Investigators in Tama County say they have no doubt they can prove a link between an Independence man and two stolen vehicles that were crashed in one night this past weekend. Accident investigator Mike Austin with the State Patrol was called out around one A.M. Sunday morning to a crash that involved a stolen van, and he thinks 19-year-old Dain Mawdsley of Independence was the thief.
The van’s owner had been at a friend’s house in Cedar Falls that Saturday evening, and a little after midnight he came out to find it was missing. Austin says that was about nine blocks from where Mawdsley had been that same night. The stolen van was next spotted near Traer, in northern Tama County, where it crossed into an oncoming lane of Highway 63, swerved back, and hit a Jeep going the other direction, injuring the Jeep’s driver and killing his wife, 60-year-old Donna Beyer of Hudson.
Trooper Austin says the driver of the van took off on foot after the crash but evidence left behind convinced the investigators Mawdsley was probably the driver of the van. “We found his cellphone in the van,” the trooper says, and also found glasses that match Mawdsley’s driver’s-license photo. They were wedged under the windshield on the driver’s side of the crash van, and there was one set of footprints leading away from it, to the place where a second car was stolen shortly after the crash.
The culprit took off from the van and fell into nearby Wolf Creek according to the tracks, and the trooper figures the soaking fugitive would have been “beyond cold.” Mawdsley was wearing no gloves or hat, only a light jacket, a T-shirt, jeans, and one sock. He was found near the second car that had been stolen on the same night, and it was also wrecked. He had severe head trauma when officers found him, and brain swelling from the injury, and he was found in the snow outside the wrecked car.
Austin says the investigating officers would go outside for a few minutes, then get back into their cars to warm up, “and I don’t think my hands have ever been so cold, ever. After five to ten minutes I’d have pain shooting up my arms from how cold my hands were,” Austin says, “because the windchill was about minus-45.” Austin says Mawdsley already has a record — a deferred judgment for drunk driving and a citation for refusing to take a drunk-driving test.