(NewsNation) — Iowa state and Fremont County investigators are looking into claims a woman made saying her father forced her to help bury what could be an estimated 70 bodies on land he owned west of Tabor, Iowa.
In speaking with Newsweek on Oct. 22, the daughter, who chose to be identified by her maiden name Lucy Studey, says her father, Donald Dean Studey, murdered “five or six” women a year over several decades, burying them in and around an abandoned well.
“I know where the bodies are buried,” Lucy Studey told Newsweek. “He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant. Every time I went to the well or into the hills, I didn’t think I was coming down. I thought he would kill me because I wouldn’t keep my mouth shut.”
On Monday, Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope told the Des Moines Register that two cadaver dogs brought in by investigators last week had “hits” of possible decomposing remains in the area.
“She’s got a hell of a story but we don’t have any proof of anything other than we had a cadaver dog hit,” Aistrope told the Register. “We’ve got to have more proof than that.”
The alleged victims are sex workers and transient women picked up in Omaha and lured into the farmland. Digging up the well will cost an estimated $300,000, but authorities are using other methods until local police receive the reinforcements and resources they need.
“We’ve heard stories about this for years and right now. Our biggest thing is to set up the logistics to do this, and we ask for state and federal help and they’re willing to help,” Tim Bothwell, a deputy chief at the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office, told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Wednesday.
Likewise, Aistrope said his department has enlisted help from the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
“I’ll get with DCI and we’ll get a game plan here together, and this just adds … credibility to her story,” Aistrope said.
Also supporting Lucy Studey’s claims is her father’s lengthy criminal history.
She told Newsweek that her father “was a lifelong criminal and murderer” who made ends meet by smuggling guns and drugs. Furthermore, records show Donald Studey spent time in prison in Missouri in the 1950s for petty larceny and that he was jailed in Omaha in 1989 for a drunken driving offense.
Lucy’s sister, Susan, refutes the claims, telling Newsweek in an interview on Oct. 25 that her “father was not the man she makes him out to be.”
“He was strict, but he was a protective parent who loved his children. … Strict fathers don’t just turn into serial killers. … I’m two years older than Lucy. I think I would know if my father murdered,” Susan said.
As Donald Studey is dead, Aistrope says locating the bodies and identifying the remains will be difficult, although they’ve gotten permission from the owners of the property and neighboring properties to conduct searches.
“All we have is a woman came forward and told us a story about bodies in a well,” Aistrope said, speaking to CNN on Wednesday. “We did bring a couple cadaver dogs. Cadaver dogs looked in there or looked around the area, and they did indicate in the area. I’m not going to say it was right over the well, but they did indicate in the area.”
Still, Aistrope admits cadaver dogs are “just a tool,” not concrete evidence.
“We have a scene, but we don’t know whether it’s a crime scene,” said Aistrope, speaking to KETV. “We don’t have victims, bodies. Nothing.”
“We’re going to do everything we can to prove or disprove there may be a crime scene,” said Aistrope.
Donald Studey died in 2013, according to KETV.