Saturday, April 27, 2024

"The Silent City of the Dead"

A Twist of Fate

By Robert A. Waters


On April 16, 1960, a mild spring day in middle Tennessee, a seventeen-year-old girl walked toward the Duck River (pictured below) carrying a fishing rod and a can of worms. Given the nice weather, fish should be biting, she thought. Bass, perch, catfish, maybe even a rainbow trout might be tempted by her bait. But while fishing would be fun, she had confided to friends her real motive was to get a suntan.

In a twist of fate, her brother had planned to drive her to the river, but the family's car wouldn't start. So the shy country girl decided to hike the four miles to the river. 

She never returned home. Late that afternoon, her mother reported her missing. As the investigation began, three residents who knew the girl reported seeing her walking toward the river. They told investigators she wore red shorts and carried a rod and reel. 

"Searchers beat through miles of rugged backwoods near here yesterday," the Nashville Tennessean reported, "without finding a trace of a pretty blonde teenage girl who vanished Wednesday. More than 50 persons searched on the ground and from the air for Anna Kelnhofer...National Guardsmen also checked an empty house at Devil's Backbone, a ridge along the Duck River a few miles east of Riley Creek Road. They also checked a burned house in a small field spotted by a CAP plane."

Coffee County Sheriff Dan Daniel seemed perplexed. "You can't help but think there was foul play," he said. "You look at it any way you want to, and you come up with the same thing." In addition to the sheriff's department, the Tennessee Bureau of Criminal Identification joined the search.

The area Anna walked was sparsely populated. A few houses lay scattered along the road, but as it neared the river, craggy outcrops appeared in the heavily forested terrain. 

According to friends, Anna seemed happy one day and depressed the next. A few days before, she'd broken up with her boyfriend. Then she decided to quit school. Friends told cops she could be "moody" at times. Years later, someone would coin the term teenage angst, but in the early 1960s, her attitude seemed relatively normal.

Anna's father, Harold Kelnhofer, employed by the U. S. army corps of engineers in Seattle, Washington, was said to be flying back home to join the hunt.

For two days, the search continued. In frustration, Daniels called in the Tullahoma National Guard, the Civil Air Patrol, boy scouts, and dozens of volunteers.

The Rod and Reel

On the second day of the search, Fred Hickerson, of Tullahoma, a city of 12,000, reported to police that Arthur Roger Ivey, a local insurance salesman, had given him a rod and reel. Detectives soon determined it was the same one Anna had carried. Hickerson said Ivey had first attempted to sell it for $2.00 at a pawn shop, but was unsuccessful.

Cops quickly descended on Ivey.

As they interrogated the suspect, he quickly broke. The Tennessean reported that "Ivey said he hit the girl accidentally, then panicked, piled her body into the trunk of his car, and drove to the old military reservation." (Camp Forrest, one of the army's largest military bases during World War II, had long been abandoned and was now undergoing new forest growth.) Investigators went to the location where Ivey said he ran into the girl, but saw no skid marks or disturbances on or near the road. In addition, they found no damage to Ivey's vehicle.

Ivey led cops to Camp Forrest, eight miles from Tullahoma. There he pointed out the gravesite where he buried the girl. She lay in a shallow grave, covered by brush and trash. After finding the victim, detectives charged Ivey with first degree murder and ordered him held without bail. 

Dr. W. J. Core performed the autopsy. He stated that in his opinion "the pretty young girl died as a result of a fractured skull caused by repeated blows on the head by a heavy, jagged instrument...Dr. Core, who said he examined the body six and a half days after death, said he discovered brush and thorn marks on Miss Kelnhofer's legs which strongly indicated to him that she had been running through heavy brush just prior to her death." Dr. Core found no broken bones or other injuries to her body, except for the head area.

He said he could not tell if she had been sexually assaulted because of decomposition. 

The Trials

At trial, Special Prosecutor Walter "Pete" Haynes stated that only two people know for sure what happened. One is Ivey, he said. The other is Anna Kelnhofer, who now "sleeps in the silent city of the dead."

The prosecution theorized that Ivey was driving his insurance route when he saw Kelnhofer walking toward the Duck River. He offered the pretty teen a ride, which she accepted, then drove her to Camp Forrest. There, according to the prosecution, he likely made sexual advances toward Kelnhofer and she resisted. At some point, she escaped from his vehicle and fled through the woods. Ivey chased her down and struck her with a tire iron or possibly a rock. Then he hastily buried her.

Jurors convicted Arthur Roger Ivey of the first degree murder of Anna Kelnhofer and he received a sentence of 99 years. 

But in 1963, the State Supreme Court overturned Ivey's conviction and ordered a new trial. The court ruled that the presiding judge in the first trial "erred in allowing testimony on Ivey's moral character to be introduced." In the first trial, two women testified that they'd had affairs with the defendant. This testimony was meant to convince jurors that Ivey wanted to have sexual relations with Kelnhofer and her rejection was the motive for he murder.

In the second trial, Ivey's attorneys convinced a new set of jurors that he had indeed accidentally hit Kelnhofer with his car and, in a panic, hid the body. He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to one-to-five years. 

Ivy was released from prison  in 1966.

He died in 2001, a free man. 

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