The Unsolved Disappearance of Alice Van Alstine

 

I first read about Alice Van Alstine on Iowa Cold Cases, and was struck by the juxtaposition of Alice’s proper photograph and the fact that she was an expert weapons shooter and a former militia member.

Alice, a mother of four children, was a member of the rifle team at the University of Iowa before she dropped out due to financial difficulty.

Van Alstine was also an ex-member of a right-wing paramilitary organization called the Minuteman, which was formed in the early ’60s. She went missing in 1976 during frigidly-cold March weather in the Des Moines, Iowa area.

Her first husband, Lee Andre, was a member of the Minutemen who was alleged to have been physically abusive to Alice. She had divorced him about a year before her disappearance. The day she went missing, he paid her a visit telling her he wanted full custody of the kids.

The next day, three of her four children (one lived in a state institution for the disabled) were found by a neighbor alone in the home. Alice’s purse and coat were still in the home, and there was a broken bottle on the floor. There were also bullet casings found but Alice was known to practice shooting indoors (!) using mattresses and walls, so they could not be connected to a crime. Her car door was open, and her keys were in the ignition.

Then there’s this:

On July 21, 1977, Des Moines Tribune writers Greg Stricharchuk and Gene Erb published a page one, full-scale exposé on Minutemen activities in Iowa chronicling several Minutemen-related incidents in the Des Moines area. According to the article, Alice stated in a sworn deposition that while married to Andre, suitcases belonging to Minutemen were left at her home, that one suitcase contained a Bible with secret coded messages, that the suitcases were burned when Minutemen were sought by authorities, and that stolen weapons and explosives were stored in her barn.

In that same deposition, Alice acknowledged explosives had been used to bomb a Des Moines home and that she’d been visited by FBI agents.

Alice has never been found, and no arrests have been made in her disappearance.

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