ONAWA, Iowa -- In the weeks before her disappearance in late June, Cheryl Stowe had told friends that her grandson's behavior was becoming more aggressive and their relationship was strained.
She had contacted the Monona County Sheriff's Office concerning an outstanding arrest warrant for Eliot Stowe, court documents show, but rather than have authorities coordinate his arrest, Cheryl Stowe told them she'd arrange to have him turn himself in.
On Tuesday, Eliot Stowe, 20, already in custody for an unrelated case, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. He is accused of killing his 66-year-old grandmother sometime from June 23-26 in her rural Castana, Iowa, home.
Cheryl Stowe's death was the result of "complex homicidal violence," and evidence found in her home indicated blunt force trauma resulting in a significant loss of blood, court documents show.
Authorities found Stowe's decomposing body wrapped in a rug and lying in a well-hidden area off of a rural road and obscured by a tree, tall weeds and a cornfield about a mile and half from her home on June 27, a day after co-workers had asked the sheriff's office to check on her because she had not shown up for work.
According to a complaint filed by Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation special agent Phillip Kennedy in Monona County District Court, a sheriff's deputy who arrived at Cheryl Stowe's home found her state-issued work vehicle parked outside. Eliot Stowe, who had been living with his grandmother for a few months, answered the door and told the deputy that Cheryl Stowe had gotten a ride to the airport from a friend four or five days earlier.
While walking through the house, the deputy observed a bedroom door with the center panel broken out. Looking inside the room, the deputy saw pieces of splintered wood trim and a white powdery substance scattered on the floor on top of what looked like a large blood stain. The deputy observed an "alarming volume of what appeared to be dried blood" under the bed, the complaint said.
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The DCI executed a search warrant on the house later that day. The stains tested positive for blood, the complaint said, and blood spatter consistent with blunt force trauma injuries was found on the walls, ceiling and baseboard of the bedroom. Tests illuminated a large swipe pattern indicating that something large had been dragged across the floor. Also illuminated were shoe impressions leading from the bedroom to a pair of men's Nike shoes found in another room. A partially burned wooden baseball bat was found in a fire pit outside the house.
The following day, Cheryl Stowe's body was found and was sent to the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office, where she was identified using dental records.
Eliot Stowe was arrested on the warrant on June 26 when deputies visited the home. According to the complaint, there were obvious signs of a violent event and attempts to clean it up inside the house.
A state crime lab matched Eliot Stowe's finger and palm prints to those taken from duct tape used to secure the rug wrapped around Cheryl Stowe's body, court documents said. The rug in which her body was wrapped appeared to be the same one seen in a selfie that Eliot Stowe had previously posted on his Facebook page. The lab also determined that the shoe prints found in the bedroom were of a similar design and size as those found on the shoes recovered at the scene.
Eliot Stowe is currently charged in Monona County with threatening to assault his parole officer on June 6. That case was suspended earlier this year after a judge ordered him to undergo a mental competency evaluation to determine if he was competent to stand trial. At a hearing Monday, District Judge Steven Andreasen ruled Stowe competent and scheduled an arraignment for Dec. 3.
The Iowa Department of Corrections released Stowe on parole in January after serving a portion of a 10-year prison sentence for a number of Woodbury County charges.
Stowe received a 10-year suspended sentence in August 2016 in Woodbury County District Court for stealing a Coca-Cola truck in Sioux City, driving it to a Dakota Dunes construction site and giving away merchandise. When he returned to Sioux City in the truck, he fled from police in the vehicle and then on foot in an attempt to avoid arrest.
At sentencing, Stowe was ordered to remain in the Woodbury County Jail until he could be housed at the Residential Treatment Facility to serve a portion of his probation. While in the jail, he assaulted another inmate, breaking the man's collar bone and causing a concussion.
Stowe was sentenced in November 2016 to five years in prison for the assault. His probation was revoked, and his original 10-year prison sentence was imposed and ordered to be served concurrent to the five-year sentence.
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