Editor's note - This is the second in a series of stories on the unsolved murder of Angela Altman
Cindy Henning didn't know the young woman she had mentored through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program had been murdered in Fort Dodge 30 years earlier.
Jessica Altman didn't know Henning and her mother had become friends in Davenport.
A posting on the Iowa Cold Case website brought Altman and Henning together in 2011. Now, they are working to find justice for Angela Altman and closure for her daughter.
Angela Altman grew up in Fort Dodge but spent some of her teen-aged years in Davenport, where Henning became her Big Sister - which spawned a relationship that continued after Altman returned to her hometown.
Henning, who still lives in the Quad Cities area, said that late last year "I was cleaning out a lot of things that I've kept over the years, and I came across some pictures of Angela. She and Jessica had come and stayed with me for a week after Jessica was born. I hadn't talked to Angela since probably 1979 or 1980."
Henning said she decided to try to connect with Angela Altman online - which is when she learned of the January 1981 murder.
Initially, Henning said, she was so shocked she didn't do anything after seeing Altman's picture and story on the Iowa Cold Case site.
"After a couple of weeks, I thought, you know, I'm going to at least leave a message because I want Jessica to know that I knew her mom," said Henning, who was a child when her own mother died.
Jessica Altman sent a polite email response, but was skeptical because she didn't think her mom had ever lived in Davenport and suggested they were talking about different people, Henning said.
"I was like, I understand. I'm popping up out of the blue. You probably think I'm a creepy nut," Henning said she told Altman through an email. "But I have a picture of you in a little yellow dress at 3-and-a-half months old. I have a picture of you and your mother. This is your birthdate, and your middle name is Marie, just like your mother."
An aunt finally confirmed that Angela Altman had lived in Davenport.
Henning and Altman met in January "and Jessica and I have talked every day or have emailed on Facebook or whatever every day since then. We have not been apart. It was like an instant connection, like I've known her my whole life."
Jessica Altman, who was 4 years old when her mother was killed, said her family has always been reluctant to talk about her mother or the murder. Finally, Altman was able to get some answers about the young mom Henning knew as "Angie."
"She liked listening to music," Henning said. "She loved that Rolling Stones song, 'Angie,' loved that song. We used to go to the park and just hang out, listen to music, play with my kids. She was probably 14, 15. I was only four years older than her, so I was young myself.
"She was a proud mama. She definitely loved her daughter; that can't be denied at all," Henning said.
Angela Altman sent photos of herself and her daughter, many of which were destroyed when Henning's basement flooded. But Henning sent two surviving photos to Jessica Altman; Angela Altman had written on the back of one of the photos.
"That was the first time she had ever seen her mother's handwriting," Henning said.
"Angela was very quiet. She didn't talk a lot, I tell you that," Henning said. "She would write more ... Now, hindsight's 20/20. I wish I had kept every letter, that would have been awesome."
After a few years in Davenport, Angela Altman moved back to Fort Dodge and continued to write to Henning. However, in 1977, Henning received a phone call from Altman.
"She called me out of the blue and wanted to know if she could come stay with me for a week or so. I said, 'Yeah, I'll get you a bus ticket if you can come down.' Like I said, she was real quiet, but it just seemed like she had to get away. I don't know why. She needed to come to my house. And she did."
Henning is certain she and Altman corresponded until at least 1979.
"She moved back to Fort Dodge, and we continued to write," Henning said. "She got hooked up with some girl; I can't remember the name off the top of my head. But (the girl) was wild, wanted her to travel. They were going to go to Las Vegas; they were going to go to Texas. I don't know if they ever did."
There's one thing Henning said she does know: "It's been great having Jessica in my life."
When Jessica Altman traveled to Fort Dodge in January to meet with local law enforcement officials and visit with members of the Altman family, Henning was at her side.
"I met Angela's mom (Clarice Altman) when I was down there. She's quiet. She reminds me a lot of Angela," Henning said.