Wilma June Nissen

Age: 23
Ethnicity: White
Gender: F
Date of Death: October 4th, 1978
Type of Crime: Homicide
Date of Incident: October 4th, 1978
Summary of Case:

Rock Rapids, IA:

Krissi Haas was only a year old when her biological mother, Wilma Nissen, went missing in 1978. It would take nearly 30 years for Krissi to learn what really happened to her mother, and another 17 years later, Krissi is searching for answers.

Wilma June Nissen did not have an easy childhood. Severely neglected, she entered the foster care system in 1964, at 10 years old. When most children her age would’ve been in elementary school, Wilma spent her days locked in a closet. She was placed in several foster homes for the next 8 years. Wilma’s time in foster care was reportedly more pleasant than her early childhood, but by the time she was in her 20s, Wilma had trouble supporting herself. She turned to sex work as a means to get by. By the time Wilma turned 23, she was a mother to three babies, Krissi being her only girl.

Krissi was adopted as a baby and raised by Wilma’s former foster parents, but she never stopped thinking about mother. In 2006, Krissi was shocked to learn that Wilma hadn’t just abandoned her like she believed for 28 years. Wilma had been “Jane Doe” in Rock Rapids, IA since 1978, when Krissi was a year old. Wilma’s body was found by a utility worker laying cable along Highway 182 in Lyon County. By the time she was found, exposure to the elements had taken it’s toll and investigators were unable to positively identify the victim. Aside from a rope and clothing, there was no additional evidence at the scene. It appeared that the rope had been used to pull Jane Doe to the spot she was eventually found.

She would remain Jane Doe until 2006, when a forensic technician matched her fingerprints to a print card taken from Wilma’s previous arrest for prostitution in Los Angeles.

Shortly after Wilma was identified, Krissi discovered the truth about her biological mother thanks to the help of a friend’s mom.

Detective Jerry Birkey worked the case for over 10 years before retiring, and while some leads were developed, nothing has provided the answers investigators, and now Krissi, are searching for. It’s believed Wilma was working for an escort service in Sioux Falls, SD at the time of her disappearance, but travelled around the area.

In 2016, detectives announced they’d identified a person of interest, a dancer only known by the name “Sugar.” Sugar’s photo was shared by multiple news outlets in hopes that someone with more information would come forward. Additionally, Lyon Co. Sheriff’s Dept., hired a private lab to conduct DNA testing on the few items found at the scene. They were able to find and amplify a very small amount of DNA. Unfortunately, it was a mixture of multiple contributors and unhelpful to the investigation at this time. Det. Birkey, now retired, believes there are several people out there who know what happened to Wilma. 

Anyone with information about Wilma’s homicide, “Sugar” or “Peaches” is urged to contact the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office at (712) 472-8300 or submit a tip using the button below.

Read KELO’s full story here.

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