Donald Studey: The Monster of Green Hollow?


Some say that there was a monster in Green Hollow.

Located in the rural hills of Southwestern Iowa, Green Hollow is a thickly wooded area full of deep ravines. For several years, the only road that accessed the area was so narrow that it could barely accommodate two cars at the same time.

The people who lived there led simple, self-sufficient lives, supplementing what they couldn’t get on their own by buying and trading with their neighbors.

When America joined World War II, many of the young men in Green Hollow joined the war effort. Some of the young men returned home from the war, others did not. Gradually, the population dwindled until only a few families were living in the secluded area.

Over the years, stories began to circulate around the area that there was something wrong with the hollow. There were rumors that something stalked those woods and ravines. Some couldn’t say what it was, others said that it was some kind of monster. Some said that they had seen people go into the hollow who had never been seen again.

Parents told their children to stay out of Green Hollow. Children told each other the stories about the place in hushed whispers, adults over a few beers in the quiet hours before closing time when talk of work and their favorite football teams had dwindled away.

No one seemed to know if there was any truth behind the stories, but they weren’t going to take any chances, either.

But Lucy Studey knew. She knew exactly what it was that lived in the hollow, and she knew that those rumors of people never leaving those woods were true. She even knew the monster’s name: Donald Dean Studey.

She knew because Donald Studey was her father.

Donald worked at several different truck stops and gas stations over the years, driving tow trucks, performing mechanical work on vehicles, or just general attendant work.

However, Lucy knew that this was just a convenient front for his real work – smuggling drugs and guns. Donald would hide whatever it was he was transporting in hollow trees, then load them into his truck and transport them across state lines to wherever they needed to go.

Donald’s real passion, however, was murder.

He favored white women in their 20’s or 30’s, in good weight – not too heavy, not too thin. Donald liked them to have shoulder length dark hair who dressed plainly without an excess of makeup.

Donald found his victims around the Omaha-Council Bluffs area, nearly an hour away from Green Hollow. For the most part, the women he lured back to his home were sex workers or transients, people with nowhere to go whom he offered a place to stay until they got back on their feet. On occasion, Donald would pick up women at bars.

Sometimes he would use Lucy as bait to lure his victims.

Once, Donald targeted a 15-year-old transient girl who was walking along the side of an interstate. Pulling up alongside of her, he asked if she needed a ride. Although she was reluctant to get into the car at first, she gradually began to relax when she saw Lucy.

Lucy remembered that her father told the teenager the same story he always seemed to – his wife had died, leaving him a single father with four children to raise on his own. It was hard, and he could really use someone to help him out. And he didn’t expect the young woman to work for free. He’d pay them for whatever help she could give him.

The story worked on a lot of his victims, who seemed to feel sorry for this poor widower who was just struggling to raise a family by himself. It certainly worked on the teenager, who finally got into the car and returned to Green Hollow.

The next day, she was gone. Although Donald said that she had left, Lucy knew that teenager had most likely been raped and murdered by her father.

Another time, Lucy remembered being woken up in the middle of the night by someone screaming. After a moment, she realized that it was a homeless woman that they had brought back home. Peeking out of her bedroom door, Lucy could see Donald dragging the woman by her hair across their living room, mercilessly beating her.

Although Donald would shoot or stab his victims sometimes, he preferred to beat them to death, either by using a blunt object or by viciously stomping them.

Donald’s chosen place to get rid of his victims was an old well on their property, located on a hill behind the trailer where they lived. Using a wheelbarrow, he and Lucy would cart the body to the 90-foot-deep well and simply throw it in. If he murdered someone during the winter months, then they would use a toboggan – a type of sled – to smoothly transport the body across the snow-covered ground.

Other victims were buried in shallow graves along morel mushroom trails through the woods. Donald told Lucy that the reason the mushrooms grew so big through that area was because of the bodies there.

To help mask the odors and help the bodies decompose faster, Lucy helped Donald dump lye down the well and over the burial sites in the woods.

Lucy didn’t believe that Donald murdered all of the women that he brought back home with him. Lucy figured that, over the years, Donald had children with at least ten of the women, perhaps more. An angry drunk, he abused almost all of them before he either threw them out or they left on their own.

Donald didn’t have any compulsions against killing men, either. Once, Lucy and Donald took a body to the well. When they dumped it in, Lucy saw the corpse of a young man, probably in his 20’s, already inside.

Another time she saw her father, along with two men she didn’t know, take a male body out of the trunk of a car that they had driven to Green Hollow. They started taking it toward the well.

Lucy suspected that her father had ties to organized crime, although at a relatively low level. She thought that the men’s bodies that she had seen were somehow connected to that.

At a very young age, Lucy began to talk about what her father did.

One of the first times was in 1973. When Donald found out, he hit her several times with a belt buckle. He made sure to hit her across the throat, too, something that he was hoping would make her permanently unable to speak.

Lucy knew that what Donald did wasn’t right, so she did what any child would do – she told an adult that she trusted. But things didn’t work out the way they were supposed to, like they always did in the movies and the after-school specials that ran on TV.

The first time Lucy said anything, she told a teacher at nearby Thurman Elementary school what her father had done. The teacher, concerned, went straight to the principal. For whatever reasons, nothing ever came of it, and when Donald found out he nearly choked Lucy to death.

A few years later, she tried again, this time telling a nun and a priest at a school in Omaha, Nebraska. Again, nothing happened. Lucy tried again in seventh and eighth grade at a Junior High School in Omaha, but still nothing.

Whenever she said anything about the murders, Donald would tell people that Lucy was lying, or that she was mentally ill.

Regardless, Lucy kept trying, whether they listened or not.

One night, Lucy decided that she had enough. While her father slept, she walked into his room with a gun. She had planned on shooting him, on stopping the killings, but couldn’t bring herself to pull the trigger.

When she was in high school, a guidance counselor routinely asked her what path she planned on taking in her life. Lucy hadn’t really ever seriously considered the question before. After everything that she had seen and been through, she always figured that Donald would kill her before she ever graduated.

But now, thinking about it, Lucy decided that she wanted to live.

For the rest of her high school career, she worked at a local convenience store as often as she could, grabbing as much overtime as was available. She was determined to spend as little time at home – and with Donald – as she possibly could.

Finally, Lucy enlisted in the United States Army and left Green Hollow. But she never forgot.

Over the years, Donald Studey acquired a reputation for being an a potentially angry and violent man. Multiple incident reports were filed against him, and every time police were called out to his home, they always went in pairs. They knew Studey wasn’t a man to take chances with.

In 2005, Donald threatened to murder Anna Tordoff Studey, his last wife, and her stepson, Dan. For the rest of her life, Dan claimed that Anna was terrified of Donald, and lived in constant fear.

In 2007, Donald Studey accused Lucy of stealing approximately $16,000 from him. At first, she denied it, but eventually confessed that she had. When questioned by investigators with the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department, where Green Hollow was located, Lucy changed the subject, deciding to tell them about what Donald had been doing in on his property.

She told them that 4 or 5 bodies were buried in the well or in shallow graves nearby. Lucy thought there might have been as many as 15 people buried in Green Hollow.

Chief Deputy Timothy Bothwell went to Green Hollow to investigate her claims but couldn’t find the well.

Ultimately, no charges were filed in the theft or against Donald in connection to Lucy’s accusations.

In 2012, deputies were called to Donald’s home again. He was known for having suicidal tendencies at times, and this was one of them. Before they could stop him, Donald shot himself in the arm in front of the deputies.

The following year, Donald died at age 75 and had a quiet burial in a local cemetery.

In 2021, Lucy tried again and contacted the FBI and told them her story. They recorded her statement, but nothing more seemed to come from it. She also reached out to the Fremont County Sheriff’s Department again to see if they had done anything about her story.

Lucy went to Green Hollow with Deputy Sheriff Mike Wake and FBI Agent Ben Carter and showed them where the property was, along with the well and some of the alleged burial sites. Carter took photos of the sites, as well as marked their coordinates on GPS. Afterwards, a tentative investigation was started.

After several months, the FBI had backed out of the investigation and there were no significant results from Fremont County.  Lucy Studey decided to tell her story again, only this time to the news media. She contacted a reporter from Newsweek, who, along with another reporter, wrote a feature article on what Lucy told them.

This time, Lucy said that she suspected there might be anywhere from 50 – 70 bodies buried on Donald’s Studey’s property.

The story spread like wildfire. Everyone wanted to hear Lucy’s story. After years of no one listening to her, everyone from CNN to the Des Moines Register was talking about what she had said. People across the country wanted to know the truth about Donald Studey.

Arrangements were made for Lucy to go back to Iowa and meet with local law enforcement in Fremont County again. This time, she met Kevin Aistrope, the Fremont County Sheriff, along with Jim Peters, a cadaver dog handler. A reporter from Newsweek was also present.

Over the course of the afternoon, the cadaver dogs were able to separately get four hits indicating that there were human remains somewhere on the property. From all indications, it was a large area that included the well, which had long since been filled in.

For Aistrope, it was enough to move forward with a larger search. He also asked for the assistance of both the FBI and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in proceeding with the case.

From what Lucy had said, investigators weren’t sure what to expect. According to her estimates, they could be looking for anywhere from 5 – 70 victims in Green Hollow. With such uncertain expectations, they had to be prepared for anything.

Since starting their investigation in 2021, Fremont County authorities had spent a good amount of time trying to pinpoint the exact location of the old well. Over the years, the well had been filled in and the woods had been logged.

Investigators had also spent time talking to the people who owned the properties adjacent to the old Studey property. According to Lucy, Donald had buried some of his victims on their land. If anything was found on the Studey property, then they would need permission to dig on the neighbor’s property if the search was expanded.

When asked about any other details, all of the agencies involved stayed quiet. They revealed nothing as they began to make their plans for the excavation.

After so many years, Lucy had finally gotten what she wanted. People were paying attention to her story. After her father had died, she knew that she wasn’t ever going to see justice done for all of his supposed victims. But, if they were found, maybe she could bring their families some much needed closure after so long.

As events unfolded in southwest Iowa, the public took to social media to discuss details of the case. Lucy herself started a private Facebook page where she interacted with them, elaborating on her story and answering questions.

Several families of missing people contacted Lucy, sending her photos and missing posters in the hope that she might be able to remember one of them. She wrote them her heart-felt condolences but didn’t positively identify any of them.

She also tried to put down some of the rumors that had started spreading online. Some said that Donald Studey burnt the bodies of his victims in a funeral home that the family owned, while others claimed that he was a professional pathologist. None of them were true, and Lucy said so.

And then, suddenly, one skeptical, dissenting voice was heard.

Susan Studey, Lucy’s older sister by two years, contacted the media and told them that her sibling was lying. She said that Donald had certainly had his problems, but he hadn’t been a serial killer. While Lucy had claimed that herself and all three of her siblings – two sisters and a brother – had helped Donald dispose of his victims, Susan said that they didn’t remember any of that.

She said that Donald, while very strict, was still a good man at heart and loved his children.

Lucy countered, saying that the only reason Susan said she was lying was because Donald had constantly told them that she was when they were growing up, and that these things hadn’t happened.

She continued to insist that she wasn’t looking to make money off of the case, or that she was looking to become famous. Lucy wanted to make everything about her father’s alleged victims.

Regardless of what was said, there was the possibility of several bodies buried in a remote hollow in Fremont County. There was no way that Sheriff Aistrope could turn a blind eye to it. The only responsible thing to do was to move forward with this part of the investigation.

Meanwhile, law enforcement continued to plan the excavation on the site. They revealed no details with the news media, or with Lucy. In early December 2022, people noticed that law enforcement had begun arriving on the property in Green Hollow. That same week, Lucy made a Facebook post stating that law enforcement had notified her and let her know that the excavation had begun.

While she was excited to see them move forward, Lucy also made posts stating that they were digging in the wrong place. She claimed that people who were watching the authorities at the site had contacted her with details of what they were doing. From what they told her, they weren’t in the right spot.

She claimed that there were two wells on the property, one with water and one without. The bodies had been dumped into the dry well, and Lucy was adamant that authorities were excavating the wrong well.

By December 9, the investigation was officially brought to a close.

In an official statement, Mitch Mortvedt, the spokesperson for the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, speaking for all agencies involved, stated that they had thoroughly searched the area in Green Hollow and had found absolutely no evidence of any human remains.

After weeks of silence, he began to detail what efforts had been taken.

Mortvedt stated that multiple soil samples were taken from alleged graves and the well, which were the precise spots shown to law enforcement by Lucy and subsequently marked on GPS. These were examined by a variety of experts, including individuals in the fields of crime scene evidence recovery and anthropology. After all of their efforts, no evidence of human remains was found.

Almost immediately, people began to question how much work law enforcement had really put into the dig.

Two different cadaver dogs had separately hit on the scent of human remains at the scene. Lucy’s story had remained consistent throughout, and there had been evidence to support her claims of Donald’s violent tendencies and alleged criminal activities.

A retired FBI agent that was interviewed by the press stated that they had heard stories at around the time Donald was killing about individuals connected to organized crime who were murdered and then dumped into an old well. They had never heard any more details, so they couldn’t follow up on the claims.

According to one witness who spoke to Newsweek, the authorities only took three deep-depth soil samples, one of which was from the well. That witness also supported Lucy’s claims that it was the wrong well, and that the dry well had never been touched.

Conjecture ran rampant. Some claimed that organized crime figures might have possibly moved the bodies, and the cadaver dogs were only smelling the odor of bodies that had been present at one time. Others said that the agencies involved must have limited the amount of funding they were going to devote to the case, and when they reached it, had stopped the operation cold.

Law enforcement didn’t respond to questions from the public or the media. Lucy, however, carried on undaunted. She said that she tried her best to contact them, but they wouldn’t speak to her.

Finally, on December 11, Lucy left a Facebook post expressing her dissatisfaction with the agencies involved, followed by statement that they would find another dead body the following day. Many took this as a statement saying that she was going to commit suicide.

The following day, Lucy confirmed their worst fears, saying that she had made an attempt. However, it had spurred law enforcement into contacting her.

In a conversation with representatives of both the FBI and the Iowa DCI, Lucy said that the discussion had quickly turned into a heated argument. By the end of it, the authorities reiterated that they were not going to continue with the investigation.

In her frustration, Lucy wrote an open letter to Newsweek expressing her thoughts to the public.

In it, she claimed that she had personally taken authorities to the correct location of the well. Lucy went on to say that, while she had seen Agent Ben Carter take photos of the location, she hadn’t seen anyone take GPS coordinates of the site, even though they said that they had.

Once again, she talked about how, after hearing about where they were at and speaking to people she knew who were at the site, the authorities had dug in the wrong spot. When she tried to contact them to tell them that, no one ever answered her.

With no evidence having been found at the site, doubt had already been cast on Lucy’s story. Many began to take a much closer look at her and her claims.

Lucy’s sister Susan came forward again, expanding on what she had said several weeks prior.

Susan explained to the media that, before the story had garnered nationwide attention, the FBI had approached her and their sister Linda. Their brother had died several years prior, so the authorities sought out and spoke to his ex-wife.

All three of them said that none of them had ever heard or even suspected Donald Studey of being a serial killer. The first time that they had been told any of that was when Lucy had brought it up when she was under investigation for stealing $16,000 from their father.

Susan also claimed that, over the years, Lucy had lied about several things. Once, in order to gain attention from her nieces and nephews, she had created a false Facebook account and posed as her own adopted child. On another occasion, she claimed to have Stage IV breast cancer, but hadn’t.

To support her statements, Susan provided the FBI text messages and Facebook posts made by Lucy.

When Lucy was asked about this, she admitted that she had posed as her own child, saying that she was doing it as a way of reaching out to and getting to know her nieces and nephews.

While she insisted that she really had had Stage IV breast cancer, she refused to provide documentation to support that claim.

While authorities never publicly elaborated on their opinions of the case, Susan alleged that they had told her some things during the course of their investigation.

When the FBI had initially backed out of the investigation in 2021, they hadn’t given any reasons why. According to Susan, the agents that she had spoken to said that they didn’t believe Lucy’s claims were true.

Susan claimed that she believed that her father or another family member had buried a stillborn child on the property around where the excavation had taken place. She believed that might have been what had alerted the cadaver dogs.

Worse yet, Susan stated that Deputy Mike Wake had confided in her that the dogs used in Green Hollow weren’t actually certified cadaver dogs.

Whether they were or not, some scientists had long contended that, despite training and their naturally keen sense of smell, a cadaver dogs’ senses could be affected by different elements. This could include the composition of the soil in a given area, as well as the moisture levels there.

Lucy Studey publicly decried law enforcement through social media. She stated that she would find a way to excavate the area herself, without their help.

As far as law enforcement was concerned, they were officially done with the case.

Early on, there seemed to be some skepticism on their part when Lucy’s story changed in regard to the number of bodies that could be in Green Hollow. During their investigation, they also couldn’t find one teacher or priest or any anyone else who would say that Lucy had told them about Donald’s alleged murders several decades before.

As near as they could tell, the first time that the story had appeared was when Lucy told the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office in 2007.

Regardless of any of this, they had done their due diligence and proceeded with the initial stages of the excavation. They had found nothing.

Law enforcement was officially done with the case. They refused to answer any follow up questions and remained firm on their earlier statements.

Interest in the case faded as quickly as it had grown, and everyone soon moved on to other things.

Are there bodies buried in Green Hollow, Iowa? Lucy Studey says there are. Law enforcement says there aren’t. Was Donald Studey a serial killer who was never brought to justice? Lucy Studey says he was, while her sister Susan says that the accusations are unfounded.

In the court of public opinion, lines have been drawn between those who believe Lucy and those who don’t.

Perhaps one day, new evidence will be brought to light that can definitively answer those questions. Until that time, the debate will doubtless continue.





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Ferkenhoff, Eric and Jamali, Naveed.  Daughter Says Authorities Botched Search at Potential Iowa Mass Grave Site. Newsweek, 12/14/2022 – The History of Green Hollow


Donald Studey: The Monster of Green Hollow, Iowa?

In 2007, a woman contacted the press with a startling revelation: her father, Donald Studey, was a serial killer responsible for the deaths of as many as 70 young women at his home in Green Hollow, Iowa. As the story began to make headlines across the nation, the case began to make many twists and turns that made people question what was true and what wasn’t.

Donald, study, lucy, green, hollow, iowa, Omaha, Nebraska, fbi, excavation, well, murder, serial, killer



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