Exclusive: Alleged Serial Killer's Daughter Explains Why She Told Her Story

The families of about 15 missing people have reached out to the woman who claims her father was a serial killer, asking whether their loved one might have been one of his victims, buried deep in the Green Hollow area around Thurman, Iowa.

"I can't imagine a family with a missing loved one," Studey, 53, told Newsweek Friday. "Every time you hear of a body being found or a possible murder, you must wonder: 'Is that my loved one?' My heart goes out to them."

She said family members and friends have sent her pictures of potential victims and related details of their stories.

"I can't read them anymore without an emotional breakdown myself," Studey, who has told investigators that as many as 50 to 70 people—mostly women—are buried around the family's property," told Newsweek Friday.

She alleges her father, Donald Dean Studey, would bring most of his victims home to their trailer from nearby Omaha. Lucy Studey said her father would typically beat or bash the women's heads, burying most in a deep well on properties in the area as well as in shallow graves along morel mushroom trails on the land. She said at least two men are also buried on the land.

Fremont County Sheriff
Fremont County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Mike Wake ties a marker signaling where cadaver dogs scented human remains in Green Hollow near Thurman, Iowa Naveed Jamali

Donald Studey, known around town as a drunk and violent man who frequently lost his money betting, died of heart failure at 75 in 2013, his daughter told Newsweek.

Newsweek has been shown some of the photos and flyers sent to Lucy Studey of missing people, but the publication is withholding their release because it has not been confirmed that these are people investigators are looking at in connection with this case. Also, some of the photos Lucy Studey has received did not fit the profile of women in their 20s or 30s that she said her father would target.

After Newsweek first reported Lucy Studey's claims and the first attempts to locate remains with trained dogs, the area began to attract many gawkers and the case lit up on social media. Police locked the gates a few weeks ago and have tried to stop traffic from going into the hard-to-find sites where at least three cadaver dogs have signaled the presence of human remains.

Lucy Studey, meanwhile, has opened up beyond her comments to Newsweek, whose reporters visited the site with her and investigators last month. She posted several messages to a private Facebook group dedicated to discussing the case and supporting her.

"I can't listen to any more voicemails or read any more emails and social media messages from people asking if their missing family member or friend could be one of the bodies up in the hills...My heart goes out to you and your family," she posted on Friday.

The posting then describes a profile of the women she says she remembers her father luring to their trailer and killing:

"Missing women from 1970 until 1982, especially around 1976-1980," she wrote, adding that most were from Omaha, Council Bluffs, Plattsmouth, Nebraska City and surrounding areas, including towns along the Iowa-Nebraska border and north or south of that stretch.

Referring to her father, she wrote, "He was a gas station attendant, mechanic and tow truck driver at many gas stations and truck stops." She described a truck stop in Council Bluffs, Iowa, that had a Greyhound bus stop, saying he would prey on down-and-out women "with no place to stay the night or to live. He picked up truck stop prostitutes. He picked up lonely, drunk women at bars. People who wouldn't be missed."

She said there were exceptions to the profile, including two men – one of whom was about 40 and the other about 20, as she previously told Newsweek. There was also a 15-year-old girl whom Lucy Studey remembers being a runaway.

"I remember the victims being: Female. White. LATE 20s to LATE 30s. Average height. Average/Medium build. No skinny underweight women. No women with a few extra pounds or overweight. Black hair, dark brown hair, dark brown with red highlights hair, and dirty blonde hair. No all blondes. Shoulder length (give or take a few inches). Some curl in hair style. Plain dressers. Not a lot of makeup or jewelry."

In a plea to families of the missing, she wrote: "If the missing person fits the description above, send me a picture with their name or a missing person bulletin ONLY. I'll look at it. If I can definitely remember the face, I'll let authorities know."

Studey told Newsweek, "I would like everyone to wait until after they find bodies, and then let the authorities work on identification. It's too early to try to identify victims..."

Studey has expressed frustration with law enforcement for not acting on her claims years ago—she said she has been telling her story to people such as teachers, priests and law enforcement for at least 45 years, but was written off as a child with a delusional mind. Still, she said she will continue aiding investigators in a probe that now involves the Fremont County Sheriff's Department, the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the FBI.

Accused killer Donald Dean Studey
Donald Dean Studey, accused by his daughter of murdering people over three decades and having his children put lye and dirt atop suspected burial sites, is pictured in 2006. Lucy Studey said her father had been a killer, but nobody would listen for 45 years. Cadaver dogs have now alerted to suspected grave sites. Lucy Studey

A potential dig of the site could happen as early as next month, sources have told Newsweek.

She also posted the following on the invite-only Facebook group and sent Newsweek the text of the posting:

"I want to set the record straight. My entire life, my dad would tell people that I 'had an active imagination', 'that I was touched in the head', 'I hallucinate', 'that I was a liar', etc. It's not true. He said this because I wouldn't keep my mouth shut. I've been trying to tell people about my dad since 1973. I was about 4-5 years old. He used to beat me and/or threaten my life each time I told someone. He told me that it's better for people to believe that about me than him having to kill me."

One time, Studey told Newsweek, her father—while she was in grade school—nearly killed her by choking her so hard he lifted her from the ground.

"Living with my dad was like constant high alert," she said. "If something made him mad, he would take it out on us kids. You didn't know if he was going to scream at us or beat us, or worse—like the time he almost choked me to death when I was in 2nd grade. I didn't think I was going to live long enough to make it out of Green Hollow."

Lucy Studey, who has drawn many detractors, including siblings and other relatives, on Facebook and other messaging channels, pleaded with family to come forward. She said she remembers all of it because of the trauma she endured, including dumping lye and dirt in areas where she claims bodies are buried.

"Whenever something would happen," she told Newsweek, "I would tell myself 'remember, remember, remember.'" She said that to do so, "I would dig my fingers into my arms—and I tried to force myself to remember every detail."

In postings, she also tries to dispel "misinformation" making the rounds, including that an excavation costing $300,000 was done in 2007 after she came forward that time, that the family owned a funeral home used to cremate victims' bodies, that Donald Studey was a pathologist and that she was a lesbian because of her short-cropped hair. She said a good deal of the "information" on social media, including the supposed prior dig at the site, is nonsense. Investigators have confirmed to Newsweek that she is correct about that.

In addition to her brother, who died at 39, and two sisters, her father had six more children "that we know of" through girlfriends or marriage, she posted.

One of the women, interviewed by Newsweek, said Donald Studey tried to run her over when they were dating as late teens. The woman, who was pregnant with his son, said she was saved by a neighbor. But later in life, the woman said, he would stalk her as she cleaned houses and one time stopped her in a car with the son and threatened to shoot her.

"I could have been the first one in all this mess," the woman told Newsweek.
Many of the women in Donald Studey's life died under questionable circumstances, including two allegedly by suicide: Lucy Studey's mother and her stepmother.

Memorial site of alleged killer in Iowa
Lucy Studey looks at the memorial site for her late father Donald Dean Studey. She accused him for 45 years of being a serial killer, but nobody would listen. Now, cadaver dogs have alerted to sites of possible human remains. Photo by Naveed Jamali/Newsweek

In the private group, Lucy Studey pleads with her sisters, Susan and Linda, to come forward. Susan has denied Lucy's claims, telling Newsweek that her sister's "stories" about her father were the fantasies of a woman gone mad. Linda did not return messages from Newsweek.

"If my two sisters are reading this," Lucy Studey wrote, "I want you to remember from 1988 down to your earliest memories about us. Was dad's lies about me true? Do you remember any incidents? No, you don't. You repeat these things about me only because our dad repeated them over and over to us and everyone else our entire childhood."

Lucy Studey also stressed in the statement she shared with Newsweek: "I'm not looking for attention or 15 minutes of fame...I don't want the focus on me. I want the focus to remain on the investigation, the well and the gravesites. I want to keep the pressure on the authorities to investigate until they actually take action to excavate. I want the victims dug up, identified, and given a proper burial.

"I absolutely am not looking for compensation or to 'make a quick buck' off my allegations or the story of my life. I have refused all media offers of compensation. I have not and will not ever make a penny off this. It would be blood money. In fact, I have actually spent thousands of dollars of my own money over the decades trying to prove my allegations against my father...

"I've spent decades trying to do what is morally right. I tried to get justice for the victims while my father was alive. Now that he is dead, I can only try to get closure for everyone that has been affected by my father's crimes."