Offender: Unsolved Age: 72 years old County: Polk City: Des Moines Date of Crime: May 5, 1978
Harry Hoffman, 72, a prominent attorney from Peoria, Illinois, came to Des Moines in May 1978 to take his two granddaughters home after the school year ended at Drake University. Less than seven hours after he arrived in the city, Harry was shot for no apparent reason as he walked from a motel parking lot where he had parked his car.
“He would have been happy to give [the assailant] his money, his watch, anything else. He didn’t have a chance,” Harry’s wife, Mary, said. Mary said she and her husband drove to Des Moines on May 12 with their daughter and son-in-law. They went to the city to pick up their daughters, Teri and Cindy, who had finished classes for the year.
A friend of Cindy’s was graduating from Drake and the family attended a graduation party that night. The Hoffmans returned to the Howard Johnson Motel at 921 Sixth Avenue at 11 PM. Harry let his wife out of the car at the front door of the motel because of the “rainy, blustery, windy” weather. Then, Harry went to park the car alone.
As he walked from the parking lot, a man approached Harry, ordered him to “freeze,” and then shot him. Mary said her husband later told her that he called out for help but he was not heard. “He was able to walk to the door… I saw him coming and opened the door for him,” Mary said. She phoned for an ambulance and Harry was taken to the hospital where he remained in critical condition until his death on Tuesday, May 30, 1978.
Police had no leads in the case. They theorized that robbery may have been a motive but that in the process of committing the robbery, the assailant was scared off. “Just before he was about to rob [Harry] he might have gotten flustered and shot the victim, spoiling his game plan,” police said.