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Perjury charges dismissed in cold case murder

ROCK RAPIDS, Iowa -- Perjury charges against 83-year-old John Van Gammeren have been dismissed without prejudice, according to a news release issued Thursday afternoon by the Lyon County Attorney's Office.

Van Gammeren was charged in August 2009 with six counts of perjury -- charges which stemmed from the cold case investigation into the murder of Wilma June Nissen. Nissen's body was found in a ditch near the West Lyon School in October 1978, but was not identified until 2006.

The delay in proceeding with the charges arose from ongoing discussions between Lyon County Attorney Carl Peterson, the Lyon County Sheriff's Office, Van Gammeren and his attorney, the release states.

"Perjury is a very unique criminal proceeding," Peterson stated in the release. "It affords a defendant the opportunity to erase his allegations of providing false testimony by making truthful statement to law enforcement under oath."

Van Gammeren and his attorney reportedly cooperated with law enforcement after the complaints were filed.

"The investigation has substantial new information to determine the fate of Nissen," Peterson stated, adding that no further comments regarding the dismissed charged would be made.

Investigation into Nissen's death has revealed she was 23 years old when she was murdered and left in a ditch. Lyon County Sheriff Blythe Bloemendaal and others learned she was originally from California and had been arrested for prostitution in that state. It was tracking her reasons for being in northwest Iowa that slowed down the investigation. Bloemendaal believes Nissen got involved in a call girl or stripper service in Sioux Falls, S.D.

One of the charges filed against Van Gammeren in August stated authorities believed he had lied about knowing who had arranged for strippers for a bachelor party, when he had actually helped organize the party. Another charge stated Van Gammeren claimed to have had a wallet stolen or lost in the airport while in Las Vegas, Nev., but a witness said it was stolen by a prostitute. Van Gammeren allegedly told authorities he had never had prostitutes at his home, a statement that can be proven false, one complaint states. He allegedly denied ever transporting a stripper or prostitute from Sioux Falls to his residence, another complaint alleges.

According to Peterson, the priority in the case is to find the person responsible for the death of Nissen.

"Any further comments may hamper the ongoing investigation," he stated.