The Iowa border is located across the Missouri River at Omaha, Nebraska. Police in Council Bluffs believe that Thomas O. Freeman murdered Lee Rotatori, 32, in a local hotel on June 22, 1982. Rotatori had recently moved from Nunica (Michigan) to Council Bluffs in search of a job. She stayed several nights at the hotel while she searched for a place to call home. She was once stabbed and sexually assaulted.
According to a 2016 article published in the Des Moines Register Rotatori went on a boat trip with her coworkers, then stopped at McDonald's for food, before returning to the hotel. This was her last sighting alive.
According to the newspaper, a reward of $3,000 was offered for information regarding Rotatori's murder. However, police investigating the case were unable to identify any suspect.
Investigators presented evidence that they had collected to a state criminal lab in 2001. This revealed the existence of a male DNA profile. The lab ran periodic checks over the years and failed to find a match.
Investigators submitted the DNA to another lab in 2019. They began a genetic genealogy case. The lab concluded that the DNA belonged to Freeman, who lived in West Frankfort in southern Illinois. The Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil was told by police that Freeman was a trucker, and that they believe he killed Rotatori as he was driving through the area.
In October 1982, Freeman's corpse was discovered in a shallow grave in Cobden, Illinois. This village is about 30 miles from West Frankfort. Freeman was 35 years old when he died. He had been shot several times. Investigators believe that he was murdered around three months before the body was discovered. According to police, they don't believe there is a suspect in his murder.
Authorities stated that they are investigating whether the deaths could be linked.