WATERLOO, Iowa --- The man who was convicted of killing Olympic wrestling champion Dan Gable's sister has died in prison.

John Thomas Kyle died Friday in a Kansas hospital following a heart attack earlier in the week while he was in Hutchinson Correctional Facility Central in Hutchinson, Kans., serving a life sentence in the death of Diane Gable, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.

Fred Scaletta, a spokesman with the Iowa Department of Corrections, said Kyle died of natural causes. He was 64 years old.

Authorities said Kyle, the son of a bank president, was a 16-year-old high school dropout when he choked, beat and stabbed 19-year-old Diane Gable in May 1964.

The slaying took place in the Gable family home while the parents were away on vacation.

Kyle pleaded guilty later that year, in an apparent move to avoid a possible death sentence. Iowa had capital punishment at the time.

Dan Gable, retired University of Iowa wrestling coach, issued the following statement through the Iowa Department of Corrections Friday:

"A couple of days ago, I received a call from Fred Scaletta of the Iowa Department of Corrections informing me that Thomas Kyle had suffered a severe heart attack and that death was likely imminent," Gable said. "Initially, I thought Thomas Kyle had escaped again, (as he did for six months in 1977) or thought perhaps he had already died.

"I knew this would affect me, but didn't know how," Gable continued. "I happened to be in Northeast Iowa, in the same area where my parents were notified of my sister's death, and where I witnessed their pain --- and where I was today notified by Mr. Scaletta of Kyle's death.

"This news did hit me really hard," Gable said. "I spent quite some time grieving all over again.

"I don't know what happens in prison - if there are services or rehabilitation programs - but, my family has never known how he felt about it, just that during the trial in '64 he wasn't remorseful and threatened the Gable family.

"I knew Tom Kyle as a neighbor. We weren't friends, but I knew him. His actions cost both families a great deal, and hopefully he realized that at some point - I don't know.

"Time will tell how we will handle this - as time goes on."

 Kyle was sent to prison Oct. 29, 1964, and escaped from the Iowa State Penitentiary on March 29, 1977.

He was apprehended in Florida and returned to Iowa custody on Nov. 2, 1977.

His custody was transferred to the Kansas Department of Corrections following the escape return on Oct. 23, 1981.

During an challenge to his plea in 1983, Kyle said his plea wasn't voluntary and said he pleaded guilty because of pressure from his parents.


Waterloo attorney Ed Gallagher Jr., who represented Kyle, said, “It’s just the end of a very tragic event for both families.”

Gallagher and co-counsel Paul Kildee were able to spare him from the death penalty, which was in effect in Iowa at that time.

Gallagher recalled receiving a call from the family to represent Kyle the day he was arrested. "He had already confessed” to the murder, Gallagher said. "I stopped the interrogation, but he had already confessed.”

Gallagher said he and Kildee tried a number of defenses during the trial. "The only thing we wanted to do was to save his life.”

Gallagher said the adequacy of his and Kildee’s representation of Kyle was challenged on appeal by an attorney with the Prisoner Assistance Clinic of the University of Iowa College of Law and interns. That challenge, Gallagher said, did not take into consideration that the death penalty was in effect at the time of the original trial.

The appeals court ultimately upheld Gallagher’s and Kildee’s representation of Kyle.

“We used every avenue we could to help him,” Gallagher said.

“It was a big part of my life, and I regret it very much,” Gallagher said, referring to the entire ordeal. “I hope the families don’t relive this, particularly the Gable family. It  was a terrible, terrible thing.”

(9) comments


Finally the Gable family can have some piece


I remember this like it was yesterday. At least this killer had no real life. Peace to the Gable's.


I can close my eyes and see her smiling face, like it was yesterday. Although I wanted Kyle dead at the time, I now realize that 47 years to think about what he had done was a much better punishment. Now he knows the real consequences of what he had done, and he knows there is no escape from eternity in HELL. RIP Diane, and peace to your family.


So glad Ed Gallagher got us to pay to house and feed this guy for the last 45+ years instead of giving him (the killer) what he deserved.


I also remember this like it was yesterday. I knew both families (The Gables and The Kyles). It was a horrible, horrible time. Peace to the Gables. And yes, Peace to the Kyles.


I think the times have changed. Sadly there was a time when murders were so shocking they made the national news. Today it is just a bit story at best. We have become accustomed to them and though we may feel bad we are seldom shocked. How many murders here in the last ten years? I have no idea as I am no longer shocked. Very sad.


I'd just like to add that everyone, even a murderer, can escape Hell if he/she admits they're a sinner and accepts by faith (truly believes) that Jesus paid the penalty for their sin when He died on the cross & rose again.


[quote]exxjer said: "So glad Ed Gallagher got us to pay to house and feed this guy for the last 45+ years instead of giving him (the killer) what he deserved."[/quote]

Ed Gallagher saved us some money...it is cheaper to imprison someone for life than it is to give them the death sentence.

I Scream In The Sun
I Scream In The Sun

timmy, that's the big problem with the farce we call the prison system today. I am pretty sure a trip down to the hardware store for a length of their finest rope, and the cost of a ladder, should not be very expensive at all. There are plenty of trees in city parks that could be used.

For the way they do things these days, it might actually be cheaper to try giving the death row inmates gold poisoning. Actually, I wonder if it might even divide out to be cheaper if you sent them by the space shuttle-full straight to the moon. "Deported" on a planetary basis.

You could actually probably save alot of money by just taking the death row inmates out back and using solid gold bullets tipped with diamonds, loaded in the firing squad.

The interesting thing is the actual effect the death penalty has. I would speculate that a would-be criminal most likely never ponders the severity of the crime they are about to commit, and then decides to reduce or abstain from that crime, for fear of the death penalty. Where it does come into play, is in court, it sends the rates of people who take plea deals WAY up, every time "the defendant agreed to take a plea bargain for life in prison, rather than to let it go to trial and risk facing the death penalty". Just something to think about.

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