Advertisement

Who killed Big Earl? 25 years later, family holds onto hope in unsolved murder of Iowa man

"Big Earl" Hamilton was shot and killed in the early morning hours on Sept. 29, 1996. 25 years later, his family continues to hope for a breakthrough in the cold case.

Advertisement

On the 25th anniversary of his killing, family members of "Big Earl" Hamilton said they still have hope that authorities will be able to solve the cold case.

In the early hours of the morning on Sept. 29, 1996, Hamilton, 53, was shot and killed outside of Big Earl's Goldmine, a strip club he owned in Des Moines, Iowa.

"He loved people," Hamilton's sister, Rose Marie Smith, said in an interview with sister station KCCI Wednesday. "He did whatever he could for people of all ages."

At the time, investigators considered gang retaliation as a possible motive in Hamilton's killing, though it led to more questions than answers. Hamilton's son, Melvin Bryson, said different theories continue to circulate about his father's murder, adding that he still gets contacted by people about the case with possible new information.

Bryson filled his father's shoes and continues to operate Big Earl's Goldmine to this day.

"I've gotten many letters in the mail, people who were afraid to pick up the phone and call," Bryson said. "They might say something that they feel they heard, that might be useful in the case, or something like that."

Lt. Ryan Evans, a spokesperson for the Polk County Sheriff's Office, said the department considers the case cold but continues to seek out any tips that could aid investigators. Evans said it's likely someone out there knows something that could aid detectives.

Bryson agrees and said he feels the sheriff's office is doing everything it can to solve the case.

"Maybe now they feel comfortable enough to come forward and say, 'You know what, maybe I've lost a family member or something like that, maybe now I know how it feels and I kind of I can feel what they're feeling a little bit more, and I'm ready to say something,'" Bryson said.

Still, family members continue to wait for answers.

"I miss him dearly," Mhiyu Thomas, another one of Hamilton's sons, said.

Smith said Hamilton's killing brought their family closer together, and she believes that solving the case, "would bring (them) closure."

She said Big Earl's name lives on, even among the younger generations of his family that never got the chance to know him, like his grandson, Mhiyu Thomas Jr.

"He lives through us all," Thomas Jr. said.