It has been 34 years since the death of June Bidleman, 58, in Dodge City.

Bidleman's body was found March 23, 1985, at the former Welcome Inn Motel, 1610 W. Wyatt Earp Blvd.

According to reports, Bidleman had been strangled, raped and murdered sometime between 1 and 5 a.m. that day.

In the decades since, the case went cold after many leads and followups came up empty. But in 2013, things began to change.

"I wasn't looking at the case at all," said Dodge City police Lt. Colleen Brooks-Francis. "I got a phone call from Jim Coover, June's son, asking about the case, and I began following up on it."

Since then, Brooks-Francis has examined and re-examined everything. But because the case has many years behind it, some things have become more difficult.

"A lot of the witnesses at the time of the incident are now deceased," she said. "Even some of the cops from that time have died. Usually with a homicide case, I have one big binder of evidence and information — with this case I have eight and am working on my ninth."

James Coover and his family still need closure.

"I am 71 years old now," Coover said. "I would hate to croak and not have this resolved, which is why I reached out to the department."

Coover, along with two brothers and one sister, grew up in the Kinsley area. In 1985, at the time of his mother's death, Coover ran an antique shop in Kinsley. Looking back, he said, "I was self-employed and didn't pay much attention to what was going on in town around me.

"Drugs were in the area at the time, but nothing else really jumped out at me."

After the initial shock of the death, little time passed before Coover began his own investigation.

"I always felt it was someone she knew," he said. "The door to the motel office was always locked, so she would have had to let the person in, and she would not have done that to someone she didn't know."

Coover also mentioned that months before her death, Bidleman's home had been robbed, which led her to ask for a pistol.

"It really messed with her head, and why wouldn't it have?" Coover said. "I definitely knew it scared her, because she hated guns, so when she asked me for one, I knew she was spooked."

New forensic tests have made leaps and bounds for law enforcement since 1985. In the news lately, conclusions have been reached in several cold cases because of new forensic testing.

"Various types of DNA testing have been completed and are in process by both the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Federal Bureau of Investigation," said Brooks-Francis.

But testing and retesting of the evidence takes time to reach results, so the investigation continues with new leads and information being sought.

"It is important to note that sometimes a person can have information that they don’t realize is important," she said. "We want to ask local residents to think back to this time in 1985 and see if they remember anything that might be related to this case."

Bidleman's family continues to wait for answers.

"I spent more time with my mother than anyone else," Coover said. "And boy did she love her scotch. My step-father was a cattle buyer, so there were a lot of western types around the family, and I can tell you, she could drink them boys under the table. But what is funny is I never saw her drunk.

"She was definitely a go-getter. She ran a greenhouse, bred dogs and helped run Jones Packing. Not many men could keep up with her. She was a master chef, too. When she worked at the motel, she didn't need the job, she just loved to work."

Coover believes someone must have seen something that would help investigators solve the case.

"A lot of time has passed. How no one could show empathy and get this thing over with I will never understand," he said. "No family wants to have this linger on. Why withhold anything at this time that would help us at all?"

Anyone with information that may help the case is asked to contact Brooks-Francis at (620) 225-8126, ext. 1218, or email colleenf@dodgecity.org. You can also text anonymously by using the tip411 app.

 

To contact the writer, email vmarshall@dodgeglobe.com.