Seeing newspaper stories about another unsolved murder in Fort Dodge has fueled the frustration Jessica Altman feels about her mother's death.
Angela Altman was murdered on Jan. 24, 1981, in the home she shared with her then-4-year-old daughter. While Jessica Altman understands many years have passed since her mother's death and the majority of those who were involved in the investigation are no longer with law enforcement, she said she doesn't completely understand why her mother's case never seems to get attention from law enforcement officials.
"What is the purpose of being so mum about it?" Altman asked during a telephone interview. "They talk freely about the other case," she said, referring to the 2004 shooting death of Lisa McCuddin. "(They) can talk about that, but (they) want to keep hush-hush about a 31-year-old murder. I try not to be aggravating, but I want to let them know ... I won't let them forget."
Angela Marie Altman, pictured holding her daughter, Jessica, was murdered in Fort Dodge in 1981. No one has ever been held accountable.
Altman said she will never stop trying to find her mother's murderer, and she is convinced someone in or from Fort Dodge has information that could help.
"Fort Dodge is too small," said Altman, who lives in Tennessee. "Someone there knows. I think over the last 31 years, no one has talked about it. Whoever did it is still around, and I know people know."
In January, Altman and her mother's friend, Cindy Henning, traveled to Fort Dodge where they met with representatives from the Fort Dodge Police Department and Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
During that meeting, DCI Special Agent Ray Fiedler said officials reviewed the case with Altman.
"We talked about a few of the people we still have yet to talk to or could talk to again," Fiedler said.
DCI Special Agent Larry Hedlund said officials would like to be able to solve Angela Altman's murder.
"We'd like to do anything we can to make that happen," Hedlund said. "The odds are lower when the case is older."
"We also talked about the challenges of a case that's been handled by people who have long since retired ... and how we want closure for her, but this is going to be a challenge," said Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody. "We talked at length about the difference between knowing and proving."
"Even when you have a good idea of who may have" committed murder, being able to prove it in court isn't always possible, he said.
However, he said, it would be wrong to think that cases like "get put away."
"This is not something that goes away," Carmody said. "We have used and will use every resource available to us and available evidence to try to bring that closure."
Altman isn't convinced the juvenile who was initially arrested for the crime, then released, is innocent.
"I think they had the person 31 years ago," Altman said. "When I talked to John Blessman (a DCI agent) 17 years ago, he told me there was blood evidence at the scene that could not be tied to my mom, that all they needed to do was run the DNA on it. But he didn't know when that would happen. I never heard back from John Blessman, and he retired."
However, Hedlund seems equally unconvinced that the young man once charged is guilty. He said he believes the juvenile was arrested mainly because it appeared he and Angela Altman had been intimately involved.
Jessica Altman said law enforcement did suggest one other possible suspect. She said Fort Dodge Police Capt. Don Brand, who retired in 2004, pointed a finger at Charles Gully.
Gully was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Yvette McNamar in Fort Dodge. She was stabbed, beaten and found partially nude.
Jessica Altman said Brand told her "that there were so many similarities that they were sure Charles Gully killed my mom, and all they had to do was go interview him. Brand said he would have this case closed before he retired. He retired, and I never heard from him again."
Altman said she has never believed Gully was the murderer.
"Charles Gully was my dad's brother. What would his motive be?" she asked.
Gully, who maintained his innocence in the McNamar death, died in prison while serving a life sentence.
According to his niece, Gully was never interviewed regarding Angela Altman's death.
She said a former prosecutor told her he believed the case was closed with the assumption that "Charles Gully did it, but there was no evidence to tie him to it.
"Well, how can you say that?" Altman asked. "Oh, let's solve all the unsolved murders. Find somebody who's doing life in prison and just say they did it."
Despite what she sees as a lack of progress or official interest in the case, Jessica Altman still has hope that someday, somebody will step forward with information that will solve her mother's murder.