Case of the Month: the Grahlman murders

Grave Jay & Jaymie GrahlmanCase of the Month: the Grahlman murders from April 5, 2003.

I read about the Grahlman arson/double homicide case on Jody Ewing’s excellent blog.

Many questions popped up in my mind and they remain unanswered:

    • the exact cause of the fire that was ruled arson (the Gazette, July 16, 2004)
    • the exact place of origin of the fire. The kitchen was suggested but that was later dismissed. The utility room was a better option because the furnace was in there. This was considered an option because the only suspect stated that he had set the fire by throwing clothes into the furnace. What type of furnace did the Grahlmans have and was it indeed possible to open the furnace?
    • at the time, there was only one suspect. Brian Zirtzman was found not guilty on two counts of first degree murder and two counts of first degree arson on Wednesday July 14, 2004. He faced life in prison had he been convicted. Reading the newspaper articles about Zirtzman made me wonder why there were no other suspects. You see, Brian did have a juvenile record as an arsonist however, it also seemed that he had a modus operandi. If I understand the newspapers correctly, Brian made sure nobody was home before he set the place on fire. And with the Grahlmans he suddenly changed this habit? Why? Also, there was a big time gap between the last fire Brian had set and the Grahlman’s. What caused the relapse? Most notably, what was his motive?
    • Who had a motive to see Jay Grahlman dead? Who would benefit from his death? Did Jay have any enemies?
    • Jaymie was found in the bathtub however, neither the newspaper articles nor Jody’s blog explain whether Jaymie was just found in the bathtub or found floating in the bathtub. If she was just found there, what made her run from her bed to the bathroom? If she was found  floating, did Jaymie have bathtub water in her lungs? My confusing stems from the fact that the fire was reported at 11:55 pm. Why was Jaymie in the bathtub? A late night bath after a day of backyard barbecuing? I can see that happening but Jody reports that some of the family members went to bed around 10pm. Who was with that six-year-old in the bathroom if she was taking a bath? All papers state that the fire awoke Jay’s partner Vicki who was in bed. From that it follows that Vicki was not with Jaymie in the bathroom. So why was Jaymie there?

Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman has expressed his dedication to solving cold cases. From KCRG: “While the overall number of homicides in Cedar Rapids over the last dozen years can be startling, searching inside each case where an arrest was made shows the victim and the assailant almost always had a connection.”

From Iowa Cold Cases: The Cedar Rapids Police Departmen has two volunteer investigators who work exclusively on unsolved homicides.

Jeff Mellgren, who retired as Captain from the Cedar Rapids Police Department, and J.D. Smith, a retired Special Agent for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. Together, they head the Cedar Rapids Police Department’s “Cold Case Unit.” Both Mellgren and Smith work closely with other investigators from the CRPD and other law enforcement agencies on a number of unsolved cases.

Anyone with any information about Jay and Jaymie Grahlman’s unsolved murders should contact either Capt. Mellgren or Special Agent Smith by phone at (319) 286-5619 or fax (319) 286-5396. You can also email Capt. Jeff Mellgren or email Special Agent J.D. Smith.

Linn County Crime Stoppers accepts anonymous tips, and rewards for information may be available. Crime Stoppers can be reached at 1-800-CS-CRIME (319) 272-7463. The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation can be reached at (515) 725-6010 or via email at dciinfo@dps.state.ia.us.

As you know, in the series “Case of the Month” I highlight an old cold case. These posts are never an in-depth analysis and of course, more information can always be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the case back in the spotlights, to get people talking about it again, and if anything … to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can close the book on them.

If you have newspaper articles or know where in the trial transcripts I can find the answers to some of my questions posted above, I’d appreciate a comment.

Here is a video tribute that Jody made for Jay and Jaymie Grahlman