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Authorities ‘actively investigating’ after woman claims her late father was a prolific serial killer

<i>KETV</i><br/>Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope speaks with KETV.
Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope speaks with KETV.

By Chris Boyette, CNN

A sheriff in western Iowa says local, state and federal authorities are “actively investigating” in a rural area where a woman claimed her late father disposed of dozens of bodies of people he killed decades ago.

“We are actively investigating this, and who wouldn’t?” Fremont County Sheriff Kevin Aistrope told CNN Affiliate KETV.

“We have a scene, but we don’t know whether it’s a crime scene,” the sheriff told KETV. “We don’t have victims, bodies. Nothing.”

The search follows a Newsweek article quoting Lucy Studey, who claimed her father, Donald Studey, killed “50 to 70” people years ago — and that she helped dispose of the bodies in a well on property he owned near Thurman, Iowa.

Susan Studey, Lucy Studey’s older sister, later told Newsweek her sister’s claims weren’t true. “My 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,” she told Newsweek.

CNN has reached out to Lucy Studey for comment.

“All we have is a woman came forward and told us a story about bodies in a well,” Aistrope said. “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.”

Donald Studey died in 2013, according to KETV.

“We’re going to do everything we can to prove or disprove there may be a crime scene,” Aistrope said.

Local, state and federal agencies are involved, including the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) and the FBI, Aistrope told KETV. Iowa DCI provides expertise, resources and experience to these investigations, particularly when the requesting agency is a smaller police department, said Mitch Mortvedt, DCI assistant director.

“They’d asked us to assist with the investigation as well as the FBI and we’re happy to do so, you know, and try to provide manpower and resources,” assistant director with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, told KETV.

Investigators from DCI have met with the Fremont County Sheriff’s office and the FBI in a joint effort to search for clues of the possible serial killer.

Mortvedt told CNN the investigation is still in its “infancy” and there is no timeline of when it will progress, but it will be “months in the making.” Mortvedt said since the alleged suspect passed away in 2013, law enforcement agencies will take the time necessary to conduct this investigation.

At this stage, investigators are checking the validity of Lucy Studey’s claims before authorities consider digging an area where cadaver dogs indicated possible human remains, according to Mortvedt. He adds that cadaver dogs are not always reliable as a sole source, therefore law enforcement will lean on other investigative measures before considering breaking ground.

CNN has reached out to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office for more details.

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