Details of Disappearance
Denise was last seen in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on September 12, 1982. She and her husband, David Fraley, were in a band and played at a private party in Cedar Rapids that evening. She has never been heard from again.
David did not report his wife missing. Denise's family did so over a month after her disappearance when all their efforts to contact her had been in vain.
David gave conflicting accounts of just when he last saw Denise, at the party or at their home afterward. He stated he had been drinking alcohol and possibly smoking marijuana that night and his memory was confused as a result.
Denise was born and raised in northwest Missouri. She was a cheerleader in high school and graduated valedictorian. She met David after she moved to Cedar Rapids to live with her grandmother, and they married in 1975. After their daughter was born in 1979, Denise stayed home to take care of her while David worked. They were also active in the local music scene; Denise sang and David played the piano.
There were episodes of violence in Fraleys' marriage, and at least twice, Denise was hospitalized for injuries allegedly inflicted by her husband. David claimed Denise was the aggressor in their fights and he was only defending himself.
David filed for divorce in May 1982 and a judge granted a restraining order prohibiting him from contacting Denise or their daughter. Denise was attempting to reconcile with David, however, and they spent Labor Day Weekend together with Denise's sister in Missouri.
After Denise's disappearance, it was determined that the couple used illegal drugs and both had been drug couriers. Several of Denise's relatives in her home state of Missouri received a note from David shortly after her disappearance. The message stated "Denise Fraley: Don't mess with the Mafia."
David explained to Denise's family that she had tried to run off with several thousands of dollars in drug money which was not hers, and he was afraid the Mafia wanted to kill her. He stated that her family should not travel to Iowa as a result.
Denise's family members stayed away for six months after she was reported missing as a result of David's warning. Her mother and sister made several trips to Cedar Rapids starting in March 1983, and hired an attorney to get temporary custody of Denise and David's daughter.
While the child was living with her aunt, she stated she had seen her mother weighted down with rocks and thrown in a river. Investigators are uncertain if the story is true, as the girl was only a toddler when her mother disappeared. The Fraleys' divorce became final in 1984 and David was granted permanent custody of the child.
Authorities indicated that David was considered the prime suspect in his wife's case, but he has never been charged due to a lack of evidence. Foul play is suspected in Denise's disappearance.