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SIOUX CITY | The lead detectives, who worked a triple slaying 40 years ago on Morningside Avenue, now live much quieter lives -- though many questions remain about the unsolved murders.

Joe Frisbie, 69, became Sioux City’s police chief in 1996. His ex-partner, Russell White Jr., 68, who now lives in Des Moines, became the Woodbury County sheriff in 1981. Both have since retired and will often call each other to talk about the deaths that occurred on Dec. 3, 1974.

At the crime scene, two trees covered in snow cradled the white house where police found the bodies of Freta Bostic, 24, Ernest Isom, 27, and Jesse Hanni, 26, at 1117 Morningside Ave.

First responders found Bostic wearing a patterned robe. She was four months pregnant. Isom was found naked with his legs partially on a bed in the living room. Hanni, the third victim, was propped against a door to the hall and wearing a winter coat.

The detectives interviewed numerous people, but couldn’t piece together what exactly transpired in the hours leading up to the murders.

According to case files, Isom’s mother, Harriet, became worried when her son and Hanni didn't show up to work for the second day in a row. Isom’s mother and a friend stopped by his home on Morningside Avenue and called police once they found the bodies.

Hanni had been shot in the chest while Bostic had a wound through her chest. Isom and Hanni also were shot in the head. Detectives later learned Hanni, Isom and his parents were migrant construction workers on a job in Port Neal. Bostic was believed to be Isom’s girlfriend or common-law wife.

Frisbie said the murders were probably spurred by a bad drug deal or the victims having double-crossed the wrong person, which could explain why the victims packed high caliber firearms.

At the scene, investigators found a .357 revolver inside a lunch box tucked away in Hanni’s 1968 blue Chevrolet parked outside the house. They also found .380 bullets that were likely fired from a semi-automatic weapon.

Frisbie and White interviewed people across the country and eventually traveled to Carlsbad, New Mexico, where they interviewed a Moville, Iowa, couple who had quit their jobs the day before the bodies were found. The suspects worked with the victims on the same construction job in Port Neal.

But the suspects were cleared of wrongdoing and were released. Another suspect was subjected to a lie-detector test in Waterloo, Iowa, but that didn't lead to an arrest.

Frisbie and White took a step back and wondered whether the killer or killers had gone home with Hanni, because he wore a winter coat and there were no signs of forced entry.

But after some discussion, the detectives eventually ran out of leads. The unsolved case began to fade as other cases kept the men busy. And though the partners had some clues, they were left with even more unanswered questions.


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