naked, mutilated, strangled and presumably raped though she was in a bad, bad state of decomposition by that time”–? #Mutilated? Never saw that anywhere. The family was never allowed to see the body (identified by dental records), but some have said she wasn’t “badly” decomposed. From November 28 to March 18, cold winter weather, I wouldn’t expect all that much in the way of decomposition. Could be just another example of “misleading” statements from LE. Never have the case investigators updated their account of Julie being “last seen” on Waverly’s streets around 5 p.m., even though a number of people at the Sir Lounge saw her at work that night. It’s one thing for local police to perpetuate a lie, but why would the BCI (now known as DCI) go along with it – and why would the FBI fail to correct the misinformation that was published? Special Agent Jon Moeller at the Federal Bureau of Investigation has never replied to any emails I’ve sent him. I haven’t tried phoning him.
    If you have questions for me (Julie’s sister) or for Jody Ewing (founder of Iowa Cold Cases), you can email
    Thank you, Morgan.

  • Morgan, once again, thank you for sharing your personal thoughts and recollections, and for asking anyone who knows something to come forward. My condolences on the loss of your father. It’s always too soon for a loved one to leave this world; my grandma was 97, but her inevitable death hit as hard as if she were half that age. Losing a parent is hard no matter what their age, and losing a child is beyond anything. I was 13 when my sister was stolen from our lives, and not until I became a mother myself did I begin to comprehend what it’s like to love and nurture a baby, see him/her through diapers, fevers, learning to walk and talk, graduating from high school, praying for their safety, looking forward to the next milestone–but Julie-Lisa-Valerie didn’t get to marry or have children or attend the weddings and events of their siblings. For years,the seventh plate was missing from our table. Now all remaining sisters are married-with-children, and though Julie never got to see them, and they never got to hear her voice or even see her on video (no VHS back then), they feel the void.

    Thank you again for this blog entry. You may have been fed some misinformation, but that’s not your fault.

  • I was a Waverly Police Officer in 1976 the day Lisa Peak disappeared. I was called back to duty the next morning when her body was found. At the time the Waverly PD ran the ambulance service for the city and about 1/3 of Bremer County. I am Tom England. I and a fellow officer were the two officers on that ambulance call to pick-up Lisa’s body where it been dumped. I was a very casual acquaintance of Lisa. I had attended Wartburg College. I had worked as a broadcast journalist at KXEL in Waterloo, Iowa. I was invited back to Wartburg to give a short talk to an Intro to Journalism class by my old professor. Lisa was in the class. I remember her as a very blond, blue eyed, very attentive young lady. As I had worked at KWAR, Wartburg’s 10watt radio station, I would drop back there occasionally. One time when I did Lisa was on the air. I thought to myself that if I was about 5 years younger I might ask her out, I was still single at the time. I thought she was too young for me. No, I did not murder her! One of my roommates and I, a Bremer County deputy at the time shared a house with a Waverly Fireman. The deputy and I got off work at midnight the day Lisa disappeared. He and I went to a bar in Waverly called the “NightHawk” drank a couple of beers played a couple of games of $.25 pool and went home. He was called back to work at 9am, I was called back at 10am. I remember the location of where her body was found, how her body was laying on the ground when we picked it up, put it in brown body bag, too it to St. Francis Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa where the autopsy was conducted. All of this was very traumatic for me.
    I still have “flashbacks” to the scene of where Lisa’s body was found, and the vision of her body on the autopsy table. I kicked my self emotionally for years wondering where I should have been the day she disappeared. The place where body was found was outside the city limits on a gravel road, about 1/8 of mile south of a blacktop road. It was next to a large tree (which isn’t there anymore) down in a low spot in the area. I would sometimes drive out there when I was on duty overnight, turn off my headlights, and then turn the lights back on along with my spotlight just to see what I might find. One time I found a car with a young couple in side doing what was called at the time as “parking.” One other time I found an abandoned vehicle with no one around. I still remember that vehicle and the name of the owner from Olewein, Iowa.
    The Iowa Bureau of Criminal Investigation was responsible for this case. They interviewed me about one week later while doing a neighborhood canvas around the most likely where Lisa had walked. They were surprised when I told them I knew her, or at least who she was. About 2 weeks after that they came and asked for a hair sample of mine, which I gave, I had red hair at the time. I remember there were two volumes of the investigation, retained by the Bremer County SO. I read part of the first volume. I remember some of what I read. A black hair was found on her body.
    I have since retired out of the US Army in 1991, spending the last four years in the Army as a criminal investigator. If anyone wants to contact me, please look me up in the phone book. I live outside San Antonio, Texas in Universal City.

    • I have felt so terrible about Lisa’s murder I even went to one session of counseling for PTSD because of it.
      If the current investigators or the Bremer County SO wants to contact me, please do.


      • Thank you for sharing this. PTSD – no doubt! I’m sorry for what you experienced and thank you for your service as a police officer.
        Asking you for a hair sample: ridiculous, but ok. I know of a now-white-haired man who might be asked today for a sample. (Don’t count on it happening.)
        How well did you know fellow officer Bob Gaston, who was working Waverly PD at the time?
        I’m told Bremer County had the case file on Julie Benning and LOST IT during a flood.
        I’ve always wondered how Lisa’s and Julie’s murders were connected. The same perps, the same motives?
        So many, many names of so many people who “know something” are in all these old case files.
        Again, thanks, and I hope the present case investigators do contact you.

    • Tom … I see this is an old post, but, I’m going to reply anyway in hopes that you will see this. Have you followed the case of Michelle Martinko who was murdered in CR in 1979? Many on her FB page agree that Lisa and Julie both look very similar to Michelle. They just convicted her killer in Feb. He lived in Manchester at that time and would have been in his early 20’s in ‘75 & ‘76, about an hour away from Waverly. There are similarities that really should be looked into in regard to these cases.

  • As a former police officer with the federal government, it bothers me that the files on this case have been damaged, lost or whatever. I would think that better care would be taken to safeguard the files of cases that were not solved. Although, how would these agencies know that we would make all these advances in forensics, and criminal profiling, that have taken place.

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