Lee Rotatori. (photo from Council Bluffs PD)

A “cold case” homicide in western Iowa was solved with DNA, but more questions remain about another murder.

The case in Council Bluffs of a Michigan woman who was murdered in June 1982 was linked by advanced forensic DNA examination to a man who was himself murdered later that same year. Thirty-two-year-old Lee Rotatori had just started a job at a hospital in Council Bluffs and had been staying at a motel while looking for a permanent residence.

When she failed to show for work on June 25, 1982, her employer became concerned. The woman’s body was found in her room. She died from a single stab wound and was the victim of a sexual assault. No suspects were identified during the initial investigation.

Passing years brought better DNA analysis technology. In April 2019, Council Bluffs investigators submitted the unknown male DNA profile for genetic testing. Familial DNA tests determined suspect DNA in the Rotatori case belonged to 35-year-old Thomas O. Freeman of West Frankfort, Illinois.

Freeman’s decomposed body was found in October 1982 in a shallow Illinois grave. He had been shot multiple times. Freeman’s killer was never identified.

(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)