THURMAN ― Fremont County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday blocked roads leading to a site where authorities were said to be searching for the remains of victims of a possible serial killer.
Lucy Studey McKiddy alleges her late father, Donald Dean Studey, disposed of his victims' bodies in an old well on his property outside the southwest Iowa village of Thurman. She said Tuesday on Facebook that authorities had confirmed to her that digging had begun on the land. The tract is off Green Hollow Road, north of the town, where deputies were blocking access in both directions.
"FINALLY, FINALLY, FINALLY!!!!" McKiddy, of Lakeland, Florida, declared to supporters who follow her updates on what she says have been years of efforts to get investigators to look into the killings.
McKiddy did not respond to a request for an interview, and as of Wednesday morning, the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation, which has been handling communications about the probe, had released nothing about the search. Peter Johnson, the county's newly elected county attorney, said he had not been notified of the search, and Sheriff Kevin Aistrope did not respond to phone messages.
More:From John Wayne Gacy to the 'I-65 Killer,' how these 11 serial killers are connected to Iowa
The FBI in Omaha, which oversees the region, also has not commented on the investigation.
But Newsweek, which was the first media outlet to break the story of Studey's claims, published an article Tuesday saying unnamed witnesses had seen federal, state and local authorities descend on the wooded hollow north of Thurman on Tuesday morning to test soil samples for human remains. They brought a piece of heavy equipment and crates, Newsweek said.
Aistrope, the Fremont County sheriff, confirmed to the Des Moines Register in October the magazine's report that cadaver dogs had searched the site earlier that month and had "hits" indicating the possible existence of decomposing remains.
In an article Dec. 2, Newsweek said investigators had paved part of the hard-to-reach property to allow easy access to investigators in case remains are found by core-drilling at the well and testing for shallow graves on the land. "If remains are discovered, the well could be dug out for more testing of samples for remains," the Newsweek article said.
In an interview with the Des Moines Register in late November, McKiddy said her father victimized women "who wouldn't be missed" before he died in 2013, finding them on the Iowa-Nebraska border. Thurman is about 50 miles from Omaha, Nebraska.
"He was a gas station attendant, mechanic and tow-truck driver at many gas stations and truck stops," McKiddy said. "He picked up 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."
Studey didn't have a criminal record in Iowa when he died in 2013 at the age of 75. But McKiddy, 53, said her father was a crook and a gambler.
"He stole from every job he ever had," she said. "He ran drugs, guns and in stolen property. He got jobs only when he needed to."
In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper in late October, Naveed Jamali, an editor at large working on the story with Newsweek, said the staff had established evidence that Studey was a gambler who lived a life of crime. That alone didn't make him a serial killer, he acknowledged. However, in "speaking to people," Jamali said, reporters also discovered "a pattern" suggesting Studey "may have been connected to a criminal ring and potentially organized crime."
On Tuesday, Newsweek reported that Richard Heideman, a retired FBI special agent with 35 years of experience, 20 of them in the Omaha field office, said the bureau received information In the late 1990s that organized crime had disposed of bodies in a well using lye. Ultimately the search yielded no results.
McKiddy told investigators she knew of at least five, and perhaps as many as 15, bodies that could be buried in the area, some of which she said she had seem herself. Newsweek has also reported that she believes there could be as many as 50 to 70 bodies there.
McKiddy, the youngest of Studey's four children from his third marriage, told the Register her father was unlikely to kill people from the immediate area around tiny Thurman, a town of about 170, where his family went back more than 170 years.
Instead, she said authorities should look near Omaha, Council Bluffs, and Plattsmouth and Nebraska City, Nebraska, or towns north and south, for victims who went missing from around 1970 to around 1982 ― especially, she said, from 1976 to 1980, when he worked at a truck stop in Council Bluffs that also had a Greyhound bus stop.
Last week, McKiddy told Newsweek the FBI in Florida had failed to show up to give her a polygraph test.
This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Alleged Iowa serial killer's daughter says search underway for remains