She left her home in Creston, Iowa, around 7 p.m. on April 17, 1983, to go to a nearby laundromat. Barbara Perry, her mother, thought the 17-year-old would be home in a few hours, but she never came back. Barb thought at first that Corinne might have gone to a friend’s house. She called all of her daughter’s friends, but none of them had talked to her that night. Barbara called the police as midnight approached. She later told a reporter, “I thought maybe she was riding around and they would find her and say, ‘Hey, your mother wants you home.'”
When Barbara called the Creston Police Department at 11:58 pm, they sent an officer right away to look for her car. Soon, the police officer found it. The car was parked in front of the Highlander Laundromat, which is where Corinne had told her mother she was going. Crisp, clean clothes were stacked on the front passenger seat, but Corinne and her purse were nowhere to be found.
The police stopped looking for Corinne once the car was found. It didn’t look like anyone had done anything wrong, so they told Corinne’s family that they thought the teen had just run away from home.
The careless behaviour of the police angered Corinne’s family. That Corrine was not the kind of teen who would ever run away…. Corinne was the youngest of Don and Barbara Perry’s four daughters. She was close with her sisters and was looking forward to her upcoming graduation.
Corinne was a popular high school student at Creston who took part in many school activities. She loved acting so much that she joined the school’s mime troupe and drama group. She was thrilled to hear that she had been given a scholarship to Simpson College. When she started there in the autumn, she planned to major in both psychology and drama.
Since the police wouldn’t help, Corinne’s family and friends started looking for her on their own. Corinne hadn’t been seen or heard from in a week, but the police agreed to look into the case again. They put a picture of Corinne in a local newspaper on April 25 and asked anyone who might have seen her to call them. This was done to get tips.
A number of people told the police that they saw Corinne at the laundromat the night she went missing. After folding her laundry, she walked out into the parking lot sometime between 8:30 pm and 9:00 pm. An unknown man followed her closely. The man, who was said to be 6 feet tall, had light brown hair and aviator-style glasses with light-colored plastic rims. He was thought to be in his 20s. His tan jacket was on at the time, and he was carrying a box full of folded laundry.
Investigators asked the public to help them figure out who this man was, but they made it clear that he was not a suspect in Corinne’s disappearance. The fact that the two women left the laundrette at the same time could have been a coincidence, since no one had seen the man approach Corinne. The police wanted to find the man to see if he could help them figure out what happened to Corinne after she left the laundrette.
In Creston, someone called the police on April 28 to say that they had found Corinne’s purse on a bridge about seven miles from the laundromat where she was last seen. It’s not clear why they didn’t try to return the purse when they first found it, but they found it on the same night that Corinne went missing. Only after reading about her in the newspaper did they call the police to let them know she was missing.
The police found Corinne’s purse, which had her driver’s licence, makeup, a business card, and her glasses in it. Investigators thought the purse had been put on the bridge on purpose and not thrown from a passing car because everything inside was still in good shape. However, they didn’t know if Corinne or someone else had put the purse there.
When Barbara heard about the find, she became worried right away, especially since Corinne’s glasses were in her purse. She told the reporters that Corinne would be totally useless without her glasses because she would get terrible headaches if she didn’t have them on. There was no way Corinne would have chosen to leave them. The 19-year-old sister of Corinne didn’t think her sister would have gone anywhere without makeup on. Afterward, she told Dateline, “My little sister cared a lot about how she looked.” Finding that purse with her makeup in it shows that she didn’t run away because she loved makeup and never left the house without it.
When the purse was found, investigators had to admit that their original decision to label the teen as a runaway needed to be rethought. Creston Police Chief Robert Kessler said that her age played a part. He told reporters that several teenage girls had gone missing, but all of them came back home after a day or two. The police became suspicious that something bad may have happened to Corinne when they learned that she was almost blind without her glasses.
Chief Kessler called the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigations on April 29 and asked them to help with the case. Investigators from both the state and the city started talking to possible witnesses and some of Corinne’s family and friends. The police were looking into the missing teen for a long time, but DCI Chief Gerald Shanahan told reporters, “We have no leads and we are appealing to the public for any information that might help us find the girl.”
The purse that Corinne had left behind was found on a bridge over the West Platte River, so that’s where they started their search. Beginning near the bridge, officers and volunteers searched a 22-square-mile area of land. At the same time, divers carefully worked their way downstream from the bridge to search the river. They worked hard, but unfortunately they didn’t find any useful evidence.
People in Kent, Iowa, like Don Perry were very upset when his daughter went missing. It was hard for him to sleep at night. A soft female voice told him, “Corinne’s nine miles north of Osceola” when he answered the phone 10 days after Corinne went missing. This made him feel uneasy. Don went with the investigators as they searched the area in question but found no signs that Corinne had been there.
Don couldn’t rest, so he began his own search. Many miles of back roads were driven by him, and he would sometimes get out to look through empty buildings. The dad made copies of his daughter’s picture and gave them to everyone he saw. Even though everyone felt sorry for him, no one could give him any useful information.
The girl’s family said on May 9 that they would pay $2,500 for any information that helped them find her. Even though a few tips came in, the police were not able to find any solid leads.
There were 137 Creston High School seniors who walked across the stage and picked up their diplomas on May 22. Corinne was still not there, so there should have been 138. People did notice that she wasn’t there. Corinne’s friends and classmates knew how excited she was to graduate, and they didn’t think she would have chosen to miss the ceremony if she were still alive. There were still prayers for her safe return, but their hopes for a happy ending were quickly fading.
When police searched the West Platte River again in July, they didn’t find anything useful this time either. They had looked into every possible lead and still didn’t know what had happened to Corinne, but they were determined to find out. They put up posters at police stations, bus stops, hospitals, and truck stops across the country asking people to look for her. They were hoping that someone would recognise her. They sent her picture to theatres and optical shops because they knew she loved acting and needed glasses to do her job. Some possible sightings were sent to them, including one from an optician in Missouri, but none of them could be confirmed.
As summer turned into autumn, it was clear that the investigation had come to a standstill. Detectives put missing posters and a notice telling hunters to be on the lookout for anything fishy while they were out in the woods as hunting season got closer. A lot of hunters came and went, but Corinne was still missing, and the case went cold.
It was very important to Barbara that Corinne would be found alive. She and about a dozen other people in the Corinne Perry Support Group got together at a nearby church once a week to pray and send out missing posters. Barbara was very upset that she didn’t know what had happened to her daughter, and she prayed for peace of mind. That moment had finally come for her when she knew she could handle hearing that Corinne had died. It would be better than living in fear of not knowing where she was all the time.
Letitia tried to be positive about the chance that her sister would come home. She carried a spiral notebook with her and wrote down everything that Corinne had missed. “I put in births, deaths, divorces, anything she will need to know when she gets back,” she told a reporter.
On September 17, 1984, at 6 a.m., a man called Barbara and asked to speak to Corinne. He called Corinne, but she wasn’t there. Before he could hang up, she asked him how he knew her daughter. He told her that he had met her a few days before in Creston, which surprised her. He hung up before Barbara could ask him anything else.
Barbara called the police and told them what the man had told her again. She was confused and a little scared. Even though police thought Barbara was telling the truth, there wasn’t much they could do except ask the public for help in finding the man. The caller was never identified, and it’s not clear if it was a joke or a case of identity theft.
The case did not move forward for another year. Then, on November 3, 1984, two teenage boys in Adams County, Iowa, who were hunting pheasants found bones in the bottom of a creek. They called the police right away, and they confirmed that the bodies were human. Dental records showed that Corinne had been found at last.
Corinne’s body was found in the middle of nowhere, only a mile from the bridge where her purse was found. Authorities from the area spent hours searching through the creek bed and the nearby woods, but because of the passage of time, it was almost impossible to find any possible evidence. All they were able to find were a few torn pieces of clothing.
The news broke Corinne’s family, but they were glad that she had been found. “At least we know where she is,” Barbara said. “She’s calm now.” They were sure that the teenager had been mu*rdered, even though the cause of death hadn’t been found yet. Their focus now turned to finding the k*iller and getting justice for Corinne.
The medical examiner could not figure out how Corinne died after a preliminary examination; her full skeleton had not been found and the bones that had been found did not show any obvious injuries. Authorities kept searching the creek bed for more bones, but they weren’t very hopeful about their chances. A reporter asked DCI Agent Sam Swain, “If we get any physical evidence that would point to a cause of death, we’ll count ourselves lucky.”
There was no more evidence found, and the bones and clothes that were there were in bad shape from being out in the weather for 18 months. Authorities treated the death as a murd*er even though they didn’t know how the person died. They also tried again to find the man who had been seen leaving the laundromat with Corinne. Police were still not calling him a suspect, but they knew he was probably one of the last people to see Corinne alive and were eager to talk to him.
The police did everything they could, but the case soon stopped moving forward and went cold. The mystery man from the laundromat has never been found, and no one has ever been charged with ki*lling Corinne. Corinne’s case was looked at again by cold case investigators in 2009, but not much progress was made.
Sadly, both of Corinne’s parents have died. Don died in 2001, and Barbara died in 2017. They will never know who k*illed their beloved daughter. Corinne’s sisters are still trying to get justice for her.
Mitch Mortvedt, who was Assistant Director of the DCI, told NBC’s Dateline in 2020 that they were still looking into new leads as they came in and were hopeful that advances in technology would eventually help them solve the case. He also asked anyone who knew anything about Corinne’s case to please talk to the police, even if they thought it was nothing. “In an investigation, especially a cold case investigation, no piece of information is ever “not worthy or irrelevant.” It might only take one tip to finally get justice for Corinne.
Corinne Perry was ki*lled when she was only 17 years old. In the weeks before she died, she was almost done with high school and had been accepted to Simpson College to study psychology and theatre. But police are still trying to find the identity of a man who was seen leaving the laundrette with Corinne on the night of April 17, 1983. There are no suspects in her mur*der yet. At the time, he was said to be in his 20s, about 6 feet tall, with light brown hair that was cut in a medium length, clean-shaven, wearing a tan coat, and having aviator-style glasses with plastic frames. Please call the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation at 515–725–6010 or the Creston Police Department at 641–782–8402 if you know anything about Corinne’s case.