A look back at the Diane Gable murder

2011-06-17T14:19:00Z 2011-06-17T14:21:30Z A look back at the Diane Gable murderBy NANCY RAFFENSPERGER NEWHOFF Courier Managing Editor Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

Editor's Note: This story was written in 1999.

WATERLOO, Iowa --- On May 31, 1964, a pretty 19-year-old west-side Waterloo girl with the now well-known name of Diane Gable, was slain in her home.

The murder of the teen-ager sister of Dan Gable, who would later become a national champion and Olympic gold medalist, has often been referred to as one of the catalysts towards Gable's incredible wrestling career. But at the time, she was known only as a teen-ager who died at the hands of another teen-ager -- one whose parents were well known in the community.

"These were supposedly prominent families in Waterloo -- particularly the Kyle family. It kinda hit like a bomb shell in the local community," remembers William Ball, who was Black Hawk County Attorney in 1964.

Diane Kay Gable was found dead in her home on Easley Street a day and a half later after a neighbor went looking for her when she did not show up for work. Her parents and brother, Dan, then 15, had spent the weekend at Harpers Ferry.

Courier reporter George Saucer was on his daily rounds of the police department early June 2, 1964. He was sitting in the office of Robert Beener, then chief of detectives, going over the weekend caseload, when a call came into Beener's desk.

It was about a body being found in a home. Saucer, who was on deadline for that day's paper, quickly drove to the area, but had little help from police officers at the scene.

"It was in a nice part of town -- all of the homes there had been built in the past 10 years," Saucer recalls.

What he didn't know was whether the case was a murder or suicide, and held out waiting, trying to find out any information on whether he had a story for that day's paper.

Finally, someone came out of the house that wasn't a police officer. Saucer hustled over to him and asked what was going on. Saucer knew then that he was dealing with a murder, and quickly called in to the office.

It was within a few hours that a teen-ager was in custody. His name was John Thomas Kyle, 16, the son of the president of First Federal Savings and Loan Association in Waterloo.

The county attorney, Ball, said Kyle was brought in for questioning by police. But because he was a juvenile, Ball asked that a female juvenile probation officer, Clara Hinde, be brought in.

"We got Clara into it because I felt I didn't want the heavier hands of the detectives in there. I felt she would be a better person to talk to him. It wasn't to my knowledge much of an interrogation." Ball said. In fact Hinde testified at Kyle's degree of guilt hearing later that Kyle confessed while police were on the phone to notify his parents to come to the station.

This was, of course, prior to the passing of the Miranda law, where by suspects must be read their rights before giving any statements. "The nice thing about it there wasn't any pressure put on the boy. It was just a down to earth conversation with Clara," Ball recalls.

One of Kyle's two attorneys, Ed Gallagher Jr. -- a family friend of the Kyles -- said he'll never forget that Monday. "I was in the President Hotel at an Exchange Club meeting when a got a call and was told to report to the city jail immediately. I was absolutely shocked to what had happened. It was something you don't forget," Gallagher said.

Kyle, a dropout of West High School where he had been a junior, was one of seven youths ranging from 16 to 20 years of age who had been at the Gable house that Saturday night. Kyle had left the house with others, and in the meantime, Diane Gable, told the others to leave. She then left with friends, returning about midnight. Kyle also returned to the house about that time. Gable's boyfriend left about 1:30 a.m., with Diane saying she would drive Kyle to another girl's house.

Police surmise there was a struggle in the home sometime after that with Kyle stabbing and beating the girl.

In October, Kyle pleaded guilty before Judge Blair Wood, and then the matter went to a hearing to determine the degree of guilt and sentencing.

Ball recalls that before the guilty plea, he had gotten an order to try Kyle as an adult, but had not made up his mind on whether he would pursue the death penalty.

Gallagher recalls that "we were trying to save his life."

"People today find that hard to understand, but at that time we had the death penalty," he said. Gallagher and co-counsel Paul Kildee argued before Wood that Kyle should be convicted of second-degree murder, but Wood determined found the youth guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced him to life in prison.

"It was a sad thing -- the whole thing," Ball said. Gallagher agreed. "It was a tough case," he said.

Despite two attempts to get his conviction overturned, Kyle continues to serve a life prison sentence.

Copyright 2015 Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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