Authorities await autopsy in suspicious death

BY JORDAN FRIES | MARCH 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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Authorities are still investigating what they have labeled suspicious death in a mobile-home park just east of Iowa City on Sunday evening.

Johnson County deputies responded to a report of suspicious activity around 9:30 p.m. Sunday at 18 Expo Drive, a residence in the Modern Manor Mobile Home Park. They were joined by investigators from the state Division of Criminal Investigation crime-scene unit.

Sarah Elizabeth McKay, 34, was dead when officers arrived.

According to a release from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office, she resided in the home with Eric Scott Osborn, who was inside with several family members when authorities entered the residence.

McKay and Osborn were reportedly involved in a sporadic relationship over the past two years.

A majority of McKay’s neighbors said they were shocked when they heard the news of her death Monday morning. Most of the residents failed to hear the cacophony of ambulances and fire engines the previous night.

Next-door neighbor Judy Patterson said she had no idea what happened until she received a knock on her door the next day from a sheriff’s deputy.

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But she did hear what she described as banging doors and the sound of a car alarm at roughly 11 p.m. on Sunday. Patterson also saw a large white pickup truck in their driveway that she had never seen before.

“I considered them friends,” Patterson said about McKay and Osborn. “They were always sweet and kind.”

She said she hadn’t noticed anything unusual when the couple invited her over for dinner on the night of March 5.

Investigators spent most of a chilly Monday inside the yellow and brown mobile home, sectioned off with yellow police tape.

An autopsy is scheduled for this morning at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. The DCI state crime lab and the Johnson County Medical Examiner’s Office will contribute to the report.

BJ Franklin of Horizon Survivors Program said McKay had an 8-year-old daughter, Emilia, from a previous relationship. The child reportedly lives with her grandmother in Iowa City.

Osborn has three daughters, Franklin said, but it was unknown whether any of them lived with their father at 18 Expo Drive. Some neighbors said they had seen up to three kids living at the residence over the summer.

McKay, the youngest of three siblings and a City High graduate, worked at Hawkeye Food for the past year and a half. She enjoyed music — including New Kids on the Block — as well as Hawkeye football and dancing with Emilia.

“She had a great sense of humor, was extremely personable, intelligent, and had a giving heart,” McKay’s family said through a survivor’s advocate.

But as recently as 2006, McKay was involved in a custody dispute with Emilia’s father. According to court documents, she has a history of alcohol-related offenses.

In a separate incident on March 6, a woman was charged by police for allegedly stabbing a man at a residence on the 3500 block Shamrock Place, just north of Expo Drive.

But many residents still say that their neighborhood is safe.

“This is a great area,” said Susan Holsombach, a six-year resident of Modern Manor. “Things like this just don’t happen here.”

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