The Murdered Family (softcover, 347 pages) by Vernon Keel. Based on a true story about the mass murder of the Wolf family, The Murdered Family raises questions about the guilt of the man convicted of the crime. A wave of fear sweeps across the barren prairies of central North Dakota in April of 1920 with the tragic news that seven members of a farm family and their hired boy have been brutally murdered at their home just north of Turtle Lake in McLean County.
A massive search for the killers begins immediately in the midst of an intense statewide election campaign. Three weeks later, eager investigators encouraged by nervous politicians get a signed confession from one of the prime suspects in the case. He is sentenced that same day to life in the state penitentiary in what the New York Times referred to then as ”the most rapid administration of justice in the country.”
From the beginning, the man denies his guilt and says his confession was obtained under duress, intimidation and fear. In November, his lawyers file a motion in district court asking that his plea of guilty be withdrawn and for a trial upon the merits. Their motion is strengthened when some new evidence is discovered on the Wolf family farm only days before the motion is filed.
Some ninety years later, people in the area still recall the words the convicted man was supposed to have said: ”My eyes have seen but my hands are clean!”
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Troy Larson is an author, photographer, gentleman adventurer (debatable) from Fargo, North Dakota, and co-founder of Ghosts of North Dakota. @NorthDakotaTroy