COLD CASE: Why Hasn't a Suspect Been Arrested for the Murder of Sioux City Teen Terri McCauley?
Almost 40 years ago, Terri McCauley, a Sioux City teen, a mother, and a member of the Omaha Tribe, was murdered. Her death still impacts family and investigators, with some wondering why they still wait for an arrest in the case?
“We took it very hard. Why did that happen to us?”
Even though Nathanial McCauley was too young to remember his mother, she died when he was a toddler. He does not want the community to forget about her unsolved death.
“She loved us. She loved people. She was easy to get along with. She basically wanted to live a full life, and that didn’t take place and didn’t happen for her."
Living without his mother, McCauley felt a void, one he could not fill without her.
“I turned to alcohol and drugs. It was really meth that took over for me. The meth just took the empty feeling away from losing my mom. My father was in prison most of his life. My grandmother raised us the best she could, but we were just two young kids without a mom or dad. It was just tough for us."
QUESTION: "What did she want you to know about your mother?"
“That she was a good girl, she was a little rebellious. She was young. She had us when she was young, and she did the best she could to raise us as a young kid."
Terri McCauley was only 18 years old in the fall of 1983 when she did not return home after a night out with friends.
They last saw her get into a vehicle near a bar on the west side of the city.
Her body was found days later, miles away, in a wooded area off of Floyd Boulevard.
“This lady needs justice. Her family needs justice.”
Retired Police Sergeant Tony Sunclades served in the detective bureau during the era of Terri’s McCauley’s tragedy.
“Weeks later, I investigated a case where an individual fired a shotgun into a house where his ex-girlfriend lived. It was the same type of shotgun and rounds used in this."
QUESTION: “Do you believe that the person who did that shooting also murdered Terri McCauley? I have no doubt. Why wasn’t he arrested, do you think?"
“The county attorney’s office felt there wasn’t enough evidence, period.”
QUESTION: “You saw the evidence. Do you think there was enough evidence?”
“I think there’s enough evidence for a grand jury to make an indictment. I would like to see this case solved. I truly believe he’s the one that did it.”
Even though the Sioux City Police Department classifies Terri McCauley’s murder as a cold case, work continues to officially identify her killer.
“I’m Sgt. Mike Manthorn, the current supervisor in charge of crimes about persons and investigations for the Sioux City Police Department.”
“One of the things that really struck me when first reviewing the case is how hard the investigators worked, and crime scene techs worked on the case. They scoured the scene and came out later and found more evidence. They did everything they could to get all the evidence there to see who was involved. And forensics, especially the car. They did all they could with technology at that time.”
The police department continues to send items of interest to the state crime lab for DNA analysis.
“We recently did a partial profile on the victim.”
So far, nothing ties a suspect to the crime.
“It is very frustrating. We deal with high standards of proving something beyond a reasonable doubt to take something to trial. We can make arrests on probable cause, and we have enough to do that, but we have to be very careful in a case like this. If you don’t get a conviction because of double jeopardy, we are done. We can’t go back and try again.”
“It is very frustrating because we have a very strong opinion of what happened and obviously a very heinous crime, and the family is devasted. We would like to see it brought to justice.”
QUESTION: "Can you name the suspect? I would rather keep him off the list at this point. There have been more recent developments and focus on a prosecutor. We might want to keep that element of surprise.”
“I talked to an investigator who is working the case now. They’re trying to hinge it on DNA evidence, and you know that it takes time, but there is concern there won’t be enough time to bring the suspect to justice.”
“He will face justice eventually, whenever God decides to put him when he’s gone,” said Sunclades.
Advocacy groups also want justice for Terri McCauley. Some even started a Facebook Page to bring awareness to her life and death. Some members even sent postcards to authorities to push for action.
“When they reached out to get permission to do all that stuff. I said yes, we would like that. And that really put it out in the spotlight,” said Nathanial McCauley.
“Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are right now. It’s getting reviewed. I am just happy they exist, if you know what I mean?”
Her son, Nathanial, also credits awareness of the Missing and Murder Indigenous Women movement for keeping his mother’s name alive and his tribe for keeping him grounded.
“It helps us stick with our roots. We need that in our life.”
A life for Nathaniel that includes sobriety, five years clean, and counting.
He perseveres for himself and the memory of his mother.
“Anyone going through someone being missing and murdered, just keep looking and never stop. You just have to persevere and push for that justice.”
Nathaniel McCauley says he met with the county attorney this spring with a goal of a grand jury review of the case. Siouxland Public Media reached out to Woodbury County Attorney PJ Jennings for comment. He sent a statement that says, “Our office, in conjunction with the Sioux City Police Department, is taking a complete look at a cold case right now. Since the case is ongoing, I am not at liberty to even say which case, but it involves an indigenous person.” No other information is available.
Both Nathaniel McCauley and retired Sergeant Tony Sunclades disclosed the name of the person they believe committed the murder, but at the request of the Sioux City Police Department, Siouxland Public Media is not disclosing that information.
McCauley took part in a special event and march Thursday, May 12th in downtown Sioux City to bring awareness to Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.