The Mysterious Unsolved 1980 Murders Of Rose Burkert And Roger Atkison

On the evening of Friday, September 12, 1980, 32-year-old Roger Atkison and 22-year-old Rose Burkert checked into a room at the Holiday Inn in Williamsburg, Iowa for a romantic evening. However, as reported by The Gazette, the evening went terribly wrong when Atkison and Burkert were brutally killed by an unknown assailant.

The following morning, a housekeeper entered the hotel room for a routine cleaning. The housekeeper was terrified to find blood spattered throughout the room and Atkison and Burkert face down in the bed they shared — with their heads clearly bludgeoned.

When authorities arrived on scene, they noted the victims' heads appeared to have been repeatedly struck with an axe or a similar tool. They also noted the chairs in the room had been moved around, and their positioning suggested the killer and the victims had a conversation before the murder occurred.

According to The Gazette, authorities concluded money had been stolen from the victims, which they believe suggested the motive for the murders was revenge. Authorities also found an unusual drawing on the bathroom mirror, made with a bar of soap (per OneNie). Although a majority of the message was intelligible, the word "This" was clearly visible within the drawing.

Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison were having an affair

As the Holiday Inn was an estimated 270 miles away from Roger Atkison and Rose Burkert's hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri, the murders sent shockwaves across two different states. In addition to the sheer brutality of the murders, the lack of suspects made residents in Williamsburg, Iowa, fear for their lives. Back in Missouri, Atkison's wife, Marcella, had to face the fact that her husband was having an affair in the midst of mourning his shocking death.

According to OneNie, Atkison lived with his wife and daughter and worked as a telephone installer and repairman. Although he was married, Atkison was known for flirting with other women, including his female customers. Burkert, who was a single mother attending classes to become a nurse, was one of Atkison's customers. As the two became close, they eventually began having an affair.

According to the hotel records, Atkison and Burkert checked into the Holiday Inn at 7:40 p.m. The records also indicate three phone calls were made to the room that evening. Although two of the calls were confirmed to have been made by Burkert's babysitter, OneNie reports authorities were unable to identify the source of the third call.

Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison may have been killed by someone they knew

As reported by OneNie, several witnesses reported seeing Rose Burkert arguing with a bartender in the hotel's lounge on the evening the murders occurred. However, nobody reported hearing or seeing anything else unusual that evening.

Authorities said several details about the crime scene suggest the victims may have known their killer. First and foremost, there were no signs of forced entry to the room or a struggle having taken place. According to OneNie, the placement of the chairs indicates the killer was talking to the victims before he killed them. In addition to the chair being moved next to the bed, there was evidence that someone placed their feet up on the nightstand.

Although there were signs that the killer washed his hands and handled a tube of toothpaste in the bathroom, the person did not leave any evidence as to their identity. Authorities also said the victims' bags had clearly been searched.

Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison's murders were never solved

Roger Atkison and Rose Burkert's murders were never solved. However, there are several theories about who may have been responsible for their deaths. In the months prior to the murders, Iowa Cold Cases reports Burkert ended a particularly volatile relationship.

Burkert had been living with her boyfriend Danny Burton for some time. However, she eventually ended the relationship and kicked Burton out of her home as she said he was abusing drugs. Following their breakup, Burkert said Burton began harassing and stalking her and she feared for her life.

According to Iowa Cold Cases, Burkert reported the harassment to Missouri's Andrew County Sheriff's Department. She also told them if she were ever killed, it would probably be "because of her ex." In an attempt to protect herself and her home, Burkert got a dog. However, within weeks of getting the dog, someone brutally killed it and left it hanging in her front yard.

Burton's history with Burkert made him a logical person of interest in the murders. However, authorities said he had a solid alibi and also consented to and passed a polygraph examination.

Rose Burkert's ex-boyfriend was cleared of any involvement

Another person rumored to have been involved in the murders of Roger Atkison and Rose Burkert was Charles Hatcher. As reported by Iowa Cold Cases, Hatcher, who was a convicted serial killer, and Atkison's uncle, had escaped a mental health facility in Nebraska around the same time Atkison and Burkert were killed. However, OneNie reports there was no evidence suggesting Hatcher was in contact with his nephew. It is also believed that Hatcher remained in Nebraska following his escape, as that is where he was eventually apprehended.

It has also been suggested that Atkison and Burkert's murders were committed by a different serial killer. According to Meaww, investigator Paul Hole noted the scenes of two other murders were strikingly similar to the scene where Atkison and Burkert were killed.

10 weeks before Atkison and Burkert were murdered, 28-year-old William Kyle was found dead in a hotel room in Galesburg, Illinois. Kyle was also found face down on the bed in his hotel room and a chair had been moved next to his bed. Authorities noted someone went through Kyle's wallet. As reported by Meaww, one of the more unusual things found at the scene of Atkison and Burkert's murders was a tube of toothpaste that had been emptied into the bathtub. In Kyle's room, authorities found a tube of toothpaste that had been emptied onto the floor.

Rose Burkert and Roger Atkison may have been victims of a serial killer

Paul Hole also pointed to another murder, which was committed in 1970. As reported by Meaww, 23-year-old Jack McDonald was found dead face down on the bed in his motel room. Like in the other cases, authorities found a toothpaste tube, which had been emptied into the toilet. McDonald's wallet was also stolen.

Hole believes all three crimes were committed by a man named Raymundo Esparza, who witnesses placed at the Holiday Inn at the time Roger Atkison and Rose Burkert were killed. Although Esparza died in 1983, Hole has suggested that his body be exhumed to compare his DNA with evidence collected from the scenes of the murders. Meaww reports the Iowa County Sheriff's Office expressed plans to look into a possible exhumation.

According to OneNie, rumors have also suggested Atkison's wife, Marcella, may have been involved in the murders. Although she denied having any knowledge that her husband was having an affair with Burkert, Atkison's brother, Larry, said Marcella came to his house the day before the murder and was crying. Marcella did not explain why she was so upset. However, Larry said he thinks she knew something about the affair and may have had something to do with the murders.