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Convicted sex offender found dead in vehicle

3-13-2007 Iowa:

When Urbandale police seized a computer from his mother's home earlier this year, Robert Putney Jr. told an officer he had no intention of returning to prison, where he'd spent years as a convicted sex abuser. On Monday - the same day he was to have been questioned further by Urbandale police in connection with an investigation into alleged child pornography - Putney's body was found in a car near downtown Des Moines. The 40-year-old registered sex offender apparently gassed himself with chemicals in a car at 18th and High streets.

Police said he apparently combined some chemicals in a container in the car and rolled up the windows. He was found dead about 7:40 a.m. Putney lived at a downtown Des Moines motel but sometimes visited his mother's home in Urbandale. He is listed on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry as living at the Randolph Hotel in downtown Des Moines. Police earlier this year confiscated a computer from his mother's house in an investigation into alleged child pornography.

Passers-by on Monday found him unresponsive in the car and called for help. Rescue workers determined he was dead. A bucket of clear liquid was found on a folded-down back seat, officials said. Putney worked as a night janitor in a building near where his vehicle was discovered. Putney was sentenced to a 15-year prison term in August 1992 for sex-related charges involving teenage boys. He pleaded guilty to two counts of lascivious acts with a child, enticing away a child, lascivious conduct with a minor and third-degree sexual abuse.

This year's investigation in Urbandale did not include accusations of physical contact, officials said In the 1992 investigation, officials received help from one of the victims. Then-Assistant Polk County Attorney Melodee Hanes praised a 12-year-old boy who tape-recorded a conversation he had with Putney. In the conversation, Putney allegedly discussed sexual acts and indicated money could be obtained for the acts. "Because of this child who was smart enough to report to police investigators when approached by Mr. Putney, we were able to obtain a search warrant to Putney's house that led to discovery of a list with a dozen names of children," Hanes said in 1992. "This led us to other children Mr. Putney had attempted to solicit for sexual conduct."

Police said Putney used a child friend to meet young boys in the early 1990s, primarily at the Skate East roller rink at 2220 E. Ovid Ave. An autopsy will be conducted today to determine Putney's cause of death. "I've heard that chemicals were involved," Polk County Medical Examiner Dr. Gregory Schmunk said Monday afternoon. "But we are in the very early stages of the investigation. We will know a lot more tomorrow." ..more.. by Tom Alex can be reached at (515) 284-8088 or

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