Farmer Kills Banker, Wife, Friend, Then Self
HILLS, Iowa (AP) _ A farmer apparently distraught over his finances shot and killed the president of his bank, a friend and his own wife Monday before taking his own life, authorities said.
Dale Burr, 63, who farmed just east of Lone Tree, walked into the Hills Bank and Trust Co. with a 12-gauge shotgun shortly before noon, and shot and killed its president, John Hughes, according to state and local officials in this southeastern Iowa town of 550 people.
″I was in there doing some business,″ said B.D. Duwa, a bank customer from Kalona. ″I turned around and heard the shot. Everybody started running. I thought it was a robbery.
″After that they shut the doors. A fellow came up to me and said, ’Somebody came in the back end and shot John Hughes.‴
State Banking Superintendent Tom Huston said he had been notified by the bank that Hughes was shot by a ″farmer customer″ whom he identified as Burr.
State and Johnson County authorities believe Burr also killed a friend, Richard Goody, and his own wife before turning the gun on himself, said Sheriff Gary Hughes, the dead bank official’s brother.
″At this time we believe the shootings were related to financial difficulties that Burr had with the bank and Mr. Goody,″ the sheriff said.
Burr’s wife Emily, 65, was found dead at their home and Goody was found dead at his home, sheriff’s Sgt. Dick Edwards said.
The sheriff said Burr took a shot at Goody’s wife and 6-year-old son as they fled.
Burr was stopped by a deputy along a gravel road about a mile from his home and committed suicide in his truck while the deputy was waiting for backup, the sheriff’s statement said.
Hughes, 43, was a prominent figure in Hills and Iowa City, a city of 50,500 located about 10 miles north of Hills, at one time serving as president of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce.
″No incident could more tragically reflect the brewing violence in the Farm Belt than the senseless killing of John Hughes,″ said Rep. Jim Leach, R- Iowa, who said he was a friend of the bank president. ″The irony is that there was no more thoughtful, compassionate banker in Iowa.″
Meryl Glaspey, a bank customer, said Hughes was reluctant to foreclose on customers.
″John Hughes was loved by this whole community,″ she said. ″He would let someone go the limit. They’d have to be down to where they didn’t have a damn thing before he’d foreclose.″
″This is personal - it is Iowa,″ said Dean Kleckner, president of Iowa Farm Bureau Federation. ″You just say to yourself, ‘Why?’ The stress is there. Some farmers can deal with that stress. Obviously others can’t.″
The bank was closed for the day after the shooting, and Roy Justis, marketing director of the bank, said its board of directors met to discuss the the incident.
″There are some concerns that people are walking up and seeing the doors locked at a rural bank in Iowa,″ he said. ″We can assure you it has nothing to do with the financial condition of the bank.″
Justis said the bank had $210 million in assets and had grown 40 percent in the last two years. He said 80 percent of the bank’s loans were not connected to farming.