The Doe Network:
Case File 137DFIA


Mattie Lou Zabel
Missing since March 21, 1978 from Cedar Falls, Black Hawk County, Iowa.
Classification: Endangered Missing

Vital Statistics

  • Date Of Birth: March 7, 1933
  • Age at Time of Disappearance: 45 years old
  • Height and Weight at Time of Disappearance: 5'2; 118 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: White female. Brown hair; brown eyes.

Circumstances of Disappearance
Zabel was last seen by her family on March 21, 1978 in her hometown of Cedar Falls, Iowa.
She left behind not only her husband, Jack, and three children, but also a frozen chicken thawing in the kitchen sink that was to be the family's dinner. No clothing was taken, and she would not have had the assets to just walk away. There was no indication that she just got frustrated and left.
Mrs. Zabel, who was a teacher's aide at River Hills School, liked to go out to the park and walk.
The next day, Zabel's car was found, by one of her sons at Black Hawk Park in Cedar Falls. It was locked and her purse was inside.

There was no trace of her after an extensive search by Hawk Comity sheriffs deputies, search dogs, divers and a National Guard helicopter.

Police hypothesized that Zabel either fell into the swift and swollen Cedar River while taking a walk or she committed suicide. She had undergone treatment for depression, but her psychiatrist told investigators Zabel had shown marked improvement in the months leading up to her disappearance.
Her credit cards were monitored for years afterward, they were never used. Seven years after Mattie Zabel vanished, a Black Hawk County judge declared her legally dead.

If you have any information concerning Zabel's case, please contact:
Cedar Falls Police Department

Iowa Missing Persons' Clearinghouse

All information may be submitted on an anonymous basis.

NCIC Number:
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.

Source Information:
Iowa Missing Persons Clearinghouse
Waterloo Courier Cedar Falls

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