Thomas Freeman

On February 25, 2022, police announced that Thomas O. Freeman was the lead suspect in the murder of 32-year-old Lee Rotatori on June 25, 1982, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The case has been cleared by exception due to the death of Freeman.

Rotatori had just moved to the area a few days before for a new job as a food service director at the Jennie Edmundson Hospital and was still staying at a local Best Western Hotel. Her boss phoned the hotel after she failed to show up for work. Staff checked on her in her room, and they found her deceased. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death.

A DNA profile from evidence collected from the hotel room was first developed in 2001 and entered into law enforcement databases, but no leads were produced. The FGG investigation was conducted by Parabon Nanolabs, beginning in April of 2019, with the assistance of Eric Schubert of ES Genealogy. The initial matches were to 6th to 8th cousins, which is not close enough for an identification. Eventually, Freeman’s great-grandparent was identified, and the case was able to progress. Several family members provided samples as part of targeted kinship testing. The final confirmation was made to Freeman’s daughter.

Freeman, then 35, died shortly after Rotatori’s murder, having been murdered himself. He was shot several times, and buried in a shallow grave outside of Cobden, Illinois. His killer has never been identified. He worked as a trucker.

After the DNA profile was developed in 2001, police began asking possible suspects to provide DNA samples, but all were cleared of involvement in Rotatori’s murder.


Brownlee, Mike. “Police Solve Decades-Old Murder in Council Bluffs, Iowa.” The Courier, February 25, 2022. Accessed March 5, 2022.

KETV 7 News Omaha. “Council Bluffs Police Clear 1982 Cold Case Murder of Michigan Woman.” KETV 7 News Omaha, February 25, 2022. Accessed March 5, 2022.

Lambe, Jerry. “Cold Case Murder of Woman Sexually Assaulted and Stabbed Inside Iowa Hotel Room Solved After Nearly 40 Years: Police.” Law & Crime, February 25, 2022. Accessed March 5, 2022.


First Name Thomas
Last Name Freeman
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2019-04-00
Case Cleared 2022-02-25
IGG Org Parabon;ES Genealogy


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1653 Lee Rotatori 32 1982-06-25 Council Bluffs, IA Council Bluffs PD Second degree murder Case was cleared by exception due to death of perpetrator n/a

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.