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Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Parricide
Number of victims: 5
Date of murders: March 24, 2008
Date of birth: 1965
Victims profile: His wife Sheryl, 42 and their adopted four children from South Korea, Ethan, 10, Seth, 8, Mira, 6, and Eleanor, 3
Method of murder: Beating with a baseball bat
Location: Iowa City, Iowa, USA
Status: Committed suicide by driving the family's minivan at a high rate of speed into a concrete pillar on Interstate 80 the same day
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Steven Sueppel was a former executive of Hills Bank and Trust Company and resident of Iowa City, Iowa. He was charged with stealing $559,040 from the bank over a period of several years, but pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and money laundering on February 20, 2008.

Sueppel was responsible for the Iowa City Sueppel Murders, a multiple fatality that left his wife and four children (ages 3, 5, 7 and 10) dead.

The Sueppel family were members of St. Mary's Catholic Church. Sueppel grew up, was married in, and had his children baptized in this Church. Sueppel was born on August 13, 1965, the son of William and Patricia Tierney Sueppel. He graduated from Regina High School and the University of Northern Iowa. Steven and Sheryl Sueppel were married on June 13, 1990.

Details of murder

On the night of March 23rd or the morning of March 24th, 2008 he committed a multiple murder in Iowa City, Iowa. Evidence collected suggests that he bludgeoned his wife and four children to death. He then committed suicide by driving the family's minivan at a high rate of speed into a concrete pillar on Interstate 80 about nine miles (14 km) from the home.

According to police, after beating his wife, Sheryl, to death, he took the four children to the garage and attempted to kill them (and himself) by carbon monoxide poisoning. When this failed, he then killed the children with a baseball bat before driving to nearby City Park, where he attempted to drown himself.

When this, in turn, failed, he than called 911, requested that rescue personnel be sent to his home, and drove his van into a concrete abuttment on Interstate 80. He died of the combination of injuries suffered in the car accident along with the resultant fire; his body was burned beyond recognition and identified using dental records.


In August 2008, Hills Bank and Trust filed court documents demanding payment from Sueppel's estate for the allegedly embezzled funds and for $32,673 in outstanding loans.


The Iowa City Sueppel Murders were a series of murders which occurred at the home of Steven and Sheryl Sueppel in Iowa City, Iowa, USA on Easter Sunday night, March 23, 2008.

The next morning, the police were directed to the home by an anonymous 9-1-1 caller which was later confirmed to be Steven Sueppel. When they arrived there around 6:45 AM, they found Sheryl Sueppel and her four adopted children (Ethan, 10; Seth, 9; Mira, 5 and Eleanor, 3). Sheryl's husband and the children's adoptive father Steven is believed to have murdered his family using a baseball bat to bludgeon them. Steven committed suicide by crashing into a concrete support on Interstate 80 shortly after placing the call to 9-1-1.


Steven Sueppel was at the time charged with stealing $559,040 from Hills Bank and Trust Company of Hills, Iowa where he was a vice president, but had pled not guilty to embezzlement and money laundering on February 20, 2008. He was out on bond at the time of the murders with a trial date set for April. In a four-page note written by Steven, he indicated that he and his family would be better off this way instead of enduring further pressures caused by the charges against him.

One remarkable aspect of this case is the community mourning for the loss, including relatives from all sides of the family. A combined funeral was held for both parents and their children; all were buried together and the theme was forgiveness. An in-depth description of the events leading up to and following the family murder-suicide case is found at Death by Domestic Homicide:Preventing the Murders and the Murder-Suicides (Van Wormer and Roberts, 2009), based primarily on "Forgiveness Frames Funderal for Family of 6", Cedar Falls Times, April 5, 2008.

Timeline of murders

Sunday AM: The Sueppel family attends Easter Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Iowa City. Steven's and Sheryl's parents are also at the Mass and later said they did not notice anything unusual about anyone's behavior.

Sunday 8 PM: A family friend stops at the Sueppels' home and visits with Steven. The friend saw one of the children but noted nothing unusual.

Sunday 11:30 PM: Steven Sueppel leaves a message for his father and brother at their law firm. In the message he states that his family is in heaven. It is believed that his wife had been killed by this point although the children were likely still alive.

Sunday 11:30 PM - Monday 3:45 AM: At some point, according to a letter Steven wrote, he allegedly gathers his four children into the family van which was parked in the garage and tries to kill the children and himself by carbon monoxide poisoning. When this doesn't work, Steven ushers the kids back into the house and bludgeoned them to death. The three oldest children were found in their bedrooms. Eleanor, the youngest was found downstairs in the toy room.

Monday 3:45 AM: Steven leaves a message at the office of his former employer, Hills Bank. Details of this message were not released.

Monday 3:50 AM: Steven leaves a message on his home answering machine expressing his regret.

Monday 4:01 AM: Steven leaves a second message on his home answering machine. In the message, he indicates that he tried to drown himself in the Iowa River at Lower City Park but he "kept floating"

Monday 6:31 AM: 9-1-1 dispatchers receive a call directing them to the home of Steven and Sheryl Sueppel and telling them to "go there immediately." The call came from a cellphone and the caller immediately disconnected without identifying himself.

9-1-1 Transcript:

Dispatch: This is 9-1-1. Location of your emergency? Hello?

Caller: Am I talking to Iowa City?

Dispatch: No this is... Where, what is the location of your emergency?

Caller: Iowa City, Iowa.

Dispatch: What's the address?

Caller: 629 Barrington Road. Please go there immediately.

Dispatch: What's going on there?

Caller hangs up.

Monday 6:36 AM: Sueppel dies in a fiery crash on Interstate 80, outside Iowa City. Witnesses indicate that the driver was driving at high speeds and seemed to have deliberately crashed into a concrete pillar.


Medical examiner: Blunt force led to deaths

Kurtis Hiatt - The Daily Iowan

March 27, 2008

Steven Sueppel beat to death his wife and four children, who died of numerous injuries from blunt-force trauma to their upper torsos and heads, officials at the Iowa State Medical Examiner's Office reported Wednesday.

Husband and father Steven Sueppel, who authorities say they are sure is responsible for the slayings, also died of blunt-force injuries he sustained after he intentionally crashed his minivan on I-80.

Examiners did not identify a weapon involved in the slayings, but police have said two baseball bats may have been involved.

"The injuries were consistent with what Steven Sueppel had said and the evidence recovered, which involved the ball bat," Iowa City police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said.

Authorities had also said at a press conference Tuesday that Steven Sueppel initially took his children - Ethan, 10, Seth, 8, Mira, who would have turned 6 on Tuesday, and Eleanor, 3 - into the home's garage in an attempt to asphyxiate them with his vehicle's exhaust fumes.

But examiners said Wednesday that carbon-monoxide poisoning and asphyxiation did not contribute to the deaths.

Now, authorities are "wrapping up loose ends" in their investigation, Kelsay said, adding officers are no longer holding the crime scene at the Sueppels' home, 629 Barrington Road. They have not, however, finished looking at the Sueppels' minivan. He said he didn't know when authorities would close the investigation.

Authorities have pieced together a general sequence of events - though exact times are largely unknown - through voice-mail messages and a lengthy, handwritten letter Steven Sueppel left for family on a kitchen table:

Steven Sueppel killed wife Sheryl Sueppel first in their master bedroom, then took his children into his home's garage to kill them and commit suicide, probably by asphyxiation from a vehicle's exhaust fumes.

That failed, and the children were then killed separately in bedrooms and a "toy room" in the house. Officers who entered the home at 6:45 a.m. Monday found the bodies.

After the killings, Steven Sueppel drove to the Iowa River at Lower City Park to try to drown himself but was "not able to sink," authorities have learned.

At 6:31 a.m. Monday, Steven Sueppel called 911 to tell authorities to "go immediately" to his home before disconnecting. By 6:37 a.m., according to an Iowa State Patrol crash report, Steven Sueppel slammed his minivan into a sign post on I-80.

Between Sunday and Monday, he also left numerous short voice mails at Meardon, Sueppel, & Downer - a law firm at which Sueppel's father and brother work - his former employer, Hills Bank & Trust, and his home between 11:30 p.m. Sunday and 4:01 a.m. Monday.

In a call to the law firm, Steven Sueppel said his family was "in heaven."

Police said Sueppel apologized many times in his messages, voicing despair about his legal troubles and embarrassment of losing his job as a vice president at Hills Bank & Trust.

Sueppel had been accused of embezzlement and money laundering. A federal grand jury in Davenport indicted him Feb. 12, and he was to stand trial April 21 for reportedly embezzling nearly $560,000. While he pleaded not guilty to the charges, he also allegedly admitted to stealing $219,000, using most of it to buy cocaine, an investigator has reported.


Legal woes didn't portend Sueppel family deaths

By Gregg Hennigan - The Gazette

March 24. 2008

IOWA CITY Despite Steven Sueppel's recent legal woes, friends and family said Monday they were shocked by the apparent violent deaths of a six-member family they described as extremely loving.

Sueppel was charged last month with embezzling nearly $560,000 from his former employer, Hills Bank and Trust, and with money laundering.

"I thought that was the epitome of shocking," family friend Becky Foerstner of Coralville said of the charges against Sueppel. "And then this is just over the top."

Police found a woman and four children dead Monday morning at the Iowa City home of Steven and Sheryl Sueppel. Police believe the victims were Sheryl, 42, and the couple's four children, ages 3, 5, 7 and 10.

Officers did not find Steven Sueppel, 42, at the home but the family's Toyota Sienna minivan was missing and later involved in a single-vehicle crash on Interstate 80 in which the driver died. Police believe Sueppel was driving but were unable to immediately get a positive identity because of the fire.

In a statement, the Sueppels' parents said family members had looked for signs of stress recently but saw none.

"Various family members were with Steven, Sheryl and the children during Easter weekend, and saw nothing unusual," the statement from Jack and Gisela Kesterson and Bill and Pat Sueppel, all of Iowa City, said.

The Rev. Kenneth Kuntz of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Iowa City, where the family worshipped, said he went to the home of Steven Sueppel's parents Monday morning, where family had gathered. "They were in a state of shock, I guess I would say," he said. "We were able to pray with them and be with them."

Steven, Sheryl and their four children attended Easter Mass this past weekend, Kuntz said.

Steven and Sheryl were married at St. Mary's and their children were baptized there, he said. The couple were married June 16, 1990, records show.

"They had done a wonderful job of adopting the four children and always appeared to me to be a caring, loving family," Kuntz said. "So this obviously is a tremendous shock."

The couple had adopted four children from South Korea. Kuntz identified them as Ethan, 10, Seth, 7, Mira, 5, and Eleanor, 3.

"I remember when they were getting those babies and were so excited and showed pictures for a long time before they came," Foerstner said.

Foerstner has known Sheryl Sueppel since they were a year apart at Grant Wood Elementary in Iowa City. They both later graduated from City High School.

"They were just a great family absolutely great family," she said of the Sueppels.

Sheryl Sueppel was a teacher in the Iowa City school district from 1989 until 2001 at Mann, Penn and Wickham elementaries, said Jim Pedersen, the district's human resources director.

Foerstner said Sueppel taught third and fourth grade before leaving to raise her children but has remained active in the school district and the community. Records show that the Sueppels donated to the school district's foundation, its Run for the Schools fundraiser, the Iowa City Hospice and other charities.

In early February, Sheryl started work as the education and training coordinator at 4Cs Child Care Resource and Referral in Iowa City, executive director Susan Gray said.

"She was a very caring, compassionate person very interested in our mission, which is supporting and caring for families in Johnson County," Gray said.

Steven Sueppel was a 1983 graduate of Regina High School, records show.

The Sueppel name is well known in Iowa City. William F. Sueppel, Steven's father, is a partner with Meardon, Sueppel & Downer law firm in Iowa City. William J. Sueppel, Steven's brother, also is an attorney at the firm.

Another relative, Bud Sueppel, owns Sueppel's Flowers and is a big University of Iowa booster.

"Whenever you hear the Sueppel name, you just know it's good people," Johnson County Supervisor Terrance Neuzil said.

Roberta Caris, a neighbor who hung out with the Sueppels and other families with young children on Fridays, saw the family last week. She knew about Sueppel's legal troubles but thought the family was working through it.

"I do know he was distraught over the situation but there was no indication this was going to happen," she said.

"They were great people. They were involved with their kids we're just still in shock about why this had to happen."


Ex-bank official pleads not guilty

By Gregg Hennigan - The Gazette

Feb. 21, 2008

Former Hills Bank & Trust executive Steven F. Sueppel, accused of stealing $559,040 from the bank, pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and money laundering charges at a U.S. District Court arraignment Wednesday.

Judge Thomas Shields set trial for April 21.

Sueppel was released on $250,000 personal bond, which he would pay only if he violates terms set for his release. The judge noted that Sueppel doesn't have a criminal history and government officials do not consider him a flight risk.

Sueppel, 42, of 629 Barrington Rd. in Iowa City, has been charged with one count of embezzlement of bank funds and six counts of money laundering while serving as the bank's vice president and controller. The government also is seeking the forfeiture of the $559,040 Sueppel is accused of stealing.

The embezzlement charge carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in jail, a $1 million fine and five years of supervised release. Each money laundering charge is punishable by up to 20 years in jail, a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the funds allegedly stolen, and three years' supervised release.

Wednesday's arraignment was Sueppel's first court appearance since a federal grand jury indicted him last week. The indictment, which followed an investigation by the FBI and the Johnson County Sheriff's Office, says the alleged thefts began on July 26, 2000, and continued until Sept. 12, 2007.

The hearing lasted 15 minutes. Sueppel, dressed in a navy blue suit and wearing glasses, spoke only when the judge asked questions, giving mostly short yes and no answers.

Sueppel told the judge he works now at Superior Concrete in Iowa City. He did not specify what kind of work he does but said he does not handle money.

Shields forbid Sueppel from handling cash or checks for an employer. Sueppel also cannot possess any firearms, narcotics, controlled substances or drugs without a prescription. He must be in regular contact with a probation officer and could be subject to drug tests.

Three search warrants executed by the Sheriff's Office and filed in Iowa City in Johnson County District Court reveal that Hills Bank officials reported on Oct. 4 that they had noticed discrepancies in one of the asset accounts Sueppel managed.

A document used to apply for one of the search warrants says Sueppel admitted to bank officials to stealing more than $219,000 over three years and using most of it to buy cocaine. However, he was not charged with anything drug-related and no illegal drugs were found at his home when the search warrant was executed Oct. 4.

Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said in an e-mail message there is no evidence Sueppel spent any money on drugs. Sueppel's attorney, Leon Spies of Iowa City, said after the hearing he was not sure of the circumstances surrounding Sueppel's alleged confession to bank officials. But, he said, "I can assure the community and your readers that drugs had nothing to do with this case."



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