Case of the Month: Paula Oberbroeckling

Paula OberbroecklingCase of the Month: Paula Oberbroeckling (Feb 25, 1952 – July 11, 1970).

Paula disappeared on July 11, 1970, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She was 18 years old and dreamed of becoming a model. She had borrowed her roommate’s car to go off on an unspecified errand. Her roommate’s car was found parked in a no parking zone near a grocery store. Her remains were found four months later by hikers.

Police said the body was found draped around a steel pin in the ground, which in the past probably had been used for a power pole guy wire. Had the body not been draped around the pin, it could have washed down to the road and been discovered sooner, police said.

Cedar Rapids police officer C. Smith spoke with Paula’s mother, Carol Oberbroeckling, on Wednesday, July 15, 1970. Carol had filed a missing person report. She told Officer Smith that Paula had been upset because she thought she was about 1-1/2 months pregnant and felt that her roommate was trying to ditch her.

Paula’s remains were in an advanced stage of decomposition. The skeleton was almost intact and there was no evidence on visual examination of traumatic injury. Paula’s wrists were tied behind her back. Her ankles were tied as well. Used were two types of flexible material: one appeared to be a plastic clothesline and the other a sort of cord.

Paula's tombstone

Courtesy Gail Wenhardt at findagrave.com

The pelvic bones were intact and free of injury. No fetal parts were found. However, since her suspicion was a pregnancy of only 1 to 2 months she could have died from a botched abortion. You see, the autopsy showed that Paula was not beaten to death or was run over by a car. That leaves us with two options. Somehow she passed out and while unconscious was tied to the pin and left to die. The other is that Paula was forced to sit and was then tied around the pin. Either way, she died a horrible death.

This post is a collaboration with Susan Taylor Chehak who grew up in Cedar Rapids and knew Paula and her friends when they were in high school together. In 1999, after obtaining a court order from a local judge, Susan was allowed a copy of the police investigation’s file. She spent the next 15 years investigating her friend’s case.

In 2012, Susan used recorded interviews, official documents, newspaper articles, photographs, maps, timelines, and archived film footage to build a website about Paula’s case in hopes to inspire an independent investigation of the case. She even wrote a book about the case. 

If you have any information that can help advance the case please contact the Cedar Rapids Police Department at 319-286-5375 or use the contact form on Jody Ewing‘s  Iowa Cold Cases blog.

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