Every police department across the country faces crimes that baffle officers, and Ames is no exception.
There are three major crimes that are still unsolved in Ames: two murders and a bombing.
"It really does eat at you," said Ames Police Chief Dennis Ballantine. "You can forget about minor cases, but murder cases in particular tend to tweak your interest. You want to solve every one of them, and I don't know if it's ego or pride in your job."
Ballantine said having to let a case go unsolved is one of a detective's worst fears.
"As the days go along and the leads start to die out, you can definitely see the emotional roller coaster," he said. "These guys take cases personally … they'd work 20-30 hours straight if I didn't send them home."
Despite the passion detectives put into major cases, not every crime will be solved.
"We're right with the national average as far as solution rates," Ballantine said. "Even above in some areas."
For a city the size of Ames, he said the amount of unsolved crime, especially murder, is relatively low.
But despite a good solution rate and low amounts of unsolved crime, the Ames Police Department still can't help but lament the fact that three heinous crimes have gone unsolved, Ballantine said.
The oldest of the three unsolved cases is the murder of Sheila Collins in May 1968. According to past articles in the Ames Tribune, Collins, 18, was abducted at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, May 26, 1968, from the corner of Beach Avenue and Lincoln Way. She was supposed to meet an individual there who had replied to a request she had made on a Memorial Union bulletin board for a ride home to Evanston, Ill.
A fellow Elm Hall resident saw her waiting at the corner at about 8:30 p.m. with a suitcase in hand, but that was the last time Collins was seen alive. When she didn't arrive home that night, her father called the university the morning of May 27. An all-points bulletin was put out for her to no avail.
Collins was discovered by a fox hunter in a shallow ditch near Colo the afternoon of May 28. She was nude except for a sweatshirt and a bra crumpled up around her shoulders. She still had a nylon cord that had been used to strangle her wrapped around her neck.
Then Story County Attorney Charles Vanderbur assured the public on Monday, May 29, that "several leads were being checked out."
However, as the days drew on, it became apparent that the investigation to find the murderer of the freshman in speech and English was going nowhere.
Later in the week, Vanderbur announced "right now, everyone in the world is a suspect."
The Daily established a $200 reward for any information concerning the case, but no one was ever arrested for the murder.
Ballantine, who had just joined the force in 1968, said there was a lot going on behind the scenes in the Collins case.
"There was not a lot of communication," he said. "There was a lot of territorialism going on … "
Ballantine said there was a lot of confusion as to who had jurisdiction over the case.
"There was basically three different investigations," he said. "People were withholding evidence from each other and really holding up the investigation."
The law agencies also didn't let on to news media that the investigation was not going very well, Ballantine said.
"It was a lot of one-upsmanship," he said. "No one understood that there were going to be no heroes, they just needed to get the damn job done."
Although no suspects were ever seriously considered, Ballantine said a couple years ago a state psychological profiler thought Collins might have been one of Ted Bundy's victims.
A serial killer who made a name for himself traveling the country murdering young females, Bundy was executed in Florida on Jan. 24, 1989.
Bundy made a trip from the west to Pennsylvania around the time of the Collins strangling, and the case seemed to fit into Bundy's typical patterns. However, charges were never brought against Bundy.
Another local unsolved murder happened Sunday, Oct. 27, 1991. James Morris, 58, was discovered dead in his home on East Lincoln Way. He had been hit by a blunt object and had sustained a fractured skull.
Ballantine said police already were acquainted with Morris. During May of 1990, Morris held his stepdaughter and her friend hostage in his house with a shotgun for 30 minutes before turning himself over to Ames police, according to past articles from the Ames Tribune.
Despite the earlier incident, police had no leads as to who murdered Morris. After a thorough investigation, the case was filed away without an arrest or even a suspect.
A couple years after the murder, Ballantine said Ames Police identified a possible suspect who already was incarcerated.
"He was in town at the time, and the murder seemed to follow his M.O. [motis operandi]," Ballantine said.
Even though Ames Police suspect this man in the Morris case, no charges have been filed.
But Ballantine said the difference between the Morris investigation and the Collins investigation was night and day.
"The Morris case, like all cases nowadays, was a true joint investigation," he said. "There was one set of evidence, one set of books and open communication between all of us."
Ballantine said the difference between the two cases illustrates how much law enforcement and the media have both changed.
"If we have nothing now, we better say it," he said. "Frankly, we have a whole different media now. They're running around getting information sometimes better than the police do. If you're going to say you've got something, you better be able to back it up."
Besides the two murders, there also is an unsolved bombing in Ames history.
During the anti-Vietnam War era, which saw the bombing of city halls in Des Moines and Omaha and hundreds of violent and non-violent peace demonstrations, Ballantine said an unknown protester planted a bomb in the window well of the Ames City Hall.
The May 22, 1970, blast injured nine people, including five police officers and the assistant chief of police. Two people were seriously hospitalized but later recovered. The force of the explosion ripped the bars off of the city jail.
In past articles from the Ames Tribune, former Police Chief A.E. Siedelmann said citizens provided many leads as to who was behind the act of terrorism, but no one was ever charged with the crime.
Ballantine said police believed the bomber was from Minnesota and also suspected he was responsible for the Omaha and Des Moines City Halls' blasts.
Charges never were pursued, he said, because the suspect died transporting a bomb shortly after the Ames bombing.
Ballantine said unsolved cases like the three in Ames, especially the two murders, never are permanently closed.
"We'll open them back up for almost anything," he said. "It might be somebody getting arrested with a similar M.O., some type of tip or lead or even just a rumor that we hear. You never give up hope that something will happen somewhere."