ALGONA, Iowa -- The reclusive son of a prominent Algona family shot to death his parents, his sister and her three children, then killed himself in the second family mass murder in rural America during the holiday season, investigators said Thursday.
Ron Makin of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation said Robert Dreesman, 40, killed the six members of his family as they gathered for a holiday luncheon Wednesday in the dining room of his parent's fashionable two-story home on a street named after the family.
'There didn't appear to be any struggle,' said Makin. 'This whole incident probably occurred within a period of 15 to 30 seconds. You don't have a lot of time to get away.'
Found in the dining room were the bodies of John Dreesman, 79, his wife Agnes, 78, their daughter, Marilyn Chuang, 48, of Honolulu, Hawaii, and her three children, Jason, 12, Jennifer, 11, and Joshua, 8. The body of Robert Dreesman was found in a hallway leading from the dining room.
Two days earlier, Ronald Gene Simmons surrendered in the Ozark town of Russellville, Ark., suspected of killing 16 people, including 14 family members, in the worst family mass murder in U.S. history.
The Iowa shooting also came on the same day a Texas teenager confessed to killing his mother and stepbrother.
Authorities said they still had not determined a motive for the Dreesman slayings. But friends of the family said Robert Dreesman, who was living with his parents, had recently quarreled with his father over who would control the family's 1,000 acres of farm land in Kossuth County.
Makin said family aquaintances also confirmed Robert Dreesman recently had undergone psychiatric counseling, but Makin said he was unsure of the nature of Dreesman's problem. He also said Dreesman apparently had been or still was married, but authorities had not determined the identity of his spouse.
Makin said two guns were used in the Dreesman slayings, including a hunting weapon. Both guns were found near Robert Dreesman's body, but Makin said he would not disclose the specific types of weapons until authorities determine who owns them. However, he said, 'There is no one else involved.'
Residents of the community of 6,600 were shocked by the events, with many townspeople braving a wind-chill temperaturesw of 30 below zero to watch the daylong process of removing the victims from the house.
Makin said the process took so long because each victim had to be examined by investigators before the body was removed. The bodies were taken to St. Joseph Medical Center in Mason City, where State Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Bennett was scheduled to complete preliminary autopsies late Thursday.
Residents expressed grief over the loss of one of the county's wealthiest and most prominent families and packed local diners to discuss the tragedy.
John Dreesman owned several farms and buildings in the north-central Iowa community of about 6,000 people and was the former owner of a hatchery. His wife was active in a local garden club.
'John Dreesman was like an old shoe. Everyone knew him and liked him,' said Delores Besch, Kossuth County recorder and lifelong friend of the family.
'It's hard to believe anything like this could happen in Algona, Iowa.'
Algona Police Chief Kevin Bangert said while most of the townspeople knew John Dreesman, few knew much about his son. But Bangert said Robert Dreesman never was the source of trouble during the seven years he has been chief.
However, State Sen. Berl Priebe, a friend of John and Agnes Dreesman for nearly 50 years, said Robert Dreesman was a strange person.
'Robert was almost a recluse. He didn't want to associate with anyone,' Priebe said. 'If I was to guess, he just cracked up.'
Priebe said Robert Dreesman 'was kind of a professional student,' who recently graduated from the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, but was not practicing. He was also close to earning a degree in veterinary medicine.
The slayings marked Iowa's worst mass murder since Elsie Nolan of Denison asphyxiated her six children and herself by running a hose from a car exhaust into her home in 1933.
The single worst murder case in Iowa history occurred in June 1912 when Mr. and Mrs. Joe Moore, their four children and two friends were killed with an ax at the Moore home near Villisca. The case has not been solved.