Wednesday's Child: Murder in Des Moines

The year was 1966 and I was in 8th grade at St. John's Catholic School in Des Moines, Iowa.  We had a little candy store at the school, and since I didn't like candy, I got to be in charge.  There were 2 little boys who would often help me: Gregory and Joseph Richards.  My father was retired and working at St. John's as well. Greg and Joe had a sister who was in my class.

It was spring and my father was helping me deliver my Girl Scout cookies.  We turned onto the 23rd Street from Carpenter, where Greg and Joe's family lived.  Police cars were everywhere.  My father recognized a priest from St. John's in the crowd of people who had gathered.  He told me to stay put while he ran over to speak with him.  When he came back he took me home; we walked in silence.  When dad could talk again, and I don't know if his silence was from grief or anger or both, he told me Greg and Joe were dead.  Their father, Henry Bubendorfer, had murdered his wife and the two boys, before killing himself.  The daughter had not been at home and was safe.

After my own son's death in 2006 I found some peace taking photos for Iowa Gravestones in Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines.  As I turned to start  photographing a new row the site of this grave took my breath away:
I'm not sure if it was all the memories flooding back that stole my breath, or the fact that the murdered were buried with the murderer.  Over the years I have remembered them in my prayers, the boys' smiles forever burned in my memory.  May the rest in peace.


  1. That is a sad story - one of those things that friends and neighbors will always ponder and pray for.
    Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. I just wanted to share. My father was friends with Joseph at school and in cub scouts. He went to the house that morning, alerted the neighbors of the smell of gas and then the whole story unfolded. I found this in my search to find the story and grave site for my dad so that he could go and try to come to terms and say goodbye after all these years as that day has weighed heavy on his heart since he was 10. I thank you, as he went to the grave today after so many years to see his friend.

  3. Amy - I have newspaper articles of the murder if you are interested in showing your father. Or if you go to the main library in Des Moines, you can retrieve the articles there.


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