Did Jerry Nemke Kill Thomas Freeman? How Did Jerry Nemke Die? – “On The Case With Paula Zahn: Room 106,” an episode of Investigation Discovery, centers on the 1982 slaying of Lee Rotatori in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Even though it took the detectives four decades to solve the murder of the food service manager, they could not apprehend Thomas Freeman because he had already been the victim of a murder in October 1982, months before Lee was killed. Jerry Nemke, her husband, was cited as a potential witness in both instances. This case is undoubtedly for you if intricate murder riddles excite you. So let’s get started, shall we?
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Did Jerry Nemke Kill Thomas Freeman?
Lee Gunsalus Rotatori joined Service-Master Inc. in 1980 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a Bachelor’s in Dietary Services and a Master’s in Food Nutrition. She was transferred to Council Bluffs’ Jennie Edmundson Hospital in June 1982 by the Chicago-based company that hired hospital food service managers. During the first week of her new job’s orientation, she came to Council Bluffs and checked into the Best Western Frontier Motor Lodge hotel.
On June 25, 1982, Lee’s employers called the motel to inquire about her after she failed to show up for her first official day of work. The body of Lee was discovered face down on the right side of her bed in a pool of blood when a motel staff member knocked on Room 106’s door. She was wearing pajamas. According to the autopsy report, she died from a single knife wound to the heart, and the police found no signs of a struggle or break-in.
According to the report, Lee was also sexually abused. Gerald Stanley “Jerry” Nemke, her second husband, was the subject of the police’s initial investigation since he had a history of homicide from 1960. He had a strong alibi, though, and was in Michigan at the time of the crime, excluding him as a suspect in Lee’s murder. Due to the outdated forensic technology at the time, the authorities recovered an unidentified DNA profile from the crime scene but could not utilize it to identify the murderer.
The cold 1982 case was reopened in 2001, and the DNA was once again sent to the State of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) Lab due to the development of forensic science over time. Although it was determined that the DNA profile belonged to an unidentified male, neither the State nor the Federal DNA databases could match it. The DNA was sent to a Virginia-based business named Parabon Nanolabs after the detectives had once more reached a dead end. When it was established in 2016, Parabon Nanolabs focused on providing DNA phenotyping services to law enforcement organizations.
The genetic data from the DNA profile was used to piece together familial links with the aid of a nationally renowned Pennsylvanian genealogist, Eric Schubert, who was a student at the time. In 2021, the killer’s suspect pool was reduced to 2 brothers. Investigators investigated both to rule out one who was too young in 1982 to conduct the crime, leaving them with just one suspect: a truck driver by the name of Thomas O. Freeman. Thomas’ daughter was located by detectives from the Council Bluffs Police Department’s cold case unit, and she agreed to provide her DNA.
After nearly four decades, the authorities thought they had finally solved the cold case when her DNA matched. Nevertheless, Thomas had passed away in October 1982, barely four months after Lee had been killed. The 35-year-decomposing old’s bullet-riddled body was discovered in a shallow grave not far from Cobden, Illinois. According to the autopsy report, Thomas had passed away around three months before the date of the body’s discovery. Jerry was identified as a person interested in the murder investigation, but the case has not yet been solved.
Jerry Nemke’s Cause of Death
Jerry, Lee’s spouse, was sent to Marseilles Youth Camp when he was 17 years old after being found guilty of car theft. He had left the camp and fled to Chicago, where he encountered Marilyn Duncan, a waitress who was 16 years old. According to the police reports, Marilyn had a date with Jerry, and they were last seen together at around 9 p.m. on April 29, 1960. The following day, she was discovered on the Northwestern Railroad behind a plant, barely alive. Her chest and head had both suffered severe wounds.
The police discovered evidence linking Jerry to the offense at the scene of the incident. He reportedly admitted to beating the young waitress when he was hauled in for interrogation in April 1960. She was unconscious when she passed away on May 1, 1960, at the hospital. Jerry was caught stealing a car in May 1960 and was given the death penalty. The decision was reversed in less than two years, and a new trial started. Jerry was once more found guilty and given a sentence of 75 to 100 years in jail.
After receiving his release, Jerry wed Lee in Madison, Wisconsin, in August 1978. No children were born to the couple, who split after a year and remarried in December 1981, just a few months before she was killed. Since the police discovered Jerry had connections to the victim, Thomas, they named him a person of interest in the case.
Thomas and Jerry were former friends, and the college that Jerry attended was around 15 miles away from where Thomas’ body had been found. However, because Jerry passed away from natural causes in March 2019, some three years before the police identified Thomas as Lee’s killer, the investigators could not connect him to the crime.
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