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Police believe body in burned van was Iowa man whose wife, 4 kids were found slain
Iowa City Slayings 5679516
In this May 23, 2007 photo provided by the Des Moines Radio Group, Sheryl Sueppel appears at a Des Moines Radio Group fund raiser for the Children's Miracle Network in Iowa City, Iowa. Sueppel and her four children were found dead in their home Monday morning, March 24, 2008, and police later found a sixth body in a burning, wrecked van owned by her husband - a former bank executive who had been charged with embezzlement. - photo by Associated Press
    IOWA CITY, Iowa — Investigators are focusing on a former bank executive who had been charged with embezzlement as they seek answers in the killings of his wife and four children, whose bodies were found in their home.
    Steven Sueppel was missing after his family’s bodies were discovered Monday morning. However, his van was found wrecked and ablaze on Interstate 80 about nine miles away, and police said they were all but certain that the body in the van was his.
    ‘‘It’s not possible to do an ID short of an autopsy. The fire was that intense,’’ police Sgt. Troy Kelsay said.
    He added, however, that ‘‘if I was a betting man I would comfortable betting a fair chunk of money’’ that the body was Sueppel’s.
    ‘‘It fits the time of the accident,’’ he said. ‘‘He is the only person unaccounted for.’’
    The Iowa State Patrol’s initial crash report on the van said the vehicle ‘‘entered median for an unknown reason and struck concrete support and sign pole. ...’’
    Autopsies on the six bodies were scheduled Tuesday.
    ‘‘This does not appear to be a random crime,’’ Kelsay said. ‘‘It appears that possibly it is the work of Steven Sueppel.’’
    Police said the victims were found in the unlocked house after someone called 911 dispatchers.
    A recording of the 911 call, made at about 6:30 a.m. Monday, was released Tuesday by the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. The caller wasn’t identified, but Iowa City police believe it was Steven Sueppel.
    The caller gave the address of the house and said: ‘‘Please go there immediately.’’ He then hung up after the dispatcher asked what was happening at the address.
    About six minutes after that call, other callers told dispatchers that a minivan had crashed on I-80.
    Initial alerts said there had been a shooting at the house, but Kelsay said that was not yet determined.
    ‘‘I’m not certain that a firearm was ever involved. Nobody reported hearing any shots fired,’’ Kelsay said.
    The victims’ names weren’t released, but Kelsay confirmed they were Sueppel’s wife and children, ages 3, 5, 7 and 10. According to legal documents, his wife’s name was Sheryl Sueppel.
    Sueppel was indicted last month on federal charges of stealing about $560,000 from Hills Bank and Trust in Johnson County, where he was vice president and controller, court records show.
    Sueppel, 42, pleaded not guilty to embezzlement and money laundering and was released on $250,000 bail. His trial was scheduled for April 21.
    Sueppel’s attorney in that case, Leon Spies, said he had heard of the deaths and called it ‘‘an unimaginable professional and personal tragedy for a lot of people,’’ he said.
    ———
    Associated Press writers Melanie S. Welte and David Pitt in Des Moines contributed to this report.

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