Moeller honored for work in murder investigation
SIOUX CITY — A rural Plymouth County man was one of five law enforcement officials recently recognized for their work on solving a 2011 Sioux City murder case.
The members of the team that investigated the May 2011 killing of Tony Canfield were recognized for their efforts with the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association (FLEOA) national group achievement award. The award ceremony took place at the Sioux City Police Department on Nov. 30.
The FLEOA was founded in 1977, and is a non-profit organization that represents federal law enforcement agents across the nation, and currently represents more than 25,000 federal law enforcement agents from over 65 different agencies.
The recipients of the FLEOA award were FBI Special Agent Jonathan Moeller, of rural Plymouth County, Northern District of Iowa Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild, Sioux City Police Department Detectives Heather Albrecht and Mike Simons and Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office Captain Mike Walsh.
The national award stems from the recipients’ group efforts in the investigation of Sioux City resident Tony Canfield’s murder.
The case began on May 1, 2011, when Canfield and his wife were robbed at gunpoint by three men. One of the robbers held and brutalized the wife, while the other two physically robbed Canfield of marijuana and cash. Canfield resisted his attackers and attempted to escape the robbery by fleeing his home.
While fleeing, Canfield was shot and killed on his front porch.
The crime went unsolved for five years, owing to the fact there was no forensic evidence identifying the perpetrators, and neither the murder weapon, nor any shell casings were recovered at the scene.
In addition, the wife could not identify the robbers as they were wearing masks.
Nonetheless, through dogged investigative work, which included numerous interviews conducted in a number of different states, the perpetrators were arrested and prosecuted. In 2016, all three defendants were convicted, and sentenced. The sentences ranged from 20 to 35 years imprisonment.
Moeller said he usually receives a “heads up” about an armed robbery in the area.
“We don’t get involved in every armed robbery, but this one did not have the appearance of a typical robbery from the standpoint there was a man shot in his front yard during the course of the robbery. The robbers were masked up when they went into the residence,” Moeller said.
“In most crimes, you are putting together a puzzle. At the scene, we look at what pieces are left behind, what eyewitnesses have to say,” Moeller said. “Not only did we have to put the puzzle together, we didn’t have any pieces. There wasn’t anything left behind, no DNA, no eyewitness, no video.”
Moeller said it took a lot of time to put things together and find the pieces in general.
“From there, once we had a pretty decent idea of the cast of characters involved, witnesses or those with knowledge of, we then start to put together a timeline,” he said.
Mike Simmons was the original detective on the case, according to Moeller. In cases such as this, there are usually rumors about something that might be unusual.
“What was unusual is that there wasn’t that rumor,” Moeller said.
While the three who were eventually convicted lived in the community, they did not have rooted connections.
“Once we put the timeline together, we were able to determine who was tied to what area, their alleged other illegal activities and slowly put it all together. They did spread over a number of states with ties to different areas,” Moeller added.
“Although this investigation took five years, it never really went ‘cold.’ Diligently and persistently a team of investigators and analysts — spread over five states — and from multiple agencies, never stopped working this case,” Moeller said. “Together we brought three killers to justice, brought closure to the friends and family of Mr. Canfield and a renewed sense of security for the whole community. It is an honor and privilege to work with these folks daily.”
United States Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa Peter Deegan stated, “Our office is proud to count Assistant United States Attorney Forde Fairchild among those who helped bring Canfield’s ruthless killers to justice. The investigative team represents the very best in cooperative law enforcement and is most deserving of this prestigious award.”
Sioux City Police Chief Rex Muller said it was a particularly challenging case that required the resources of multiple agencies to lead to a successful prosecution.
“We are extremely proud of the working relationship we have with the local FBI office and United States Attorney’s Office,” Muller said. “These criminals presented a significant danger to the general public if not identified and arrested. The efforts of the investigators and prosecutors in this case over a five-year period are a testament to their dedication to bring justice to this case, as well as bring some closure to the family of Tony Canfield. It is a fine example of the strong cooperation and capability that exists within northwestern Iowa law enforcement community.”
In praising the investigative team, Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead added, “I’m proud that Captain Mike Walsh was able to provide valuable assistance to this joint investigation and help bring those responsible to justice. The team’s dedication, thoroughness and persistence paid off in ways far beyond the award they received today.”