I Want The Money

On March 13, 1984, a rural Keokuk resident was stabbed to death for no apparent reason. Marilyn Hart, 53,was found with multiple stab wounds, there seemed to be no motive for the crime as robbery was ruled out because nothing was missing.

That evening a teenager walked into the local Pizza Hut in Keokuk and appeared drunk and very upset. He was Jim Zell*, 15, from Hamilton, a small city in Illinois just across the river from Keokuk. Some of the people in the restaurant knew him and tried to find out what was wrong. He talked of doing something wrong and he had blood on him. Later he somehow ended up in the police station giving a confession of his part in the murder of Ms. Hart. His confession stated that the murder of Hart was instigated by her nephew, Stanley Hart III of Hamilton, a friend of Zell’s. Zell claimed that Stanley had promised him a car, several thousand dollars in cash and all the beer he could drink if he killed his Aunt Marilyn. When asked why Stanley wanted her dead, he said that Stanley told him that his aunt was a caretaker for his grandmother and that his aunt was mistreating her. Also was the fact that Stanley believed when his grandmother died, he would inherit some or all of her money.

Stanley Hart III was 18 at the time and a grandson of Iowa State Senator Stanley Hart, who served in the Iowa Senate in the late 30’s, 40’s and 50’s and died in 1973. Hart and another teen, Bill Frey*, 18, of Hamilton, devised and planned the killing of Marilyn to enrich their lives, but apparently were unable to commit the act themselves. It was reported that a few unsuccessful attempts were feebly carried out but resulted in no death. Somehow they came up with the idea of entrusting Zell to help them carry through with the murder.

So on that Tuesday, March 13, 1984, Hart and Frey drove Zell to Marilyn Hart’s house about three miles outside of Keokuk and supplied Zell with whiskey to help him through the job. At her driveway, Hart gave Zell a knife and dropped him off telling him to finish his Aunt Marilyn off so he could get his grandmother’s money. Zell went up to the house, let himself in and proceeded to stab Marilyn eight times and then left her to die on her floor.

After Zell confessed to the murder, the other two individuals were arrested and charged with murder. A search of Hart’s vehicle produced English class papers written by Hart that planned an attempt to murder his aunt. Hart was arrested in Illinois, resisted extradition and was actually released on bail for a while, he was finally locked up and has never seen freedom since.

Hart received life without parole after being found guilty. Frey received 10 years for accessory to murder and Zell plead guilty but I do not know what sentence he received or served.

As of this writing in 2016, Stanley Hart III is still incarcerated at the Iowa Penitentiary in Ft. Madison, Iowa, only a few miles from where the murder took place. He has lobbied extensively for his release claiming he has reformed, which actually may be true, being that he was 18 at the time of the murder and has completed college courses and has been a model inmate. But other issues arising from his actions have probably kept him behind bars. He has a collection of drawings called the ‘Marilyn Hart Commemorative Collection’ that he has tried to send to the victims daughters (his cousins), and also trying to correspond with them through letters. The daughters found all this highly distressing, and Hart was told to stop bothering them and to stop trying to display, sell or offer any artwork that referred to Marilyn Hart. He was told to attend victim impact classes and it seems he has ignored that also. And in Iowa, if you are sentenced to life without parole, you tend to serve that sentence fully. Iowa pretty much leads the nation in rejecting parole for that sentence.


*Names changed

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