July 13, 2016

AGE: 31 | DIED: MAY 29, 1990 | Location: Des Moines

John Wayne Jeffery was shot to death late Tuesday night, May 29, 1990, while sitting inside his 1970 Chevy Chevelle outside Leo’s Lounge, an east-side tavern in Des Moines. Patrons of the lounge heard a gunshot that night, and although one person went out and spotted Jeffery inside his vehicle, didn’t realize Jeffery had been shot and assumed he was sleeping. Police weren’t notified until the following morning when the bar’s owner stopped by the tavern with some supplies and found Jeffery dead in his car.

Police found a sawed-off .410 shotgun in front of Jeffery’s car. Officials reported a shotgun shell fitting the weapon was found in Jeffery’s hand, and that other shells were found on the seat of the car. The cause of death was a small-caliber gunshot wound to the head.

Jeffery’s wife, Ruth, said her husband had had problems with alcohol and drugs but had completed a drug rehabilitation program the previous year. She said he’d been drinking Tuesday night for the first time since completing the program. Ruth’s recent hospitalization had left the family facing a financial crisis as medical bills continued to pile up.

Ruth reported that her husband came home agitated after seeing two friends, Jeff McNeely and Tim McGreen, drinking at Leo’s. McNeely and McGreen had owed Jeffery money for over a year, and Ruth said her husband reasoned that if they had money to buy alcohol, they should be able to repay him. When he confronted the men, Ruth said they’d laughed at him. Jeffery came home and retrieved a shotgun, telling Ruth he only wanted to “scare” the two men a little.

Des Moines police picked up a material witness the day following the homicide but were unable to link him to Jeffery’s murder through ballistic tests. Investigators interviewed numerous individuals, including the men who owed Jeffery money, but were unable to make an arrest in the case. They believe there were witnesses to Jeffery’s murder who feared coming forward then with what they knew, and continue to encourage the public to contact them with any known details. There is no statute of limitations on murder.