After 50 Years, Cedar Rapids Police Close 1971 Homicide Case
A half-century ago, the body of a 17-year-old female was found in a wooded ravine in the southwest part of Cedar Rapids. Fifty years after Maureen Brubaker-Farley was killed, authorities have finally closed the books on the homicide case.
On Tuesday, Cedar Rapids police named George M. Smith as the suspect in Brubaker-Farley's murder. In a press release, officials said they used modern DNA technology to confirm that Smith committed the crime following years of investigation.
No matter how much time has passed, our officers are committed to seeking out justice for all victims of violent crime as well as their families. I am extremely proud of the generations of Cedar Rapids officers that contributed to bringing this once cold case to a resolution. I would also like to specifically recognize the contributions of our current Cedar Rapids Police Department's Cold Case Unit. Those individuals are Investigator Matt Denlinger, retired DCI Special Agent JD Smith and retired CRPD Police Lieutenant Ken Washburn.
-- Chief of Police Wayne Jerman
In the press release, police said that the case will be closed without prosecution because Smith is now deceased. Records show Smith died in 2013 at the age of 94.
Background On The Case
The body of Brubaker-Farley was found on Sept. 24, 1971, in a wooded ravine off Ely Road SW. According to police, two teenage boys spotted her body lying on the trunk of an abandoned junk car near a landfill (the site is now Tate Cummins Park). Brubaker-Farley was partially clothed with no shoes and clean feet. The evidence showed that Farley was carried and placed at the wooded location after she died, authorities said.
An autopsy later determined that Brubaker-Farley had been hit in the head and died of a skull fracture. Evidence also suggested that she had been sexually assaulted.
As part of the investigation immediately following Brubaker-Farley's death, officials collected a variety of evidence and talked with several people about the crime. Authorities interviewed suspects, potential witnesses, family and friends. Police said detectives had identified a variety of potential suspects but they were unable to find enough evidence to charge anyone. Over the years, the case grew cold.
Cedar Rapids police said Detective Doug Larison revisited the case in 2006 and found several items of evidence that were appropriate for DNA analysis. Among the items was a swab collected from Farley’s body as part of the sexual assault examination.
Police explained that the swab was used to develop a complete male DNA profile. Larison then began collecting DNA swabs from potential suspects to have those compared to the suspect profile. The suspect profile was also uploaded to the FBI DNA database, but no matches were found.
In 2017, the Cedar Rapids Police Department's Cold Case Unit began reviewing the homicide case for additional follow up. DNA testing was conducted on the remaining evidence, but no new profiles were located.
According to the press release, investigators continued to locate male subjects listed in the case file and collect DNA from those subjects. By the spring of 2021, investigators had eliminated more than 15 possible suspects through DNA comparison.
One suspect listed in the case that had not been eliminated was Smith, who was born in 1919. Although Smith was mentioned as a potential suspect, his death in 2013 prevented officials from collecting his DNA.
Police confirmed that Smith had been identified by multiple people as an acquaintance of Brubaker-Farley’s from the diner where she worked. According to officers' reports in the month after the teenager's murder, Smith had gone to the police station on more than one occasion to inquire about the progress being made with the investigation.
Smith was known to operate a hauling service that could have had him making trips to the landfill where Brubaker-Farley’s body was found, police said. Smith was also reported to have worked at a liquor store on 5th Ave. SE, which was located next to Brubaker-Farley's apartment.
Authorities confirmed that Smith was interviewed extensively in 1971 but was not charged with Brubaker-Farley's murder. Police said Smith was offered and declined a polygraph test at that time.
How Brubaker-Farley's Murder Was Solved
Before Smith was eliminated completely as a suspect, investigators with the CRPD's Cold Case Unit identified identified a male relative of Smith's and executed a search warrant to collect DNA from the man. Police said the unknown male DNA profile developed from the crime scene and the buccal swabs collected from Smith’s relative were then sent to an international DNA lab in Florida for advanced analysis and comparison.
On Sept. 24, exactly 50 years after Brubaker-Farley's body was discovered, Cedar Rapids police reviewed the results of the DNA comparison. Authorities determined that the unknown suspect DNA profile developed in homicide case was that of George M. Smith.
In the press release, Cedar Rapids police said they contacted Brubaker-Farley's mother to give her an update on the half-century old homicide investigation. Mary Brubaker, now 86 and living in Sioux City, was told by police that Smith was the person responsible for her daughter's death.
Brubaker-Farley's father, David Brubaker, died in 2002. One of her five siblings is also deceased.
Police said Brubaker-Farley, who was born on July 4, 1954, moved to Cedar Rapids in the summer of 1971. She moved into an efficiency apartment at 522 10th St. SE and was working at a local diner at 836 First Ave. NE at the time of her disappearance.
Brubaker-Farley was last seen alive on the morning of Sept. 17, 1971. When she failed to report to work on Sept. 20, Brubaker-Farley's employer reported her as missing.
Authorities searched Brubaker-Farley’s apartment and found it relatively undisturbed, with her vehicle parked in the lot behind the building. At the time of her disappearance, there was no evidence to suggest what happened to the teenager.