Who Killed Agnes? Police revisit Davenport cold case on ten-year anniversary

Published: Dec. 20, 2017 at 11:00 AM CST
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"On this particular night, it was snowing, sleeting, raining. And it kept changing." Detective Bill Thomas with the Davenport Police Department remembers the weather being problem on this Saturday night in December of 2007.

"The weather could basically be destroying evidence," Thomas said. "Crucial evidence."

As the rain turned to sleet and snow, puddles gathered around a woman lying unresponsive in a Davenport alley. It was between 7th and 8th Streets, just west of Division.

"She was still warm to the touch."

But the woman was badly beaten. She had also been strangled. She died soon after she was discovered.

Neighbors were shaken because this was no accident. The woman had been murdered.

"They didn't notify our family until 11 or 12 and the police came at 4 a.m." Athena Kennedy remembers going to the police department early on December 23, 2007. She was 24 when her mom was murdered. Her sister, Desiree, was 25.

"It's hard," said Desiree McFedries. "Every year gets harder especially because it's around Christmas."

The women remember their mom as a happy and giving woman. "When we had her funeral it was pretty much open to the public, anybody was welcome," Kennedy said. "We had over 1,500 people come and go."

McFedries-Kennedy was well-liked. But there was a darker side to the 51-year-old, involving addiction and prostitution.

"She was a street person," Thomas said. "She had a questionable lifestyle. And she was known by the police department. She advertised on Craigslist. She was arrested for prostitution."

But her life didn't start out that way. In 1979, Mcfedries-Kennedy worked for less than a year at Williams Junior High in Davenport. According to the district, she was a teacher's aide. But she left that job because she wasn't making enough money as a single mom.

"People do things when they're put in certain situations," said Kennedy.

Detective Thomas believes it was her dangerous lifestyle that introduced McFedries-Kennedy to her killer.

"I'm tending to believe it was a stranger individual, someone that she didn't know." Thomas said numerous suspects were interviewed.

On the night she was killed, police say McFedries-Kennedy was last seen at Chuck's Tap in Davenport. Thomas says she went into the bar, got change for a hundred dollar bill, and left. He said people saw her but most witnesses weren't cooperative.

"It made it very difficult on this case," Thomas said. "They don't like talking to the police. They don't like being known as someone that talked to the police."

There's not much else for police to work with. There was no DNA at the scene. The snow and sleet even eliminated the victim's DNA.

"Her clothing was wet," Thomas said," and it definitely could have washed away any DNA that could have been on her clothing."

We know she was strangled but police won't say what she was strangled with. That's information that could be helpful in pinning down a suspect.

"That's something we've never released to the public, never released to the family."

Thomas said McFedries-Kennedy fought her attacker.

"I believe she scratched him. There was damage to her fingers and to nail beds," Thomas said. "Her sock was torn and her heel and foot was injured. Now, to me, that means she was struggling and kicking."

Thomas said her shoes would be key evidence but those are missing.

"Shoes, coat, purse... Never found any of it. No idea what happened to it."

So, what about other victims? We asked Thomas if he's seen similar murders. He said, yes. Three.

"A prostitute and a victim that was strangled," Thomas said. "I think there's a good possibility all three cases are connected."

Angela Hennes, 41, was found dead eleven months before Mcfedries-Kennedy was strangled, beaten, and left to die. Hennes had also been strangled and beaten. But her body had been burned.

Hennes was also a prostitute. The man who killed her, Chad Michael Welsh of Burlington, was arrested for the crime in 2011. Welsh was convicted in 2012.

"Chad Welsh is certainly a person of interest in this case," Thomas said. "Since his arrest and conviction, we have not had another prostitute murdered in our area."

So, why can't police charge him?

"The evidence isn't there at this point to definitely be able to present a charge." Thomas says the outcome of this cold case likely rests on the conscience of an unknown witness.

"Someone might decide, hey, you know what, it's time now. I've been carrying this around for a while. And it's time for me to do what's right."

"Regardless of what you were doing that night and what part you played in it," said Kennedy, "whether it was drug dealing or just a passerby. All that would be set aside in the case of somebody being murdered." McFedries-Kennedy's daughters are begging that "someone" to come forward.

"She didn't deserve this," McFedries said, with tears streaming down her cheeks. "She deserves justice."

"Closure for myself and my family would help so much."

If you have any information about the murder of Agnes McFedries-Kennedy, contact Davenport Police.

If you know of a cold case that deserves another look, contact Morgan Ottier on Facebook or via email.