Details of Disappearance Darleen was last seen at her home in the 600 block of east Pleasant View Drive on the night of January 19, 1960. She was ironing clothes in the basement, and her three children heard her arguing with their father.
Darleen's nine-year-old daughter, Heather, heard banging sounds coming from the basement and the sound of her mother yelling for help. Heather tried to leave her bedroom, but the door was locked, and her father told her to go back to bed. Later, Heather heard more noises coming the basement, possibly sawing or digging noises.
At around midnight, Darleen's husband, Alanson "Lance" Malcolm Fitchett Jr., told Heather and her six-year-old brother that their mother had left and gone to California. He got them and their baby sister up to take them to his sister's home in Adel, Iowa so she could care for them.
Darleen has never been seen again. She left behind all her belongings, including her glasses, medications and vehicle, but the bedding and curtains from her bedroom also disappeared the same night she did.
The day after Darleen vanished, Lance traded in his dark green panel truck for a new van. He didn't report his wife missing of his own accord; concerned friends and neighbors told police about her disappearance. On February 8, 1960, when law enforcement asked him where Darleen was, he said she had left him for another man and gone to California.
At the time of Darleen's disappearance, the couple's marriage was troubled and both Lance and Darleen were seeing other people. Darleen's boyfriend, a sailor, had even come to visit the house in December 1959, with Lance's blessing. Darleen and her boyfriend even opened up a joint bank account at the local bank. The boyfriend was at sea at the time of Darleen's disappearance.
Lance was having an extramarital affair with Colleen Seiberling. Seiberling moved into the home shortly after Darleen vanished. In June 1960, just as Lance and Seiberling were about to move to California with the three children, Darleen's mother confronted the family and demanded to know what had happened to Darleen. Lance's sister told her Darleen had simply "left."
Heather told her grandmother about the events of January 19, and Lance gave written permission for Darleen's parents in Dexter, Iowa to raise the children. Heather later said that prior to her disappearance, Darleen had told her she was afraid Lance would kill her.
Although Darleen's body has never been found, police are investigating her case as an unsolved homicide. In June 2014, they dug up the basement of the family's former home on east Pleasant View Drive; ground-penetrating radar showed that someone had dug a hole under the concrete approximately five feet by two feet. Their search of the basement turned up nothing, however.
Lance is the primary suspect in Darleen's presumed murder, but he died in 2005. Authorities would still like to find Darleen's remains for the sake of her family.
- Des Moines Police Department
Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 15, 2019; medical conditions added, details of disappearance updated.