A man sold his truck to a salvage yard, which crushed and shredded the vehicle, days after his ex-girlfriend was recorded on surveillance cameras “awkwardly slumped” in the passenger seat, according to cops in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Authorities charged Ivan Samuel Brammer, 61, on Tuesday with abuse of a corpse and theft in the second degree regarding Ilene Gowan, 60. She disappeared on Feb. 13 and was found dead on Feb. 26.
Police are investigating the circumstances of the victim’s death, saying the medical examiner’s office could not formally determine the cause and manner of death after the body was found decomposed and frozen to the ground.
In an affidavit, police said Gowan was reported missing on Feb. 15. She had not been seen or heard from since Feb. 13, her daughter said. Gowan was last seen on video that day leaving East Kanesville Boulevard with Brammer, her ex-boyfriend, in his 1999 Ford F-150.
Speaking to family, friends, and co-workers, police determined the relationship was on-and-off and “volatile with much verbal fighting and alcohol involved.” One relative said Brammer was not nice and did not treat Gowan with respect.
It was alleged that they seemed to get along when they were sober, but things became bad when they drank. Gowan allegedly said that Brammer choked her during a loud argument.
A week before her disappearance, she had been kicked out of her and Brammer’s apartment.
“Gowan told them both Brammer was holding her personal safe until she provided him $300 in cash,” the affidavit stated. She told two witnesses Brammer would not let her have her safe until she paid him. She eventually got the safe back.
Brammer told cops he picked up Gowan that morning and drove her to a home just off Railroad Highway, where she was staying with an acquaintance, according to the affidavit. Then he returned home, he allegedly said.
“This was proven to be a false statement, and each interview after, when presented with inaccuracies in his previous statement, Brammer would change his story to conform to the facts presented,” police wrote.
Evidence, however, allegedly showed him with Gowan at least through 11 a.m. on Feb. 13 when his truck turned north onto Railroad highway from Kanesville Boulevard.
Officers claim he omitted relevant information to misdirect the investigation.
In an interview on Feb. 24, Brammer allegedly asked cops to drive to the area where he claimed to go after turning onto Railroad Highway at 11 a.m. on Feb. 13. He claimed that he dropped Gowan off on 205th Street and drove away slowly. He hoped to see her walk toward a house, so he would know where a certain person lived. Police redacted that person’s identity. In this account, Gowan “just stood there watching me leave.”
Brammer’s behavior became erratic in the days after Gowan’s disappearance, officers said.
On Feb. 19, he allegedly threatened to die by suicide. On Feb. 22, he made a threat to kill someone.
“In the threats incident, [redacted] states he received a phone call from Brammer who said ‘Say another word [redacted] is going to pay for two funerals’ and disconnected the call,” police wrote. Gowan was still missing at this time, and the target of the threat suggested that Brammer knew about her being dead based on the comment about “two funerals.”
Officers also claim he eluded police during a traffic stop.
On Feb. 25, Gowan allegedly sold his 1999 Ford Truck to a salvage yard, which crushed and shredded it.
Surveillance video from city cameras and private businesses showed Brammer leaving the city for about an hour, between 9:28 and 10:28 a.m., according to the affidavit. Phones records indicated he and Gowan were in the area of the city of Carter Lake at that time.
“From 8:30 a.m. to 9:28 a.m. Gowan is walking, acting normal in all respects and uninjured sitting upright on the passenger side of Brammer’s truck while traveling,” police said. “When Brammer’s truck is seen on camera return to Council Bluffs at 10:28 a.m., it appears something is different with the way Gowan is sitting or positioned in his truck. At multiple locations with different angles and views, it appears Gowan is awkwardly slumped in the passenger seat. Passing the Frank and Kanesville intersection at 10:56 a.m., she appears to have not moved or changed position.”
When Brammer ruled into a Sherwood Drive address at 11:06 a.m., Gowan was no longer visible in the truck, police said.
According to the affidavit, Both phones went off the network — turned off or put on airplane mode — at 10:59 a.m.
Later, after arriving home, Brammer was allegedly in and out of the passenger and driver-side doors of the vehicle. It did not appear that Gowan was there at this point.
“[Brammer] carries unknown items from inside his truck and the back of the truck to a trash dumpster located on the southeast corner of the apartment’s parking lot,” police said. “He then secures his truck and walks into his apartment building approximately 15 minutes after arriving.”
Officers said that Brammer’s and Gowan’s phones were still together, now in an area of the home.
“Gowan’s deceased body was located on February 26, 2023, in a roadside ditch in the area of 152nd Street and Old Mormon Bridge Road, near Crescent, Iowa,” officers said.
The autopsy found bruises and abrasions on her head, neck, torso, and limbs. Another injury included a broken tooth. There was a significant but non-life-threatening L-shaped laceration to her head.
Because of the decomposition, the doctor could not determine if the head injuries resulted in a concussion or unconsciousness.
“In regard to the L-shaped head injury, she said this could have caused severe and prolonged bleeding,” police wrote. “None of these injuries, however, would have been so severe as to have caused her death.”
Police noted an injury to the upper left side of her neck. They initially believed it to be a ligature mark. The doctor said it was not.
“This was a mark caused by something which would have been pressed against her neck at the time of death, leaving a mark,” police wrote.
Police ruled out the seatbelt because the mark was on the left side of her neck, but they noted it appeared similar to the strap of her purse. The doctor said she could not rule out that theory, according to documents.
The doctor also could not rule out the possibility of positional asphyxia as a possible cause of death. Neither could she rule out blood loss; decomposition interfered with her ability to analyze how much blood had been in Gowan’s body.
“Head wounds bleed a lot, and she could not rule out the possibility of death by blood loss or passing out from blood loss and then dying from positional asphyxia,” police wrote. “All these possibilities could explain her death, but there is no evidence to support them other than the photos of her in the truck sitting in an awkward, unnatural position.”
Police said there were no signs of Gowan dying of exposure or hypothermia. Her toxicology test only showed nicotine, caffeine, and a “maintenance level” of the antidepressant Wellbutrin.
The autopsy’s stumbling block, however, was the fact that her body had been out for so many days.
“Her body was still frozen to the ground, and it is believed she had been in this location possibly since the time she went missing,” officers said.
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