Authorities in Iowa are investigating a woman’s claim that her late father was a prolific serial killer who murdered dozens of people over decades.
Fremont County Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Wake said his office is looking into allegations, first reported last week by Newsweek, that Donald Dean Studey buried the bodies around his property in Thurman, in southwest Iowa near the border with Nebraska.
“She’s made these claims to the office, and we’re looking into it,” Wake told NBC News on Tuesday. “We’re trying to gather information to establish credibility and see if we can get evidence if there are bodies buried there or not.”
A spokesman for Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation said the agency is in the beginning stages of assisting the sheriff's office and has no timeline for the probe.
The Omaha Police Department is also helping with the investigation, an agency spokesman said.
Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope told The Des Moines Register that Studey's daughter claimed her father killed "five or six" women a year for several decades.
Public records show that Donald Dean Studey died in 2013 at age 75.
Aistrope told the newspaper that two cadaver dogs visited the 5-acre site Friday and found the possible existence of decomposing remains in an area around a well.
“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 newspaper. “We’ve got to have more proof than that.”
The woman, identified in Newsweek by her maiden name, Lucy Studey, told Newsweek that she knew "where the bodies are buried" because her father would demand that she and her siblings help move them using a wheelbarrow or a toboggan.
“He would just tell us we had to go to the well, and I knew what that meant,” the magazine quoted her saying.
Efforts to reach Lucy Studey or people identified in public records as her relatives were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Lucy Studey told the magazine that her father lured sex workers and transients from Omaha to his property before he killed them. She reported the claims to the sheriff's office for the second time last year, The Register reported.
Aistrope said it seemed unlikely that so many people could have disappeared from the Omaha area without drawing more attention, the newspaper reported, although he acknowledged that the deaths could have been possible if the victims were from elsewhere.