Police Say They’re Getting Close to Arrest in Murder of 93-year-old Sioux Falls Grandmother

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – If there was something Clara Olson loved, it was coffee. She loved to grab a warm cup with her friends.

“She was just that kind of person and through the interviews with all her friends, they all said the same thing,” said detective Mike Webb of the Sioux Falls Police Department. “She was the sweetest person that would take anyone in.”

On August 6, 1986, the 93-year-old woman was supposed to get coffee with her son. However, she wasn’t answering her phone. Her son went to check on her at her apartment. He unlocked the door and found his mother dead in her bed. He assumed the loved grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep.

“You look at this and you think of your own family,” said Webb. “We had grandmothers too that we were very close to. Would we want somebody working that hard for our grandmother? Absolutely.”

A coroner decided to dig a little deeper. An autopsy suggested her death was anything but peaceful. Clara Olson was murdered.

Who would kill a 93-year-old grandmother? Almost thirty two years later, it’s a question Webb has asked himself everyday since the case came across his desk.

“Why?” said Webb. “Why would you kill a woman? Why is she a threat at under 100 pounds?”

Police say she was physically beaten and strangled. They have never recovered a weapon.

Police say burglary was the motive. The murderer walked away with a just few hundreds dollars.

“There was some money missing, a money bag from the apartment and a bill fold,” said Webb.

Olson was a landlady downtown on 11th street. She often rented to those that needed a second chance. However, after being a landlady for fifteen years, she did have to turn some people away.

“She did rent to some people coming out of prison on parole and things like that, but she was screening pretty tightly,” said Webb.

They say this caused a man with a history of burglary – who now lives out of state – to burglarize and murder Olson. He’s currently in his sixties.

“I’m very confident in this case,” said Webb.

Detectives say the suspect broke in through a loose air conditioner by the window.

Detective Pat Mertes says they just don’t have enough to arrest him yet.

”It’s so close to being solved, I mean, it’s just that one little thing that is needed,” said Mertes.

Police still talk to Olson’s granddaughter on the phone. She was young at when Olson was murdered.

“To let them know that we haven’t given up, that we’re still looking into this and we haven’t quit,” said Webb.

Olson’s killer didn’t just steal a few hundred dollars – he robbed Olson of the opportunity to watch her granddaughter grow up. Now, the clock is ticking for justice.

“Someone needs to answer for this and passing away isn’t a free pass,” said Webb.

Clara Olson still has family holding out for for answers. Her son is older now and lives in a dementia unit in Florida. Police are hoping to put his mother’s killer behind bars in his lifetime. They’re hoping someone knows something and that new DNA technology that didn’t exist in 1986 could be what they need to make an arrest.